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October 20, 2006

BehindTheMedspeak: The menstrual cycle and the singing voice


That's the subject of research performed by Felipa Lã of the Music Department Centre for Research in Music Performance in the Music Department of the University of Sheffield in England.

Long story short: As a result of hormonal fluctuations the vocal cords swell and compromise voice quality immediately before and during menstruation. "In the past, in some European opera houses, women were given 'respect days' to excuse them from singing during premenstrual and menstrual periods."

Here's an abstract of the work.

    The Menstrual Cycle and the Singing Voice

    As can be seen in the graph above, the levels of oestrogen and progesterone are low just before the beginning of each menstruation. In fact, from the 26th day of the cycle until the first day of menstruation (day one of the next menstrual cycle), the levels of female sexual hormones decrease. These specific changes in the hormonal levels during premenstrual and menstrual periods of the cycle can lead to fluid retention in the body. Therefore a swelling of the vocal folds may occur, interfering with phonation since changes in the thickness of the vocal folds interfere with their vibration. From the perspective of the Myoelastic-Aerodynamic Theory of Vocal Fold Vibration (van der Berg, 1958), an increase in the mass of the vocal fold tissues should lower the fundamental frequency of vibration — i. e. the number of times that the vocal folds vibrate per second. It should be emphasized that as the vocal fold mucosa becomes swollen, its vibration is compromised. The contact between the vocal folds is less effective so the voice can sound breathy and slightly hoarse. In the past, in some European opera houses, women were given 'respect days' to excuse them from singing during premenstrual and menstrual periods. Nowadays, taking into account recent studies in this field, especial attention should be given to female voices during the menstrual cycle.


Perhaps worth taking into account before scheduling dates for your next tour.

October 20, 2006 at 04:01 PM | Permalink


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Fascinating. I have never really analysed this, but it certainly might explain some things that happen with my singing.

Posted by: Kiriel | Oct 5, 2009 5:52:22 PM

I am a professional singer and perform ten shows a week with Cirque du Soleil. A few days prior and in to my cycle, I am in vocal distress. I need to find a solution other than not singing during those days.

Posted by: Vocalist | Mar 28, 2007 12:12:04 PM

I'm a professional Jazz Singer. I've been "googling" this morning because my voice has gotten more and more effected by my cycle as I've gotten older (45). I'm on Prometrium to lesson the symptoms of the cycle but my voice is what I'm worried about. This is very real and scary. Every month I go through about 2 weeks where I can't hit the high notes and I can't perform the "licks" that I know I can do. I'm amazed at how much info is out there on this subject.

Posted by: Mary Durst | Feb 7, 2007 12:56:11 PM

I get the same exact effect after 48 hours with no sleep (an all too common occurrence for me). Go from Billie Holiday (yeah, in my dreams) to Billy Eckstine. If I never ever slept I might could get a gig in a smoke-filled gin joint.

Posted by: Flautist | Oct 20, 2006 5:34:23 PM

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