Menstruation CAN affect your singing

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What happens?

Do you feel that it’s more difficult to reach higher notes when you’re on your period? Does your voice feel sluggish and heavy? Do you hear a more husky or breathy quality in your singing?

I want you to know that you are not imagining it. 

If you’re a woman being affected by your period, keep on reading as hormonal changes can literally change your ability to sing. 

It is famously said that, back in the day, in European Opera houses menstruating singers were allowed to take ‘that time of the month’ off. While this is no longer the case, it makes you wonder: why the big fuss? 

Menstruation is a result of hormonal changes. Around a week before your menstruation (during the infamous PMS – Premenstrual Syndrome), the progesterone levels begin to creep up and your body starts to retain fluids. Not only can this include water retention in your abdomen (also important for singing) but also your vocal folds. It might cause them to swell, thicken and get less flexible.

What you might notice in your voice:

  • a husky quality appears
  • high notes are difficult to reach or breathy
  • it seems ‘duller’, not as clear or resonant
  • it feels ‘heavier’ than normal
  • runs and riffs are sluggish and slower
  • singing quietly is a challenge
  • sustaining notes is impaired
  • lower notes feel easier to sing
  • it’s more demanding to manoeuvre through your passagios
There is the physical and also emotional side to this whole topic. I don’t know about you but – especially as a person working with the voice professionally – I get these thoughts that I ‘should’ be on my 100% all the time. The truth is… I won’t. Especially during that time of the month. Month after month I need to remind myself that it’s okay. 

What to do if it hits you hard?

If you can, take it easy. Rest up, do gentle warm-ups, and remember that it will pass. A little kindness and self-care can go a long way. 

Sometimes this approach is simply not an option. Even though the only thing you might wanna do is to get under a blanket, eat ice cream, and watch “Notting Hill” for the twentieth time (yes, that’s what I do). You still need to play that gig, record that song, go out and perform. 

Whilst you should measure your expectations, these few tips could make the whole experience a bit less of a pain.

  1. Sleep – don’t neglect your sleep and let your body recover.
  2. Do gentle joga, some exercise. Remember about your pre-singing physical warm-up.
  3. Vocal Warm-Up – get these vocal folds stretch gently. Straw phonation can be an excellent idea!
  4. Avoid the food you most likely crave for: chocolate, sweets, fatty comfort food. This kind of nutrition will most likely make you feel worse and more mucous-y.
  5. Avoid medications that could provoke haemorrhage. Aspirin is a no-no as it thins out the blood, which leaves your vocal folds prone to (literally) bruising and even haemorrhage.
  6. Go for an easier option: lower the key of a challenging song, mix rather than belt.
  7. Allow yourself to be at your 70%, instead of 100%. Yes, you heard me right.

All women are different and will experience that time of the month differently. You might feel that hormonal changes are nothing more than a mild discomfort to you. You might not notice them at all while for your female best friend it might be a really challenging time vocally. Leave a comment if you’re affected by the ‘menstruation voice’.

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