Many of us experience premenstrual syndrome which comes with symptoms such as bloating, fatigue, and mood swings but for some people, the difficulties that a period can bring don’t stop there.
For people with long-term conditions such as IBS, migraines, and even asthma, the hormonal changes that come with a menstrual cycle can lead to a flare-up of symptoms in a phenomenon known as premenstrual magnification.
In The Female Body Bible: A Revolution In Women’s Health and Fitness, a book by Dr Emma Ross, Baz Moffat and Dr Bella Smith, the writers urge that “some symptoms aren’t actually symptoms of the cycle at-all, but a worsening of symptoms that are due to another underlying cause.”
For example, a study published in 2014 found that “There is evidence to suggest that the premenstrual phase has a magnifying effect on the stress-headache interaction.” Meaning that migraines have been found to worsen during the premenstrual phase of the cycle.
Mood Swings Might Not “Just” PMS
This phenomenon further highlights just how complex our periods are and how many health difficulties are attached to our monthly cycle. While many of us will make light of our periods by dismissing our mood swings as “just” PMS, these feelings and experiences are very real and could be symptoms of underlying conditions.
According to the mental health charity Mind, those who suffer from “extreme PMS” or Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD), often find it difficult to work, socialise, and have healthy relationships. For some people, PMDD can cause suicidal thoughts.
The symptoms of PMDD outlined by Mind are:
feeling upset or tearful
lack of energy
less interest in activities you normally enjoy
feeling angry or irritable
feeling tense or on edge
feeling overwhelmed or out of control
Physical and behavioural experiences
breast tenderness or swelling
pain in your muscles and joints
changes in your appetite, such as overeating or having specific food cravings
increased anger or conflict with people around you
becoming very upset if you feel that others are rejecting you.
Treatments For Period-Related Conditions
As with all illnesses, it’s important to not blame yourself for how you’re feeling whether it’s emotional or physical. This kind of thinking isn’t helpful and almost always isn’t true! Some of the ways you can help yourself get the treatment that you need and cope with the difficulties your cycle brings are:
Keeping a period diary. According to a medically reviewed article by Meryl Davids Landau, keeping a period diary can help you to not only identify any irregularities in your cycle but also means you can provide helpful documentation to your GP on how your body experiences the menstrual cycle
Speak to your GP if you experience severe mood swings or suicidal thoughts at any point
Try to eat healthily and get enough sleep
Try gentle exercises such as yoga or walking
Speak to your doctor about your conditions worsening during your period as they can provide medication to get you through those tough days