Women and other gender identities
Although we refer to women on this page, we recognise that the information here may also be relevant to you if you’re transgender, intersex, have variations in sex characteristics (VSC) or identify as non-binary.
If you’re unsure about how the information here relates to you personally, speak to your GP, asthma nurse or gender specialist.
How do female sex hormones trigger asthma symptoms?
Hormones linked to periods and pregnancy, such as oestrogen, and progesterone, can be asthma triggers.
It’s not yet clear why this is. It could be that they increase inflammation in the airways.
When is your asthma most likely to be triggered by female hormones?
If female hormones are a trigger for your asthma, you’re more likely to notice worse symptoms around times of hormonal change. This includes puberty, periods, pregnancy, and perimenopause (the time leading up to menopause).
- 1 in 3 women with asthma report worse asthma symptoms before or during a period.
- Some women have worse symptoms during pregnancy. Others notice their asthma gets better. And some don’t see any change at all.
- Asthma symptoms can get worse when you’re leading up to menopause. The time leading up to menopause is called perimenopause.
Keeping a diary of your symptoms can be helpful around times of hormonal change, to help your GP or asthma nurse see if there’s a link between your hormones and asthma symptoms.
Dr Andy Whittamore, Asthma + Lung UK’s GP
Female hormones and other triggers
Female hormones are an asthma trigger in their own right, but they can also make you more sensitive to other triggers, such as hay fever or colds and flu.
Stress and anxiety can also be triggered by hormones, and these are asthma triggers too.
What to do if female sex hormones trigger your asthma
The best way to lower your risk from asthma triggers, including female sex hormones, is to manage your asthma well:
- Take your preventer medicine every day as prescribed, so you’re less likely to react to any asthma triggers.
- Keep a symptom diary to help you know what’s triggering your asthma, including hormones.
- Have an asthma review at least once a year to check on your medicines and update your asthma action plan.
- Always see your GP or asthma nurse if female hormones are affecting your asthma. They may be able to adjust your treatment plan or recommend add-on treatments.
The contraceptive pill and HRT
- Some women, whose asthma is triggered by the menstrual cycle, notice fewer asthma symptoms if they take the contraceptive pill, but always talk this through with your doctor or nurse first.
- Different women react differently to HRT. Some studies have shown it to be a risk factor for asthma symptoms and attacks. Always talk to your GP or asthma nurse about how HRT might affect your asthma.