Hormones involved in processes like periods and pregnancy, for example oestrogen and progesterone, can be asthma triggers for some women.
It’s not yet clear why this is the case. It could be because it increases inflammation in the body and affects the airways.
Women are more likely to notice worse symptoms around times of hormonal change like puberty, periods, pregnancy and perimenopause (the time leading up to menopause). Not all women are affected.
- One third of women report worse asthma symptoms before or during a period
- Some women, particularly those with severe asthma, have worse symptoms during pregnancy. Although many women notice an improvement or no change at all when they’re pregnant.
- Asthma symptoms can get worse during perimenopause (the time leading up to the menopause)
“Hormones can be an asthma trigger in their own right,” says Dr Andy Whittamore, Asthma UK’s in-house GP. “But they can also make you more sensitive to other triggers, such as hay fever or colds and flu. If you need to use your reliever inhaler three or more times a week see your GP or asthma nurse. They can help you get back in control of your symptoms.”
The best way to lower your risk from asthma triggers, including female hormones, is to manage your asthma well.
- taking your preventer medicine every day as prescribed so you’re less likely to react to any asthma triggers
- having an asthma review at least once a year to check on your medicines and update your asthma action plan
- keeping a symptom diary to help you know what’s triggering your asthma, including hormones
“Your GP may recommend adjusting your preventer medicine if your menstrual cycle or hormonal changes around perimenopause are affecting you,” says Dr Andy.
“You can also ask about treatments like the pill (oral contraceptive) which helps some women with asthma symptoms around their periods.”
Find out more about women and asthma here.
Last updated January 2020
Next review due January 2023