At least 50 per cent of women (probably more) are affected at some stage or other with an unpleasant condition called premenstrual syndrome (or PMS for short). This can vary from vague symptoms that produce little disturbance, to a set of extremely uncomfortable symptoms. It is often referred to as dis-ease, rather than a disease. A great range of symptoms can take place. These can be consistently the same, or they may vary from month to month. Usually they are a manifestation of the production of the hormone progesterone during the latter part of the menstrual cycle. The nearer the time comes for the menstrual flow, the more noticeable the symptoms usually become.
Irritability, crankiness and an unnaturally bad-temper are the most common symptoms. Many women who are normally loyal, loving, dedicated wives suddenly become bad tempered and spiteful, hating themselves and their partners, as well as anyone else within range. The degree can vary from very mild symptoms to those that provoke considerable personal distress and frequent marital disharmony. Indeed, this single symptom has often been blamed for marital break-ups, so it is a very important one.
Lethargy and constipation are common about this time. Other patients develop dark shadows under the eyes, and facial pimples frequently appear. The increased hormone levels make the little fat-producing skin glands of the face jam up with overproduction, to add to the victim’s misery. Others often complain of fullness in the abdomen and pelvic pressure. Frequently the breasts tend to swell, becoming tender and uncomfortable.
Sometimes actual lumps seem to occur in the breast tissue. This is associated with a sudden weight gain, which may be quite excessive. These are symptoms of fluid retention. When fluid is retained in the tissue cells, the discomfort gradually becomes increasingly prominent. Fortunately, with the onset of the menstrual flow, there is an abundant fluid loss, and many of these symptoms tend to vanish automatically. However, with discomfort and emotional and physical distress gradually escalating over a seven to ten day period, many women are acutely aware of their dilemma and seek a way out.
Premenstrual Syndrome Treatment
Today, treatment for premenstrual syndrome is good. It should be undertaken under proper medical supervision. Once commenced, sticking to the recommended routine will quickly and successfully bring relief to the majority of women. Modern therapy revolves around the following systems:
These have come into great prominence during the past few years, and bring untold relief to large numbers of PMS victims. They are also known as fluid pills. Their chief function is to greatly increase the urinary output of the system, usually within hours of being taken.
Many different brands are commercially available, all requiring a doctor’s prescription. A common dose is one or two diuretic tablets daily for seven to 10 days before the expected onset of menstruation. This can be easily worked out on a calendar by most reasonably regular women. The thiazide diuretics or the quicker-acting and more potent drug frusemide is often prescribed. Often heavy diuresis ( where large amounts of urine are passed) follows. When taking these tablets, due consideration of one’s social obligations, outings etc, is suggested, to avoid embarrassment and being “caught unprepared”.
Sometimes an analgesic (as set out under the subheading “pain-killers” in the treatment of primary dysmenorrhoea) is effective if aches and pains and headaches are a feature.
Anything that will reduce the production of the hormone progesterone will tend to improve the picture. That is why the contraceptive pill is so successful for this problem in many women. Although in some it may accentuate headaches, depression and nervous tension, in the main it does not do this. Many women in this age segment take the pill for purely contraceptive reasons. Therefore, they reap an additional bonus benefit. By inhibiting ovulation, pregnancy is impossible, but progesterone production is stopped, and the unpleasant syndrome of PMS is abolished.
Some doctors find their patients respond well to mild sedation. Today, this comes in the form of the benzodiazepene derivatives, such as diazepam. For practical purposes, barbiturates are no longer prescribed and are best left alone. Any type of sedative should be taken only under recommendations from your doctor. Under no circumstances should anyone resort to illicit drug taking, even excessive use of analgesics! This could only breed even greater, long-term problems. Neither is it worth resorting to alcohol to soothe the nerves and make you feel better. By endeavouring to subdue one set of symptoms, an even greater number could loom and rapidly increase. The number of cupboard- drinking women with PMS is astonishing. Do not add to their unhappy numbers, for this is no cure.
In recent years many doctors believe that nutritional deficiencies may play a vital part in PMS. Therefore they often recommend an increased daily intake of pyridoxine (vitamin B), plus minerals such as zinc, magnesium and others, probably in combination with natural diuretics. A popular remedy in the early part of this century was the use of hot and cold baths. The patient sat in a tub of hot water, immersing the buttocks, lower part of the back and thighs. (This brought fresh blood to the muscles and pelvic region.) After 3 – 4 minutes, she then sat in a similar tub of cold water for 1 minute, then back to the hot. This was carried out 2 – 3 times a day for 10 – 15 minutes. It improved the circulation, and often brought relief without the need for medication. It is still very useful, taken for 10 days before a period is due, the results are often remarkable.
Oil of evening primrose capsules are claimed to help some women. No prescription is required. They may be taken regularly, or commenced midway between periods. Three capsules are taken twice a day. A variety of herbal products have proliferated in recent years. Some doctors claim natural laxatives help. Some believe a high-fibre diet assists, and it certainly may by increasing fluid output.
Some claim that large doses of progesterone each month, given artificially as a tablet, assists, even though others believe this hormone is one of the major causes. There are probably many “cures,” and not just one. In time, we may have the full answer. Right now, it is a case of trying the known remedies that appear to offer relief. Incidentally, more exercise never does anybody any harm.
As with any emotionally charged situation, thinking positively and thinking thoughts of success always assists. It may not entirely cure the situation, but it will certainly improve the situation. By making a determined effort to overcome apparent (real or imagined, and it is often hard to tell the difference at the time) problems, the mind sets to work on an avenue in your favour. Give it a trial. The wonders of a positive mental attitude have to be experienced to be actually realised. Think positively and assistance will certainly come your way.
Menstruation Is Normal
Get the idea permanently removed from your psyche that period time is something abnormal. Menstruation is a very normal occurrence. There is nothing sinister, fearful or depraved about your menses. There is no need to limit normal activities at this time unless you so desire. Even intercourse is not contraindicated, unless both partners prefer to abstain for aesthetic reasons.
However, in ancient Bible times the Levitical code prohibited intercourse at such times. Medically, it is perfectly safe and entirely harmless. At period time, use whatever type of sanitary protection you desire. All are suitable, and can be varied according to your personal tastes. External napkins or internal tampons are equally suitable. In other words, live normally. One gynaecologist of world renown recently summed it up this way:
“The few days before menstruation and the time of menstruation itself are times when an increased sexual urge is felt by many women. Intercourse during menstruation may be un-aesthetic, but it is not medically dangerous, and patients who seek advice can be reassured that there is no medical reason to avoid intercourse at this time.”
The closer a couple lives to normality the better. In these days of the emancipated woman, everything is going for her. Gone are the bad old days when a woman’s problems were not to be listened to, let alone to be acted upon. Comfort and freedom from distress both mental and physical are right on hand. But she must take the first step in the direction of seeking assistance. Sensible women are now quick to detect any abnormality, and to take full advantage of the remarkable aids that modern medicine currently offers. If this is your problem, why not seek professional assistance from your family doctor or gynaecologist this week: You could be so glad you did!