, Volume 26, Issue 4, pp 359-382

Psychoendocrinological Assessment of the Menstrual Cycle: The Relationship Between Hormones, Sexuality, and Mood

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Abstract

The role of sex hormones in sexuality and mood across the menstrual cycle was investigated. Twenty-one normal healthy women were followed for one menstrual cycle. Blood samples were taken frequently, and analyzed for estradiol, progesterone, testosterone, androstenedione, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate, cortisol, and sex hormone-binding globulin. A diary concerning sexual interest and behavior, and different moods, was completed daily. Although the sample was not large, a clear effect of menstrual cycle phase on levels of testosterone and the free testosterone index was demonstrated. In a preliminary screening interview, 11 of the 21 women had reported that they suffered from premenstrual complaints (PC), the other 10 had reported no complaints in the premenstrual phase (NPC). Significant differences between the two groups were established in estradiol and the estradiol–progesterone ratio, with the NPC group having higher levels of both endocrine parameters across different menstrual samples. Psychologically, a cycle effect on tension and sexual interest was demonstrated. The NPC group reported a peak in sexual interest in the premenstrual phase, whereas the PC group reported a peak in the ovulatory phase. There was a difference between the two groups in feelings of fatigue but not in other moods across the menstrual cycle. The study provides further evidence of the importance of androgen levels in women's sexuality and shows again that the relationship between menstrual cycle phase and sexuality is much clearer than between phase and mood.