Period Symptoms. The Fix
Here at The Fix we celebrate individuality. No two women are the same. Similarly period symptoms differ. Symptoms vary from individual to individual, month to month and over a woman’s lifetime.
So, what are the symptoms?
Well, there’s an entire ‘showbag of shockers’ often referred to as Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS). These include changes to physical and emotional health. For some women these symptoms are mild. Recent research reveals 90 per cent of 21,573 women surveyed in Australia experienced debilitating pain from their periods, causing 40 per cent of those women to take days off work or study to cope.
More common symptoms include:
- Cramps or pain in the tummy
- Irritability, fatigue, tension, anxiety and depression
- Bloating or swelling and breast tenderness
- Skin breakouts and acne
There are many more emotional and physical changes a woman may experience including crying spells, appetite changes and food cravings, insomnia, changes in libido, joint or muscle pain, lower back pain, headaches, migraines, constipation or diarrhea, to name a few.
What on earth causes them?
Well let’s just step back and appreciate the fact a hell of a lot is going on inside a woman during the course of their cycle. Hormones are furiously fluctuating. If a pregnancy does not take place a woman’s body moves into overdrive to prepare for the next cycle. Amazing, really!
Let’s break down a few symptoms and their causes.
These beauties are felt in the lower tummy and can radiate out towards the lower back and upper legs. If a pregnancy doesn’t take place in any given cycle, uterine contractions help shed the inner lining of the uterus (endometrium). These are triggered by the production of fatty-acid hormones called prostaglandins. These hormones can also cause bowel contractions leading to possible diarrhea and nausea. No wonder things feel a little chaotic and achy down there.
Feelings of irritability, fatigue, tension, anxiety or depression leading up to your period are not “all in your head”. This emotional roller-coaster can be caused by the fluctuations in hormones. Estrogen and progesterone levels drop dramatically after ovulation. A decrease in estrogen may influence serotonin levels which affect mood, emotions, behaviour, sleep and appetite.
So, your jeans refuse to zip up and elastic-waisted trackie-dacks are your best friend. Again, changes in estrogen and progesterone levels can be to blame. They can cause your body to retain more water and salt than usual resulting in that puffy feeling.
Sore, swollen boobs are no fun. Changes to progesterone levels make the mammary glands in your breasts enlarge and swell, giving them that heavy, achy feeling right before a woman’s period.
Spots are not just the preserve of angsty teenagers. Again, if no pregnancy takes place when you ovulate, estrogen and progesterone levels drop off while androgens, such as testosterone, ramp up. Androgens coursing around a woman’s body stimulate oil produced by glands within the skin, called sebum. When too much sebum is produced, you guessed it — breakouts arrive.
One Size Does Not Fit All.
It’s pretty short-sighted to clump together the vast array — and intensity — of period symptoms and suggest some sort of “cure-all”. Given period symptoms are so diverse, it makes sense to treat them individually. The good news is there are ways to help reduce and manage the signs and symptoms of periods.
*Speak to your doctor if PMS symptoms are affecting your daily life. In some cases, severe symptoms may indicate premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) or other, underlying medical conditions.
1Mike Armour, Kelly Parry, Narendar Manohar, Kathryn Holmes, Tania Ferfolja, Christina Curry, Freya MacMillan and Caroline A Smith, ‘The Prevalence and Academic Impact of Dysmenorrhea in 21,573 Young Women: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis’ (2019) 28(8) Journal of Women’s Health