This post will focus on the hormonal changes of women and estrogen-dominant individuals. However, any major fluctuation in your hormones (including those from certain medical syndromes, as well as while taking hormones for birth control or gender modifications) can and will affect your voice. Cardon Voice is here to help you unpack what’s normal with some coping suggestions for singing through changes, but beyond managing your singing voice, please seek medical consultation to better understand the impacts of hormonal changes on your body and what interventions may be best for you.
Rest assured, if you are a menstruating person, you’re not alone in finding that things shift and change with your singing throughout your cycle! Noticeable changes in your voice during (or around) the time of your period are super normal and very, very common. Most likely you’re experiencing some combination of increased dehydration and/or water-retention which makes all the vocal things feel sluggish/swollen. While there’s nothing you can do to turn this effect off completely, you’ll probably find that focusing on staying hydrated (over-do it during this time!) can really help normalize things. Everybody is different, so if you find that water alone isn’t cutting it, consider adding electrolytes (coconut water, gatorade; even salt pills if you’re also very active!) as well. We usually think of hydration as occurring mainly from the inside-out, but during your period, you may also feel like your vocal folds are superficially dehydrated. If this is true for you, steaming your voice can be really helpful, as can certain herbal teas such as Throat Coat (from Traditional Medicinals) or other licorice root teas.
Beyond hydration, subtle changes to your usual technique can also help minimize feelings of vocal instability thanks to swelling. Focus on singing more lightly than you ordinarily do– this might not be the time to focus on your high belt or most powerful singing. Instead, look for opportunities in your music to sing with nuance! Depending on your specific symptoms, you’ll likely want to double-down on your breath support (which can be hard if you’re experiencing cramps! but will ultimately help keep your voice safe) and focus on the consistency of your tone throughout your range. Remember, just like when you are sick, singing on swollen folds can leave you at a slightly elevated risk for vocal injury, so gentle singing is your best bet.
Similarly, any changes to your cycle are likely to cause new and unusual disruptions to your usual singing behaviors as well. During pregnancy or menopause, your hormones are likely to be going through big changes that affect your singing voice as well. Again, everyone is different, so the degree to which you experience differences in your voice may be more or less dramatic than other estrogen-dominant singers you know!
If you are an active performer dealing with hormonal effect to your voice, your best course of action is to pay attention to specific what feels different during any time of your cycle, but especially during your period– are faster moving passages more difficult? Does your range change slightly?– knowing where you’re likely to struggle will help you plan your set list carefully, making sure not to list two challenging pieces back-to-back, or saving your energy for that really hard song, or even dropping something that just doesn’t work at this time of the month, or turning down a potential gig altogether. Perhaps you’ll even discover that lower songs are more accessible to you during certain times of your cycle! It’s all worth exploring.
In the end, singing through your cycle takes a bit more self-knowledge than you might have expected, but a little knowledge goes a long way. If this is a problem that plagues your singing, we highly recommend charting your symptoms in your practice journal throughout your cycle so that you can plan your gigs or practice sessions with care, and modify your technique or song list as needed.
For more on this fascinating topic, we recommend checking out the book, “Singing Through Change” by Cate Frazier-Neely, Joanne Bozeman, and Nancy Bos. Want to chat with a teacher about your specific concerns? Schedule your free Consultation any time.