Every time the topic of ‘periods’ come up in regards to trans women it’s usually used to discredit our identity as women. But the truth is, trans women do get ‘periods’ and our ‘time of the month’.
Now we don’t actually menstruate physically because our biological anatomy is unable to do that due to how our bodies were born, but that doesn’t mean we don’t experience PMS symptoms the exact same way as cisgender women.
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) refers to physical and emotional symptoms that occur in the one to two weeks before a cis woman’s period. Symptoms often vary between women and resolve around the start of bleeding.
The exact cause of PMS symptoms is debatable, but it is believed that changes in hormones are an important factor.
According to the Mayo Clinic:
Exactly what causes premenstrual syndrome is unknown, but several factors may contribute to the condition:
- Cyclic changes in hormones. Signs and symptoms of premenstrual syndrome change with hormonal fluctuations
- Chemical changes in the brain. Fluctuations of serotonin, a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) that’s thought to play a crucial role in mood states, could trigger PMS symptoms. Insufficient amounts of serotonin may contribute to depression, as well as to fatigue, food cravings and sleep problems.
Considering women who are going through menopause & cisgender men don’t experience PMS symptoms one would assume the female hormone estrogen is clearly a factor in driving these symptoms.
Also, considering the fact that trans women are often on the highest level of estrogen possible because we need to force our bodies to change it would make sense that we also experience PMS symptoms.
I’m not a doctor or have proof of the science behind it, but I can speak to what myself & other trans women have experienced.
I’ve been on hormones for almost two years and I noticed that for about 5-7 days a month I always have PMS symptoms, generally, my breasts will be tender, I’ll have bloating and abdominal cramps, I get irritable (mood changes), and headaches.
I would say for the first 6 months I never had any PMS symptoms, but I also went from male hormones to an immediate turn off and only being on female hormones so it took time for my body to start changing.
Transitioning literally forces our bodies to go through puberty all over again and it takes time for cisgender women to experience PMS symptoms when they are going through puberty so naturally it would take trans women the same, but gradually as time went on the PMS symptoms started slowly, at first maybe lasting 2-3 days & now more regularly 5-7 days.
I did go from being on 50% of the max dose of estrogen to the full maximum dosage available in a matter of six months so the time period would actually line up with the natural process of when I started experiencing my ‘period’.
The last time I had my ‘period’ was Sept 9th and it started with abdominal cramps, bloating, fatigue, and headaches for the first three days. On Sept 12th it was mostly very mild cramps but the headaches were the worst. The entire time I was irritable, I got food cravings & wanted to eat a lot. There was also one evening where my breasts were very tender. The symptoms were gone by Sept 14th & every day I took Midol (it helped) which is what cisgender women commonly take for PMS symptoms.
So much is not actually researched about trans health, because only a small number of doctors worldwide actually invest their time in the trans community.
According to the ‘International Association of Premenstrual Disorders:
Similar to the experience of cisgender women, transgender individuals with PMDD sometimes experience an increase in the severity of feelings of depression, anxiety, rage, and suicidal ideation when using synthetic hormones. It is not well understood if transgender women are able to develop PMDD, although many do report PMS like symptoms when using hormone therapy. “Chemically induced PMDD” is quite plausible and further research is needed.
Side note, my hormone doctor also told me hormones would not be able to make my voice change but it has. Which leads me back to the fact that there is not actually enough research done to understand the full health effects of what trans women experience when medically transitioning.
Whenever I discuss having my ‘period’ with cisgender women they become dismissive because they assume its not possible, they want to gatekeep the parts of womanhood that everyone says trans women can’t experience like ‘periods’ & ‘pregnancy’ but I know what I have experienced and what many other trans girls experienced while being on hormone therapy, & I definitely experience PMS symptoms.