Before Menopause

Increase in Progesterone during the Menstrual Cycle

Increase in Progesterone during the Menstrual Cycle

During the menstrual cycle there is a strong rise in the level of the hormone progesterone between days 10 and 22.

Progesterone is a respiratory stimulant, and can stimulate breathing so much that carbon dioxide in the blood can drop as much as 25% below normal.

If a woman is already having some breathing issues these will increase in magnitude and severity.

Some possible symptoms, the results of hyperventilation, that you might be experiencing:

  • Pain - The pain threshold gets lower, so women who have pain will typically experience more on days 10 to 22.
  • Fibromyalgia - Many diagnoses of fibromyalgia are based largely on perception of pain. If you are examined in this period you are much more likely to receive a positive diagnosis.
  • Fatigue
  • Temporomandibular joint pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Epilepsy
  • Some forms of headaches and migraines
  • Anxiety

Steps to minimizing or eliminating the issues:

  • Being aware of what could could be causing the symptoms can be comforting in itself.  You get an idea of why the issues seem to come-and-go without apparent reason. 
  • Do what you can to increase your breath hold time (the CP) to 40 seconds or more, outside the critical period, to provide a safety margin.  Be aware that your CP will probably decrease, sometimes significantly, between days 10 and 22. 
  • Increasing your CP above 30 will most probably require regular daily physical exercise, at least 30 minutes walking.

After Menopause

Changes in the Female Body After Menopause
Changes to the female body after menopause

It has been found that the incidence of obstructive sleep apnea increases around 300% in postmenopausal women, who tend to accumulate fat around the upper part of the body, the neck area and the belly.

People also tend to exercise less as they age.

These factors interfere with proper breathing, causing many of the same symptoms listed in the section above.

Steps to minimizing or eliminating the issues:

  • Avoid mouth-breathing, particularly while asleep.  Taping the mouth closed with 3M paper surgical tape is a very effective remedy, which we cover in the course.
  • Avoid sleeping on your back.  If necessary, sew a pocket for a tennis ball to the back of an old T-shirt and wear it while sleeping.  Best sleeping position is the on your left side, which minimizes the possibility of acid reflux.
  • Do what you can to increase your breath hold time (the CP) to 30 seconds or more. 
  • Walk for 30 minutes a day.
  • If necessary, lose weight.  We provide a simple "One Week Weight Loss Plan" in the course that you might like to try, loosely based on WeightWatchers™.  You only need to commit to one week at a time.  Works well in conjunction with Buteyko exercises and the walking program. 


Women are much more likely to report feelings of anxiety than are men. Whether they are more prone to anxiety or more in tune with their body and feelings is an open question.

Treating anxiety presents additional issues. Inducing a feeling of air hunger to increase the body's tolerance for carbon dioxide is a key part of Buteyko training.  However for many people the feeling of air hunger increases anxiety and can even lead to a panic attack.

Steps to minimizing or eliminating the issues:

  • The training needs to be approached very cautiously and tolerance to air hunger (the feeling that you would really like to take a deeper breath) built up over time.  We will discuss this in the online workshop.
  • There is also more focus on breathing tempo, with an exercise to slow the breathing to the ideal rate of around 6-10 breaths-per-minute.

Modifications to the Standard Breathing Program

In general no modifications are required to the standard ButeykoPlus™ breathing program.  We can review any particular issues in the online workshop and discuss possible modifications to the program to meet your needs.  

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