How common is PMS? Hint: You’re in “good” company
Do you suffer from PMS?
Let’s talk about premenstrual syndrome (PMS) because, after all, millions of women worldwide experience it. In fact, PMS is so prevalent that scientists the world over are researching the topic to find out why some women get it and others do not, as well as whether your ethnicity affects the level of emotional disturbances, pain and discomfort.
A new 2020 study that looks at the prevalence and clinical picture of premenstrual syndrome in females from Bulgaria, has a global message: up to 90% of women of reproductive age experience a number of premenstrual symptoms varying from mild to severe, around 20–40% of women experience PMS and 2–8% suffer from premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), a more severe case of PMS, which causes severe irritability, anxiety or depression in the week or two before your period starts.
When it comes to symptoms, you are not alone
According to the data, the most prevalent psychological symptoms women face are irritability, fatigue and changes in appetite, depressed mood, mood swings, and anxiety; while women taking part in the study said the most common somatic premenstrual symptoms felt include abdominal bloating, breast tenderness, headache, and weight gain.
Not long ago, The New York Times reported that the average woman has her period for 2,535 days of her life. If you do the math, the article explains that’s about seven years of managing pain and discomfort that tend to happen one or two weeks before your menstrual cycle and dissipate with the beginning of menstruation or briefly thereafter.
So, for women everywhere, the need to study PMS and understand its causes so that we can improve treatment is clear.
Incidence rate of PMS comparable around the world
This latest study, published in Annals of General Psychiatry journal, shows prevalence of PMS among a study of 305 women of Bulgarian origin to be at 32.1%. That number is comparable to prior studies done in Canada, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Uzbekistan.
A Canadian study sought out differences according to ethnicities but found that women with a similar lifestyle and health-related attitudes in modern society, tended to have similar PMS prevalence.
A Saudi Arabian team of researchers used a questionnaire based on the definition of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and found PMS in 35.6% of the sample.
The Bulgarian researchers used the Premenstrual Symptoms Screening Tool (PSST) questionnaire and came to similar results as an Israeli team that reports 25.6% frequentness for PMS according to the PSST questionnaire, an Indian group that finds PMS in 18.4% of its sample, and Iranian researchers that found PMS in 30.7%.
Participants in Bulgaria were recruited randomly and were between the ages of 18 and 50, with regular menstrual cycles with a length between 21 and 35 days.
“Our results replicate relatively well what is known from prior research in the field. Despite the use of different diagnostic instruments, the prevalence of PMS usually varies around 20–40%. This is entirely comparable to our data, namely 32.1%,” write the researchers.
PMS psychological and somatic symptoms
Moreover, the study shows that women uniformly suffer from psychological and somatic symptoms. Headaches are the main symptom that causes the most severe distress, according to the research data.
In addition, the researchers identified breast tension and tenderness and abdominal bloating as core somatic symptoms.
Other main symptoms of PMS include anxiety, fatigue, depression and tension, headaches, skin disturbances, mood swings, changes in appetite, cramps, weight gain, anger, irritability, sleep pattern, specific foods craving, and reduced interest in activities.
Like mother, like daughter?
In an earlier study done in the United States, there was a strong link between mothers and their daughters in terms of premenstrual tension. That study showed that when mothers had symptoms including anxiousness, fatigue, and irritability, 69.8% of the daughters had similar symptoms.
This study did not show why some women get certain premenstrual symptoms and why some get none at all.
The participants were asked to evaluate each symptom they had and the level of functional impairment (if present) on a 4-point Likert scale as “not at all,” “mild” “moderate,” and “severe.”
The conclusion of the study is comprehensive: PMS is frequent and occurs at a similar rate in Bulgaria as in other European countries.
The data also shows that most women have mild to moderate PMS, so, chances are, many “fellow females” are in the same boat.