A lot of women in Nigeria go through Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) without seeking medical intervention in good time.
Everyone is different; while some women can cope well with PMS, others struggle to manage the symptoms. Some women may have made important decisions they live to regret whilst going through PMS, others may have left a relationship because their coping mechanism for stress was reduced at the time they had PMS.
What it is
Premenstrual syndrome is widely recognised as a medical condition that affects many women. It describes a range of symptoms that occur before the menstrual period and usually improve when the period starts.
Symptoms of PMS generally increase after childbirth, after a change in contraception and at other times of hormonal changes. Women aged 30-45 years tend to experience the severest of symptoms.
PMS affects women only during the later stage of their menstrual cycle. This stage is known as the luteal phase and occurs between days 15 to 26 of their monthly cycle.
The main hormone controlling the luteal phase is progesterone, but it is a time when levels of all hormones involved in the menstrual cycle can fluctuate dramatically. It is the body’s response to the changing hormones and to the level of hormones that is thought responsible for the symptoms of PMS.
Decreased levels of the chemical messenger serotonin in the brain are also thought to make women particularly sensitive to progesterone, causing symptoms of aggression and for them to act impulsively.
Common physical symptoms include bloating, breast tenderness, headache, weight gain, skin problems and fatigue. Women with PMS can also suffer from a variety of psychological problems such as poor concentration and mood swings.
The symptoms of PMS can appear up to two weeks before a period is due and generally disappear or improve either on the first day of the period or after the day when the flow is heaviest. Most women are then symptom-free for a significant time before the next period.
Living with PMS
The surest way to determine whether you are suffering from PMS is to keep a menstrual diary. When kept for three cycles a diary will help you see a pattern of when symptoms first start, when they are most severe and when they begin to decline. Many women find that just knowing for certain they have PMS brings relief and can help them better understand the problem.
A menstrual diary will also help if you need to go to see your doctor. It will clearly show that your symptoms are cycle related, and it will help your doctor decide on an appropriate treatment.
Eat at regular meal times, particularly in the 2 week period before your period starts.
Reduce intake of sugar, salt, caffeine and alcohol, but increase intake of fruit, vegetables, complex carbohydrates and water.
Exercise regularly, learn to relax and try to avoid stressful situations.
Premenstrual syndrome can be managed. I would encourage all women to seek medical intervention on issues regarding their health; your local pharmacist is also available to give useful advice or signpost you.