Research Highlights

Schizophrenia symptoms vary across phases of menstrual cycle

doi:10.1038/nindia.2019.30 Published online 12 March 2019

Indian researchers have found that the positive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia vary across the phases of the menstrual cycle: premenstrual, menstrual and postmenstrual1.

Although there has been a substantial interest in the link between menstrual cycles and schizophrenia, earlier studies have been contradictory and debatable.

The researchers performed a 15-month study in a tertiary-care hospital in eastern India on 40 schizophrenic women who had a regular menstrual period in the previous three months. Patients who had major gynaecological illnesses or were on contraceptive pills were excluded.

The symptoms were assessed using a Positive and Negative Symptom Scale for Schizophrenia (PANSS) score during different phases of two consecutive menstrual cycles. Seven days before menstruation was considered the premenstrual phase, while seven days after menstruation was considered the postmenstrual period. These phases are accompanied by a surge in oestrogen and progesterone.

The PANSS score was significantly different during the premenstrual or oestrogen phase. Also, behavioural symptoms, such as anxiety, tension and depression, showed an improvement during the oestrogen phase of the menstrual cycle.

The study also showed that the positive symptoms of schizophrenia improved during the post-menstrual or progesterone phase, whereas the negative symptoms showed an improvement during the oestrogen phase.

The researchers propose that oestrogen or combined progesterone/oestrogen supplements may be effective in schizophrenic women. However, further studies are required to determine the long-term side-effects of oestrogen.


References

1. Ray, P. et al. Change of symptoms of schizophrenia across phases of menstrual cycle. Archives of Women's Mental Health (2019) doi: 10.1007/s00737-019-0952-4