What Is PMS?
What is PMS? is a common question especially after a woman experiences significant symptoms just before menses. PMS stands for Premenstrual Syndrome.
Misunderstanding is common among women about what
premenstrual symptoms constitute PMS.
I would briefly present a correct definition of PMS and show you how common it is.
It has longed been recognized that most women of
reproductive age have one or more emotional or physical symptom just before
their menses, which are usually mild.
This was initially called Premenstrual Tension and later Premenstrual Syndrome.
The American College of Gynecology and Obstetrics defines
The following points are highlighted to help you understand fully
- The symptoms are severe enough to cause distress to the woman or functional
impairement. The severity of symptoms is the key element that distinguishes
the “normal” mild symptoms that many
women can experience from the more severe ones associated with PMS. The most
severe symptoms are called Premenstrual Dysphoric Dysorder.
- A symdrome is a medical term that means a group of symptoms
that are caused by a common abnormality.
- Symptoms are usually categorized into three groups: Physical
like breast tenderness, Emotional like mood swings and Behavioral like abnormal cravings
- PMS has a consistent
and predictable relationship with menses. They may occur from few days to 2
weeks before the onset of menses. Most women experience a worsening of their
symptoms about 6 days before, with a peak about 2 days, before the onset of menses.
How Common is PMS?
As noted above, many women will have some mild symptoms just
before menses that do not cause any
Studies have suggested that about 5-8% of menstruating women have moderate or severe
symptoms. Other studies suggest that as high as 20% of all women in the
reproductive age have premenstrual symptoms that might be causing some
Patterns of PMS Symptoms
Women typically have the same set of symptoms from cycle to
cycle. Also note that PMS symptoms do not always
resolve after menses. It is possible for some symptoms to linger into the follicular phase of the next cycle
but by definition, there should be no symptoms before ovulation of the next cycle.
Women with PMS can have other psychiatric diseases like
depression and anxiety. As many as 30%
to 70% of women with PMS will have another mood disorder in their lifetime.
If you want more
technical information on this, please consult the two selected
American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology
ACOG practice bulletin: premenstrual
syndrome. Int J Gynecol Obstet, 73 (2001), pp. 183–191
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