Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) occurs in approximately 90% of women of reproductive age, of which about 10% are diagnosed with premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).
PMS consists of a wide variety of symptoms of a physical and mental nature, such as moodiness, irritability, bloating, breast tenderness, fatigue, and changes in sleep and eating habits. PMDD is a severe, sometimes disabling, extension of PMS, with sadness or hopelessness, anxiety, extreme moodiness or anger.
PMS and PMDD can affect all areas of women’s lives – including work, study and relationships.
An international study collected information on the impact of severe PMS on work and daily activities. Over 4000 women aged 15-45 years, from 19 countries, who passed a screening for PMS participated in a two- month web-based survey. The results showed that women who have moderate to severe PMS had at least a moderate reduction in productivity or efficiency in daily routine. They also had a higher rate of absenteeism than those without PMS (>8 hours per cycle). They concluded that moderate to severe PMS was associated with work productivity impairment and increased absenteeism and thus poses a potential economic burden.
A 2011 study also examined the burden of moderate to severe PMS and PMDD in a cohort of Latin American women. The analysis suggested a significant cost burden associated with severe to moderate PMS and PMDD. A consistent relationship was observed between disease severity and measures of disease burden.
A study in Nigeria, consisting of 393 females aged 16-35 years, aimed to observe whether a relationship existed between academic stress and menstrual disorders among undergraduate females. It was found that women who experienced academic stress were about two times more likely to suffer from menstrual disorders, and thus the authors concluded there was a significant association between academic stress and menstrual disorders.
Several herbal and nutritional medicines have been shown to be effective in the relief of symptoms associated with premenstrual syndrome:
- Vitex agnus castus helps relieve PMS symptoms such as breast tenderness, fluid retention, cramps, food cravings, irritability, mood swings, nervous tension, headaches and insomnia.
- Paeonia lactiflora may assist in symptomatic relief and the management of irregular periods.
- Angelica sinesis is well known in traditional Chinese medicine for its role in women’s gynaecological problems such as amenorrhoea and dysmenorrhoea.
- Dandelion leaf has been used traditionally in western herbal medicine for its diuretic action and may assist in relief of symptoms of fluid retention.
- Vitamin B6 may provide symptomatic relief to symptoms of PMS such as breast tenderness, fluid retention, irritability and fatigue. It aids in the formation of several neurotransmitters and is required for the production of serotonin and dopamine, and therefore is an essential nutrient in the regulation of mental processes and possibly mood.
- Consuming 1200mg calcium per day may also reduce symptoms of PMS and PMDD.
- Gallenberg MM. What’s the difference between premenstrual dysphoric disorder and premenstrual syndrome? Mayo Clinic 2014. [Link]
- Heinemann LA, Minh TD, Heinemann K, et al. Intercountry assessment of the impact of severe premenstrual disorders on work and daily activities. Health Care Women Int 2012;33(2):109-124. [Abstract]
- Schiola A, Lowin J, Lindemann M, et al. The burden of moderate/severe premenstrual syndrome and premenstrual dysphoric disorder in a cohort of Latin American women. Value Health 2011;14(5 Suppl 1):S93-95. [Full Text]
- Expenyong CE, Davis KJ, Akpan UP, et al. Academic stress and menstrual disorders among female udergraduates in Uyo, south eastern Nigeria – the need for health education. Niger J Physiol Sci 2011;26(2):193-198. [Full Text]