Understanding PMS: What are you!? | Something Private Podcast


Narrator: There’s a common phenomenon women experience during their time of the month. “I’m PMS-ing!” [Men Screaming] [Meg crying] “Boy, she must really be PBS-ing, right?” “What?” Narrator: So, what exactly is “PMS”? Turns out, researchers don’t quite have the answer. “It’s like a crime scene in my pants.” “This cup is so tiny.” Narrator: “Do you get PMS?” Yes, I do. I get PMS. I get very hungry. Mood swing. I feel a bit more down and I don’t even know why. Narrator: Most women experience some of these common PMS symptoms and some experts have even identified close to 150 symptoms. But what causes PMS? We don’t exactly know the cause of PMS. It’s hard to study this, really. How do you tease apart the brain and see what’s happening? But it’s been hypothesised and it’s cyclical. During the premenstrual period, you have a lot more progesterone. And progesterone is a depressogenic hormone. It’s what makes us feel lousy. As compared to estrogen, which is what you get mid-cycle when you ovulate and estrogen is a “feel-good” hormone. It’s what makes us feel alive, energetic, sexy. PMS can be traced back 2,500 years ago when ancient Greeks like Hippocrates believed that women’s physical and mood disorders were thought to be caused by hysteria or the wandering womb. It was only in 1931 that the phenomenon was labelled as “Premenstrual Tension”. And 20 years later, “Premenstrual Syndrome” was finally born when British doctor, Katharina Dalton defined it as a cluster of symptoms that included breast pain, headache, bloating, depression and irritability. But the term “syndrome” received flak from doctors and scientists because when something is labelled a “syndrome” it is taken more seriously and seen as needing medical attention. You can consider a woman as having PMS if she has just one symptom. You don’t have to have a certain number of symptoms to check off for having that disorder. So, PMS would in that sense be a group of symptoms you can have. You can have one, you can have ten. Narrator: According to the dictionary a “syndrome” is a group of signs and symptoms that occur together and characterise a particular abnormality. Past research has shown that PMS occurs in up to 95% of menstruating women. Hmm, not that abnormal, right? Yet, calling it a “syndrome” motivates pharmaceutical companies and women to find treatment for the condition. As many as 327 different treatments to PMS have been proposed. The economics of PMS treatment is huge and there are many pharmaceutical companies and physicians making money off women who worry about their PMS symptoms showing. But this doesn’t mean that PMS can’t lead to something more serious. So that brings us to the topic of Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD). PMDD is not so well recognised. PMS shapes into PMDD. When does it become PMDD? It’s when it’s distressing for the woman and affects her functioning. So, at the severe end is women who are so disabled by their PMS symptoms because they’re irritable. Pop culture references and jokes about PMS in our daily lives have helped to build an acceptance around the label. While PMDD remained as a largely unknown disorder PMS continues to be widely recognised. Without knowing the cause of PMS It’s hard to say who is right or wrong. I think it always helps to know exactly what we are experiencing and understanding it. We tend to hide away from our emotions. You know, this thing about “Should women be more introspective about the cause of their emotions?” Maybe, that suggests that perhaps you know, we shouldn’t even be. It’s wrong to be emotional. If we get the job done well, so what if a few tears are shed? Thanks Doctor. Can’t agree more.

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