Determining menstrual phase in human biobehavioral research: A review with recommendations

Alicia M Allen, Aimee L. McRae-Clark, Samantha Carlson, Michael E. Saladin, Kevin M. Gray, Cora Lee Wetherington, Sherry A. McKee, Sharon S Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Scopus citations


Given the volume and importance of research focusing on menstrual phase, a review of the strategies being used to identify menstrual phase and recommendations that will promote methodological uniformity in the field is needed. We conducted a literature review via Ovid Medline and PsycINFO. Our goal was to review methods used to identify menstrual phase and subphases in biobehavioral research studies with women who had physiologically natural menstrual cycles. Therefore, we excluded articles that focused on any of the following: use of exogenous hormones, the postpartum period, menstrual-related problems (e.g., polycystic ovarian syndrome, endometriosis), and infertility/anovulation. We also excluded articles on either younger (<18 years old) or older (>45 years old) study samples. We initially identified a total of 1,809 articles. After our exclusionary criteria were applied, 146 articles remained, within which our review identified 6 different methods used to identify menstrual phase and subphases. The most common method used was self-report of onset of menses (145/146 articles) followed by urine luteinizing hormone testing (50/146 articles) and measurement of hormones (estradiol and/or progesterone) in blood samples (49/146 articles). Overall, we found a lack of consistency in the methodology used to determine menstrual phase and subphases.Weprovide several options to improve accuracy of phase identification, as well as to minimize costs and burden. Adoption of these recommendations will decrease misclassification within individual studies, facilitate cross-study comparisons, and enhance the reproducibility of results.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalExperimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by Center of Biomedical Research Excellence award P20GM103644 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Institute of General Medical Sciences, and research Grants R01DA14028 and R01HD075669 from the NIH National Institute on Drug Abuse and National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, respectively. The funding sources had no other role in this project other than financial support.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 American Psychological Association.


  • Menstrual phase
  • Methods
  • Recommendations
  • Review
  • Sex hormones
  • Women


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