Nearly everyone has probably noticed their body weight go up and down during different chapters in life and during certain times of year (like in the midst of holiday feasting). What we sometimes don’t realize, though, is that these changes can happen on even a daily or a weekly basis. Of the many factors that cause body weight fluctuations, one that exclusively affects women is the menstrual cycle. And one of the possible side effects of this complex biological and hormonal process is temporary weight gain.
The menstrual cycle (or period) is a normal part of the reproductive process and an important component of preparing the body for a potential pregnancy. The start of a period is marked by the shedding of the lining of the uterus and the passing of this blood and tissue out of the vagina; this typically happens over 3-5 days. This added layer of spongy tissue in the uterine wall is ideal for holding and supporting a fertilized egg, and it is during the second phase of the menstrual cycle that it begins to form.
The lining of the uterus is prepared just in time for the next phase: ovulation. This is when an egg produced in an ovary travels down one of the fallopian tubes and is available to be fertilized by sperm. If fertilization occurs during the relatively short window of ovulation, the fertilized egg will become attached to the uterine wall and begin to develop. If fertilization doesn’t occur, the egg eventually gets absorbed by the body. At that point the thicker lining begins to separate and then is shed and the whole cycle begins again.
Menstruation begins for most women around the age of 12, though it can happen earlier or later. It continues every month (usually around 28 days) until menopause, a phase of life in the early 50s where periods stop and a woman can no longer become pregnant. The whole cycle is governed by sex hormones like estrogen and progesterone that are made and released by the pituitary gland and the ovaries.
Changes to hormone levels during the menstrual cycle are also thought to be linked to the symptoms associated with having a period. Some of these symptoms may occur throughout the cycle, but some only happen during the time of the month when the period starts and cease once bleeding begins; this collection of symptoms is known as premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Below are some common symptoms related to menstruation:
Doctors have long observed a tendency for women to gain a small amount of weight in the week or two before their period. A recent study found that 65% of women had swelling as one of the symptoms of PMS, and they noted that swelling is a significant factor in real or perceived weight gain. There is evidence, however, of a number of different reasons behind why weight gain can accompany a period:
The hormonal changes associated with the menstrual cycle can have a variety of different symptoms, and different women can have different combinations of symptoms. Even when weight gain is a symptom, though, it is usually only temporary and diminishes once bleeding begins. Still, there are some ways to avoid some of the added weight—particularly the weight related to fluid retention:
The kind of weight gain that’s associated with the menstrual cycle can usually be explained by changes to the body’s fluid balance. This kind of gain is also mostly limited to a few extra pounds. However, a trend of overeating and exercising less can eventually lead to weight gain from increased fat deposits. This type of weight gain might be accentuated by period weight gain, but it has a different cause and a different solution.
If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, though, you know that it isn’t easy. In fact, most Americans who attempt to lose weight just through diet and exercise don’t have long term, lasting success. At True You Weight Loss, we are dedicated to helping people on their journey by providing alternative weight loss solutions that are designed to help you lose weight and keep it off. If you would like to learn more about our services and what is involved, please contact us today to request a consultation!