It's that time of month, all month - study
By Kamahl Cogdon
November 21, 2007 12:09am
- Study shows PMS a 28-day affliction
- More than 150 physical and emotional symptoms
- Crying, eating chocolate not only option
IT'S enough to send men diving for cover and women reaching for the Tim Tams.
Research shows premenstrual syndrome is not, as the name suggests, confined to the days before menstruation.
Instead PMS symptoms, such as moodiness, stress and depression, are present all month, fluctuating throughout the average 28-day cycle.
An RMIT study found women's stress levels peaked on the first day of the cycle, while depression and anxiety were highest in the premenstrual stage.
Provisional psychologist Lauren Hateley said the various symptoms were also most likely to collide on day one of a woman's cycle.
Traditional notion 'exploded'
She said her research exploded the traditional notion of PMS.
"There is a traditional view that it's the week leading up to menstruation that is the time we experience symptoms," Ms Hateley said.
"I found that's the case as well, there are significant symptoms during that phase.
"But symptoms also fluctuate across the cycle and the perception of stress in particular was higher from day one."
Most women experience some of the more than 150 physical and emotional symptoms linked to PMS.
Jean Hailes Foundation for Women's Health director Dr Liz Farrell said fewer than 10 per cent of women suffered severe PMS.
Mood swings, irritability 'common'
She said mood symptoms - such as irritability, anxiety, depression, tension, mood swings and impulsive behaviour - were most common.
Physical symptoms commonly included headaches, breast tenderness, food cravings, acne and feeling bloated and tired and washed out.
Dr Farrell said the RMIT research was very interesting, with most studies having identified the premenstrual stage as the key time for symptoms.
A normal cycle ranges from 26 to 32 days. It consists of three stages: The follicular stage, from the first day of menstruation to day 12,
The early luteal stage, from days 13 to 20 and including ovulation;
And premenstrual stage, from days 21 to 28.
Ms Hateley's two-year study showed stress levels in women with menstrual symptoms rose during the follicular stage.
She said women were more likely to feel stressed by events such as relationship problems and family conflict, workload or boredom at work, hectic schedules, and finances during this phase.
Menstruation 'partly to blame'
Ms Hateley said menstruation itself was probably partly to blame.
"For some women, it's a bit of a hassle, particularly with its sudden and unexpected onset for many women," she said.
Ms Hateley studied the impact of a range of menstrual symptoms on mood and levels of stress, depression and anxiety.
The study, overseen by registered psychologist and medical herbalist Assoc Prof Andrew Francis, saw 130 women aged 18 to 50 fill in daily diaries for two months, rating their stress levels and symptoms of restlessness, headaches, breast discomfort, depression, aggression, hot flushes, sexual thoughts, pain.
The women, who were not taking the contraceptive pill and had not been diagnosed with PMS, also recorded their experiences of depression, anxiety and coping, and their perceptions of what caused events in their life on three days of their cycles.
'Controlled women' suffer less
The study also revealed women who believed they were in control of their lives, rather than being at the mercy of fate or luck, were less likely to experience severe symptoms in the premenstrual phase.
"This has important implications for treatment of severe PMS," Ms Hateley said.
"Learning to base things on your own achievements and success is likely to help a woman stop feeling so bogged down by the extent of the PMS."
Coping styles were also found to play a role, with emotional women, such as those who responded to problems by crying or talking to friends, more likely to experience PMS symptoms than those who sought practical solutions.
This meant, for example, that a woman who exercised to deal with feeling frumpy before getting her period would cope better with PMS than a woman who chose to cry and eat chocolate to feel better.