The effects of stress and health on premenstrual symptoms

In a time of increasing pressures and demands, with stress levels at an all-time high, staying ‘healthy’ can be challenging. However, for women, the effects of stress and poor health can have painful consequences.

A study published in BioPsychoSocial Medicine revealed that women who considered themselves to be unhealthy and stressed, experienced more severe physical and psychological premenstrual symptoms, including body aches and pains, reduced school or work performance, anxiety and mood swings.

This supports previous research that found women who reported experiencing stress in the weeks preceding their period were two-to-four times more likely to report physical pain during their period.

Although researchers have been unable to determine exactly why stress levels affect period pain, some believe the stress hormone, cortisol, may have a direct impact on premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and that stress has the ability to alter ovarian hormones.

So what does this mean for women?

With increasing understanding that stress and health may be linked to premenstrual symptoms, taking steps to reduce stress, such as meditation and exercise, and focusing more on our health, could help women to reduce the severity of their symptoms.

However, it’s important to note that while most women will experience period discomfort at some point in time, extreme pain may be an indicator of an underlying health condition, such as endometriosis (which affects one in 10 menstruating women) or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

If you experience heavy, painful periods, speak to your healthcare professional.

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