Female sex hormones and asthma

Have you noticed asthma symptoms are worse around your period? Has your asthma been affected by the menopause? Find out more about female sex hormones and asthma, and how you can lower your risk. 

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, 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 these hormones increase inflammation in the airways.

When is your asthma most likely to be triggered by female hormones?

If female hormones trigger 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. This is called perimenopause. 

Keeping a diary of your symptoms can be helpful around times of hormonal change, to help your GP or 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, colds and flu, or food allergies. 

Stress and anxiety can also be triggered by hormones, and these are asthma triggers too.

Menopause and asthma

For some women, asthma symptoms can get worse when they’re approaching menopause.

Women who get asthma for the first time after menopause are more likely to have asthma that’s difficult to control. 

It is important to have regular reviews with your GP or nurse as you get older so they can: 

  • support you in keeping to a healthy weight.  Being very overweight (obese) can increase your risk of getting asthma for the first time around menopause
  • help you understand your risk of osteoporosis.  This is where your bones get thinner and you’re more at risk of fractures. Taking steroids for your asthma long-term can increase your risk of osteoporosis.  Hormonal changes during menopause can increase the risk of osteoporosis too.  
  • give advice about Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT).  HRT can reduce menopausal symptoms, such as hot flushes and headaches. It’s also sometimes prescribed to help with osteoporosis. But it can increase the risk of asthma symptoms for some women.

Talk to your GP about HRT and your asthma

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 nurse about how HRT might affect your asthma.

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:

  • If you've been prescribed preventer medicine, take it every day as prescribed, so you’re less likely to react to your 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 nurse if you think female hormones are affecting your asthma. They may be able to adjust your treatment plan or recommend add-on treatments.
  • Some women whose asthma is triggered by the menstrual cycle, notice fewer asthma symptoms if they take the contraceptive pill, but always talk to your doctor or nurse first.

If you need to take painkillers for period pain

If you need to take medicine for period pain, or any other kind of pain, talk to your GP, nurse or pharmacist about which painkiller is best for you.

Paracetamol is usually safe, but non-steroidal anti-inflammatory tablets (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (e.g. Nurofen) and mefenamic acid (e.g. Ponstan), and aspirin, may make asthma symptoms worse or trigger an asthma attack in some people .

Asthma is worse for women

Download our Asthma is worse for women report to find out why women are more likely to have asthma and to have more severe symptoms. 



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