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 Post subject: Pre-Menstrual Syndrome (PMS)
 Post Posted: Sun Nov 06, 2005 1:36 am 
Pre-Menstrual Syndrome (PMS) - The woman’s worry

@ ST / Sunday, October 30, 2005

Most men think there’s just no accounting for a woman’s moods, yet in some weird way it seems to simply add to our already considerable allure. You only have to listen to Billy Joel crooning about some annoyingly contradictory female “who’s always a woman” to him to understand what I mean. Now you and I know that men are never ever going to succeed in understanding women. Nevertheless, I don’t see why we shouldn’t make it a little easier on them (and on ourselves) by introducing (or re-acquainting, as the case may be) everyone with the terrors of Pre-Menstrual Syndrome (PMS).

Biological torture

Women in the grip of PMS are often unrecognisable and we have our hormones to thank for it. Symptoms appear like black clouds on the horizon, sometimes as early as two weeks before D-Day. Irritable, moody, physically ill, depressed… the list goes on and on. In fact 150 symptoms (!) are attributed to PMS these days. Fortunately, women don’t have to deal with the onset of all 150 at once. We tend to be spared the first hundred and only have to cope with fifty or so per month – no sweat.

It’s bad enough to have your hormones turn against you without having to cope with them on two fronts – emotional and physical. Among the things the little menaces do is leave you feeling like a beached whale (a.k.a fluid retention); take a hammer to your head (a.k.a migraine); leave you wilting like stale lettuce (a.k.a fatigue); have you doing the robot thing as you creak up the stairs, hands supporting your spine (a.k.a painful joints and backache); and leave you groaning like a belly dancer suffering through electroshock therapy (a.k.a abdominal cramping). You may even have heart palpitations (when you think of your other-half meeting your parents) and gain weight (rest assured, the chocolates are only partly to blame).

Now for the emotional bit (I take out my box of tissues in anticipation). Anxiety, uncontrollable crying spells, depression, irritability, panic attacks, tension, feeling ‘out-of-control,’ lack of co-ordination, decreased work or social performance (whew… I hope you were counting, there are only about 70 or so left). If variety truly is the spice of life, then we women are eating all the curry. The symptoms of PMS may vary from month to month and mercifully there may even be symptom-free months (proving that at least one in a million prayers is actually answered).

Originally described in 1931 by an American neurologist, the grouping of PMS symptoms has (surprisingly) remained the same. He (and it had to be a man – who else would put pain, agony and the sudden appearance of a multiple personality disorder into a neat little four point synopsis) broke it down like this:

A – Anxiety: irritability, crying without reason, feeling ‘out of control,’ or changes in behaviour.

D – Depression: confused, clumsy, forgetful, withdrawn, fearful and sometimes even paranoid.

C – Cravings: food cravings, usually for sweets or chocolate and diary products including cheese.

H – Heaviness or headache: fluid retention leading to headaches, breast tenderness, abdominal bloating and weight gain.

Natasha* 22, who habitually spends a few days every month rolling around in pre-period agony, speaks for all women when she asks, “What did women do to deserve this? It’s bad enough that we have to suffer through so much without having to put up with PMS too.”

It’s interesting to note that many women go into over drive just before they’re leveled by the worst of the PMS. Around this time, women tend to clean their houses, (or rooms as the case may be), function with a minimum of zzzzzzz’s, and feel euphoric. This is followed by the PMS symptoms, migraine, fatigue, exhaustion, depression and the inability to function, which many women understandably blame on their earlier hyper-activity.

Taking down those hormones

So how do you survive PMS? The physical symptoms, especially if they are very bad, require the attention of a doctor. In the meantime, a diet rich in fruits and veggies (especially those rich in iron), taking multi-vitamins, avoiding coffee, alcohol and chocolate intake (“Oh no, not chocolate!” I hear you moan) helps with both the physical and emotional symptoms. Eating six small meals at regular three-hour intervals will help you maintain a steady blood glucose level and avoid energy highs and lows.

Exercise (“Oh no, first no chocolate and now I have to exercise??”, believe me, I feel your pain) is helpful for PMS because it reduces stress and tension, acts as a mood elevator, provides a sense of well-being and improves blood circulation by increasing natural production of beta-endorphins (the thingys that make you feel good). The super healthy, slightly frightening types recommend exercising for at least three times a week for 20-30 minutes. If you can’t bear the thought, consider turning the volume up on your stereo and dancing for exercise.

A man’s gotta know what a man’s gotta know

When asked how her boyfriend copes with it, Shonali* 17 has this answer – “he doesn’t.” Apparently Shonali’s better half spends some days of the month lying really low, trying to avoid her fire.

Shonali is not the only woman who has her guy running for cover a couple of times every month. It’s understandable I suppose – you’ve crowned your girlfriend Ms. Congeniality and she’s been up there on that pedestal with her crown and her flowers smiling like sunshine and talking sweetly for most of the month… and then before you can say “darling,” she’s jumped of the pedestal, kicked it over, ripped of the crown and is attacking you with the bouquet. Running does seem like the sensible, no, the only option, I know. So, what do you do?

Isuru* 32 is the voice of experience, “I have these two tactics. The first is I give her space, as much space as she needs and she tends to need a lot. The second thing I try is patience. If she snaps at me I ignore it and after ten minutes or so she’s not only back to normal, she actually apologizes for being rude. The worst possible thing you could do is start fighting with her; it’ll just escalate into a big row.”

That’s obviously a winning strategy. For Kirthi* 20, who feels that she goes through “pre, present and post menstruation syndrome,” the care her boyfriend Lanil* 24 lavishes on her acts like a balm. “He’s so caring,” she says, “and he’s willing to listen to me talk about what’s bothering me;” and here’s the clincher – “he helps me keep things in perspective… he actually looked up PMS on the net and so is much more understanding with me.” Girls – feel free to turn green; Boys – learn.

(* Names have been changed.)


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