The topic of transgender rights and inclusion has gained significant attention in recent years.
As conversations surrounding gender identity and expression continue to evolve, questions have arisen about transgender women and their experience of menstrual symptoms.
In this blog by Aima, we’ll explore the concept of periods for transgender women and shed light on the PMS-like symptoms they may encounter during hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
Understanding Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
Hormone Replacement Therapy—or HRT for short—is a medical treatment that transgender women often undergo as part of their transition.
It involves administering hormones to induce the development of secondary sexual characteristics typically associated with cisgender women. HRT is often described as a second puberty.
There are two main hormones used in HRT for transgender women:
- Estrogen. The primary hormone used in HRT, estrogen is responsible for the development of female secondary sexual characteristics, such as breast tissue growth, redistribution of body fat, and changes in skin texture. Estrogen can be administered orally, through transdermal patches, or via injections.
- Anti-androgens. These medications are used in HRT to suppress the effects of testosterone, which is the primary male sex hormone. By reducing the levels of testosterone in the body, anti-androgens help create a hormonal environment that is more in line with female physiology, which means the estrogen can do its work.
Let’s Talk About Periods
Cisgender women experience menstruation, a natural process which involves the shedding of the uterine lining. It’s characterized by hormonal changes and a range of physical and emotional symptoms.
Transgender women, who were assigned male at birth, don't have a uterus, which means that they don't go through menstruation in the same biological sense—which is totally okay!
We respect and acknowledge their unique experiences and journeys because gender identity is about more than just biology. Transgender women have their own unique journeys and perspectives.
Read more: 5 Tips for Sex On Your Period
Do Transgender Women Have Periods?
Transgender women do not experience menstruation in the way that cisgender women do.
However, HRT can prompt hormonal fluctuations that can lead to symptoms resembling those experienced during the menstrual cycle. Let’s discuss.
Trans women undergoing HRT may experience hormonal fluctuations similar to those experienced during the menstrual cycle.
These fluctuations can contribute to mood swings, irritability, and emotional sensitivity, all of which are commonly associated with premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
However, it's important to remember that hormonal patterns in cisgender women and transgender women on HRT can be different.
Every person’s experience is unique and individual.
Bloating and Water Retention
Some trans women may experience bloating and water retention, which can also be attributed to hormonal changes.
These symptoms may manifest as temporary weight gain, feelings of abdominal fullness, or swelling in the hands or feet, all of which are similar to what cisgender women often experience before or during menstruation.
HRT can lead to breast development, which means transgender women may experience tenderness or soreness. It resembles the discomfort cisgender women often feel during PMS.
The intensity and fluctuation of these symptoms can vary based on the dosage and type of hormone therapy.
While transgender women do not experience menstrual cramps, they may experience abdominal pain or discomfort.
This pain can occur in the lower abdomen and may radiate to the back or thighs. The intensity of the pain can vary.
Trans women may experience muscle contractions in the pelvic area, similar to the uterine contractions experienced by cisgender women during that time of the month.
These contractions can cause a dull ache or intermittent spasms, though the severity and duration can differ. Everyone is different, after all.
Leading with Empathy & Respect
Approaching the topic of PMS-like symptoms in transgender women is best done with empathy, understanding, and respect.
Each person’s experience is different, and it’s important to recognize that these symptoms don't mean that trans women have a menstrual period in the same biological sense as cisgender women.
Nonetheless, transgender women may face their own challenges and experiences during transition, which can differ from those of cisgender women.
By fostering open and respectful dialogue, we can contribute to a more inclusive and understanding society for all humans, regardless of their gender identity or expression.