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  • This is commonly called 'pre-menstrual tension' but this name does not include symptoms other than 'tension' and neither name takes into consideration the women who experience this at times other than just before their periods begin.

  • It is clear that there are physical and psychological factors which are activated by changes in the level of hormones during the menstrual cycle. The physical and psychological factors which are activated by changes in the level of hormones during the menstrual cycle. The physical symptoms include: headache, backache and other general aches and pains, breast discomfort, swelling, a general feeling of 'bloatedness', weight gain and skin disorders.

  • For many women, it is the mental symptoms which are hardest to bear sudden changes in mood, tension, irritability, depression or weepiness, poor concentration, forgetfulness, clumsiness, lethargy. All of these can vary in intensity in different women and some suffer none or very few of these. Sufferers can seem very 'difficult' to others, but those with pre-menstrual syndrome are not aware of this at the time.

  • All of this seems to be caused by an imbalance in the hormones of the woman's body - primarily oestrogen and progesterone, both produced by the ovaries - combined with other factors. Certain psychological factors are relevant. To some women, possibly as a result of early influences, sexuality may seem wrong or unpleasant and thus conflicts with increased sexual pressures. Girls are often taught to regard menstruation as an illness or disorder, rather than as the normal process that it is.

  • In order to cope with pre menstrual syndrome, it is always a good idea to find out more about your body and, in particular, about how your menstrual cycle works. By keeping a record of your cycle and your physical and mental changes during it, you can usually begin to predict on which days you will be feeling most affected by pre-menstrual symptoms. By limiting your intake of fluid and salt on those days, you can somewhat reduce the 'bloated' feeling, and a good balanced diet is just common sense.

  • If your symptoms are servere and need more than self-help can offer, you may require medical treatment. Your doctor may prescribe a diuretic which will make your kidneys excrete more water. Sometimes taking birth-control pills helps, but much depends on the type of pill and in some women they make the problem, worse. Natural progesterone and, more commonly. Progestogen (artificially produced progesterone) are sometimes prescribed, as are bromocriptine (a drug which is closely involved in the production of progesterone and the maintenance of water balance) and pyridozine (vitamin B6), but these and other drugs have their drawbacks and they don't all work in the same way for everybody.

  • There is no sure fire cure for pre menstrual syndrome, but it is important that those women suffering from it begin to understand what causes it, and are able to receive responsible, knowledgeable and caring advice from the medical profession.

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