Most women have experienced some symptoms or discomfort associated with their monthly periods. It may be nothing more serious than feelings of irritation or tiredness a few days before their period which they can easily shrug off.
Or it may be much more severe – depression, acute anxiety, food cravings, water retention, abdominal pain, or heavy bleeding which can turn the normal menstrual cycle into a misery – for the women concerned and for their families. Most doctors nowadays recognize premenstrual syndrome (P.M.S) as a collection of symptoms usually experienced in the two weeks before a period. Sore, “lumpy” breasts, sleep problems, a lack of interest in sex, and erratic periods are other symptoms, although some women become much keener on sex just before a period.
The causes of P.M.S. and other menstrual problems are still hotly debated. During this phase of the menstrual cycle levels of the sex hormones progesterone and oestrogen fall, affecting all parts of the body including the brain, which accounts for the wide variety of symptoms reported by women. Hormonal imbalance is certainly a crucial factor, although there is a lively dispute over whether P.M.S. is caused by a deficiency of oestrogen or a problem with the way the body uses progesterone. Poor diet, lack of exercise, and stress undoubtedly aggravate the situation and may in some cases turn what might be a mild inconvenience into something much more distressing. There is also evidence that “oestrogen overload” is something of a modern epidemic caused by a combination of the contraceptive pill, poor diet, and stress.
Your symptoms may also be due to something else entirely – a shortage of iron or a thyroid problem, for example – so it is sensible to have a check-up rather than assuming that the problem is related to your monthly cycle.