Why Lockdown Could Be Making Your PMS Worse Than Normal At The Moment
Yep, if it wasn't bad enough being trapped indoors for a month, our bodies are still blessing us with bloating, headaches, mood swings and cravings ahead of our periods.
PMS is typically experienced by one in four women, although the exact symptoms and severity can vary.
And, for those unfortunate enough to go through it, the cherry on the cake is that your PMS could actually be worse at the moment, as a result of the pandemic.
(We know, that's just what everyone needs right now.)
Truth be told, we were beginning to think it was just us suffering from rather extreme PMS symptoms of late, but a quick straw poll of our nearest and dearest proved we were far from the only ones.
"My PMS has been next level lately," one friend says. "At first I thought I was just feeling generally depressed for two weeks of the month, but then my period came and it was honestly like everything had become clear."
Another concurs: "I never usually get bad PMS, but I've been getting really bad anxiety, headaches and feeling generally tired over the last few months, and it always coincides with my period.
"I only realised through talking to others that this was common. Being a woman really can suck".
Speaking to Tyla, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist for INTIMINA, Dr Shree Datta, confirmed that Covid-19 could well be to blame for our heightened symptoms right now.
"PMS can certainly get worse during lockdown," she says. "There are lots of factors which affect the severity of PMS - studies suggest these include women who smoke or who are overweight.
"Episodes of stress, such as that experienced during lockdown, can also contribute to PMS.
"Poor mental health is another risk factor for developing PMS - for example, having depression and anxiety during lockdown."
Suddenly everything is making a lot more sense...
Defined as a set of physical, behavioural and emotional symptoms which women experience in the time leading up to their periods, the exact cause of PMS is unknown, but we do know is that PMS is likely due to "sensitivities to the sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone".
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"Most women experience some premenstrual symptoms, but these vary in severity and how long they last," Dr Sree explains. "Common symptoms include tiredness, feeling bloated, headaches, change in appetite and craviings, with sore or painful breasts."
But it's the emotional symptoms which can be exacerbated by stress, triggering "mood changes [which] include feeling more upset, emotional, irritable or bad tempered".
"Stress is an independent factor which can also influence your hormonal or chemical balance, and can then affect your symptoms of PMS," Dr Sree explains.
In fact, a study, which appears in the Journal of Women's Health, found that women who noted high levels of stress in the two weeks before their period were double or even three times more likely to suffer from sadness, depression and crying spells on top of their physical period symptoms, compared to those who didn't.
Stress can also affect the regularity of your periods, which can in turn affect your PMS symptoms. You can read more about that here.
And it's not the only reason lockdown can make PMS worse, either.
"Studies have shown that weight gain can affect the type and severity of PMS that you experience [too]," Dr Sree adds.
"This is because obesity can alter your hormonal and chemical balance, affecting substances such as GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid) or serotonin.
GABA is a neurotransmitter in your brain which blocks certain signals, and can trigger anxiety or mood disorders if in low supply, meanwhile, serotonin is also known as the 'happy chemical', because it contributes to overall wellbeing and helps maintain a positive mindset.
So, how do we tackle the super bad PMS brought on by lockdown and Covid-19 in general?
"Regular exercise and a healthy balanced diet is important to limit your symptoms," Dr Sree says.
"Heavy drinking and smoking have also been shown to affect the likelihood of PMS. Daily sleep habits and [levels of] Calcium and vitamin D are also thought to influence how severe your PMS is."
If you're not sure where to start, she advises: "In the first instance, keep a diary of your symptoms over two menstrual cycles at the very least so that we can gauge which symptoms are influencing your lifestyle the most.
"There are a whole range of things you can consider to manage your PMS symptoms, from reviewing your lifestyle and diet, to taking supplements, complementary therapies and medications.
"If your symptoms persist, you may be referred to see a Gynaecologist, who may consider hormonal medication such as the contraceptive pill or other medications, such as antidepressants. "
So, there you have it. You're not the only one feeling downright cr*ppy right now.
But there's a solution! So stock up on vitamin D, plan some workouts and maybe even cut out one of those three chocolate bars.
Like periods, coronavirus is only temporary. We've got this, gals.
Featured Image Credit: Unsplash
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