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Periods & Performance

Is it just me or do you find yourselves supernaturally energetic when you ladies are on your period? On equal measure, I feel my senses significantly heightened, my mind is hyper-sensitive and I have all sorts of perceptions from everywhere at the same time that I normally don’t have. This leads me to overthinking, overanalyzing and getting many thoughts and many outcomes to those thoughts at the same time. It’s quite overwhelming!🤪

“Alterations in laryngeal vascular characteristics are evident throughout the menstrual cycle and may suggest increased congestion during premenstrual days. Variations in progesterone levels during the menstrual cycle correlate with laryngeal vascular changes. Hormone-related alterations in vocal folds’ vascularity may have a role in the variability of vocal performance in certain women.”Menstrual Cycle, Vocal Performance, and Laryngeal Vascular Appearance. www.researchgate.net

Ovulation Cycle

Hyperactivity is one thing. However, there is something called “Premenstrual Voice Syndrome (PMVS)” that claims that during certain times of your period, your voice loses shape. Some studies suggest that during ovulation (days 12 to 17 of your period), and during your menstruation (days 1 to 4), the production of estrogens causes swelling of the vocal folds and the surrounding laryngeal tissue. Other studies suggest the opposite: it’s when the estrogen production decreases that the vocal folds swell (read here). This causes:

  • Loss of vocal power
  • Quicker onset of vocal fatigue
  • Reduction of the singing range
  • Hoarser vocal sound
  • Exacerbation of laryngopharingeal reflux
  • Abdominal bloating/cramps
  • Affected breathing support

This is a massive disturbance if you are contracted to sing regularly. To such extent, that in the 18th and 19th centuries, there were “Grace Days” offered to classical singers because of this reason. (I wish they’d do that now!).

“The interaction of estrogens and progesterone affect the structure and hydration of the vocal folds” – Chae et al., 2001

It all comes down to hormones. Specifically estrogens. Estrogens affect receptors in the brain that release the naturally occurring chemicals serotonin and dopamine (I talk about what these do here). When estrogen production decreases (and progesterone increases), during the ‘Luteal Phase’ (those dreaded 10 days before your period is back), it’s the end of the world, we lose that high, we get depressed easily, feel anxious, fatigued, and we crave comfort foods. During the ‘high’ ovulation and menstruation days, our voice tone changes, to such degree that even we are considered more “attractive” by the opposite sex. Some research on this here. And, check this out: more fertile women have higher voices, hence the preference in classical singing for the soprano to be the heroin. Sorry, contraltos😎. Read about it here.

“Changes in vocal fold volume due to the alteration of estrogen production can cause problems in high pitch phonation” – Brodnitz, 1971

This “loss of vocal power” with the loss of blood and secretion of internal bodily fluids reminds me of the same “loss of power” experienced during the sexual act. I will leave this subject for another day, as it is quite a thing.

Now call me weird, but do you see the similarities between the cervix and the larynx?😳

Larynx_Cervix

The tissues of the larynx are hormone targets in much the same way that the tissues of the uterus/cervix are.

  • Larynx is an estrogen target; it is sensitive to hormonal changes.
  • Cervix and vocal fold tissue behave similarly in smear tests.

This physical feature explains so many things! I can now go to sleep in peace.

So, how to alleviate the impairment of our vocal/emotional quality during our hormonal changes? my personal experience (as described on the introductory paragraph of this article) is EXERCISE and HEALTHY NUTRITION. I even find my voice (and everything else) enhanced when I exercise, during periods, as mentioned above. So instead of “losing power through fluids’ release”, let’s gain more POWERRRRR!!! 😅💪😏💅🏼


Related links:

https://singsician.com/doc-my-voice-is-tight-just-before-my-period/

https://www.yorku.ca/earmstro/journey/pmvs.html

http://operagasm.com/the-harmonal-question-for-singers-yes-menstruation/

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