Some scientists, and men, still doubt that PMS really is a legitimate syndrome. But ask any woman and she will vouch for its existence! Even though it has been known for quite some time, only in the 1980s did researchers start looking into it more seriously and finally found that it is linked to changing hormonal levels in a woman’s body.
New studies assume that there is some sort of interaction between brain chemicals and hormones in the last phase of the menstrual cycle, known as the luteal phase. The hormones, mainly progesterone, can cause a lack of endorphins in the body – those chemicals that make us happy. And humans aren’t the only ones affected – female baboons can also get very unhappy once a month!
One of the reasons it is sometimes hard to believe PMS exists is because it can have so many different symptoms. They can be either emotional, physical or both. But they are common – one in every three women has PMS regularly. Though a recent study found it doesn’t necessarily happen at the ‘classic’ time of the month, right before your period starts.
Physical symptoms can be painful breasts, cramps and bloating. Headaches, acne, constipation and joint or muscle pain are also common. The emotional ones range from irritability and unhappiness to anxiety and insomnia. The symptoms can change from cycle to cycle – that means, PMS can be different each time a woman gets her period! The symptoms can last for a day or two or even up to one week.
Some things have proven to make PMS worse, so laying off too much coffee and junk food and instead focusing on a good and healthy diet and enough sleep can make PMS less intense. Being stressed or having a history of depression can make it worse, too.
Trying to relax and exercising can help you with both emotional and physical issues. If you have headaches and cramps, painkillers like paracetamol (acetaminophen) or ibuprofen can help. Also, women on hormonal contraception like the pill or patch often have less PMS.
If the symptoms start getting in the way of your normal every life, it’s a good idea to talk to your healthcare provider about the different options you have to help you get back on track!
PMDD, or premenstrual dysphoric disorder, is an extreme form of PMS. The symptoms are similar to those of PMS, but they’re much more severe, making it very hard for the women to function normally. For example, women can have severe panic attacks, start binge eating and be very depressed. Around three to eight percent of women worldwide are affected. These women seem to have a genetic change in their hormone receptors, and that has a big impact on their mood.
Women with PMDD should seek treatment from their healthcare professional to manage the symptoms of their disorder.
But PMS is not all bad, as it turns out. Some women’s senses work better during PMS. Some have more intense taste or smell sensations, and for others, all their senses are in overdrive. You hear, see, feel, taste and smell more – that’s got to have superhero potential!
And just in case something goes wrong with your new superhero status, courts in some countries consider PMS a reason to reduce sentences, because PMS can affect your mental capacity!