Asthma and the menstrual cycle

 I’ve had asthma for most of the last two decades. Its mild, but I’ve always struggled to identify the triggers for my sudden-onset wheezing, since there didn’t seem to be any common factors to attacks. Just recently (thanks to an article on Menstrual Matters!) it suddenly occurred to me that the attacks were far more common at a particular point in my cycle than at any other time.

I first started tracking my symptoms a couple of years ago, and, within four months, I realised that my cycle wasn’t irregular and unpredictable after all (this was worrying me because of all the ominous conditions this might indicate) but simply much longer than the 28 day average. What a relief!

Realising that my asthma symptoms were usually worse at a particular point in my cycle was a revelation. It’s not the only trigger as far as I can tell, but it’s significantly less scary to know that there’s a rational reason for why I get attacks sometimes, with no obvious external cause. Now I can plan around the likelihood of some activities taking more effort, or when to avoid other likely triggers, since I seem to be more susceptible to them at those times. And of course when to make absolutely sure I have my inhalers with me!

I also experience a range of intermittent symptoms directly related to my cycle, including insomnia, migraine, and cramps. On occasion, I also experience what I refer to as ‘funny turns’ in the day or so before my period starts in which I suddenly go white as a sheet, sweat, shiver uncontrollably, and experience intense nausea and vomiting, plus cramps and headache. This usually goes on for about an hour, after which I usually unavoidably shut down and sleep for several hours. I’ve been known to scare the life out of those around me with these turns in the past; they are sometimes convinced it must be something ‘more’ than just menstrual cycle-related symptoms.

I use the ‘Period Tracker, My Calendar’ app from the Play Store on my phone, and have found it does everything I need it to. I especially like the discrete homepage widget which counts down the days to the start of my next period – very useful.

Don’t underestimate how many of the symptoms you experience can be affected by or related to your hormones. You might be surprised, as I was!

Anonymous, UK