Most women menstruate over a span of more than 30 years, from early adolescence until the late 40s or early 50s. They usually get their periods regularly without any problems. However, there are those who suffer from menstrual disorders such as menstrual cramps, and heavy or irregular periods. While each woman’s reproductive health is unique, there are some menstrual disorders which are more common, such as premenstrual syndrome or PMS.

PMS symptoms

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS), also known as premenstrual tension (PMT), refers to the physical, psychological and behavioural symptoms that affect some 75 per cent of women anytime between one day to two weeks before the onset of their monthly period. These symptoms usually improve when the woman's period begins, and disappear a few days after.

Common PMS symptoms include:

  • Physical symptoms: fluid retention, abdominal discomfort and bloating, appetite disturbance (typically increased), headaches, back ache, muscle ache and joint pain, breast tenderness, insomnia, lethargy or fatigue, nausea.
  • Psychological symptoms: mood swings, feeling upset or emotional, feeling irritable or angry, sensitivity to rejection, social withdrawal, depression, anxiety, sense of being overwhelmed, difficulty concentrating, confusion and forgetfulness.
  • Behavioural symptoms: loss of interest in sex, changes in appetite, and occasionally and/or for some, food cravings (e.g. carbohydrates).

For the majority of women, these symptoms may be mild and tolerable. However, for a small group of women, these symptoms may be debilitating and may cause significant disruptions in their daily lives. They are said to be suffering from premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), a disabling condition marked by severe PMS that can adversely affect work and relationships with people. In this case, it is imperative to seek medical treatment to manage the symptoms.

Causes of PMS and PMDD

While the exact causes of PMS and PMDD are still indeterminate, medical experts at the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Women’s Mental Health point out that researchers now agree that “these disorders represent biological phenomena rather than purely psychological events” and that recent research has also drawn links to a particular sensitivity to normal hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle. Stress, being overweight and lack of exercise can also contribute to it.

Read on for tips on managing your PMS symptoms.

Ref: T12