“PMS” (pre-menstrual syndrome) seems fairly rare to me (nobody I know has told me that they experience it) yet I hear PMS mentioned much more frequently than period pain.
Perhaps PMS is discussed more frequently than period pain because the emotional symptoms of PMS are directly visible to men, but the physical pain of periods is not. (She might be grumpy because of period pain, but her male colleague might attribute this to PMS because the only symptom he sees is the ‘emotional’ one, not the physical pain).
Personally I have never experienced PMS. The only “PMS symptom” that I experience is tender breasts a couple of days before my period starts (and I only experience that once or twice a year). I haven’t noticed myself ever experiencing any change in my mood or emotional state leading up to my period starting. I feel very lucky that I don’t have to deal with mood changes!
I get painful abdominal cramps each time I have my period, for the first couple of days after bleeding starts. My cramps range from mild to very painful, and they are sometimes accompanied by nausea and vomiting.
I guess there must be some women who have to deal with both PMS and painful menstrual cramps – that most be awful for them!
HOW PREVALENT IS PMS?
Between 3% and 30% of women suffer from PMS:
PMS is different from period pain because it refers to the symptoms experienced in the 10 days before menstruation (physical, psychological and emotional symptoms). 85% of women have reported experiencing at least one premenstrual physical symptom (such as bloating or breast tenderness).
Estimates of the prevalence of PMS range from as low as 3% to as high as 30%, depending on the stringency of the definition (PMS is generally defined as a consistent set of premenstrual physical and emotional symptoms that are severe enough to interfere with daily life).
HOW PREVALENT IS PERIOD PAIN?
About 50% of women experience some pain with most periods.
I couldn’t find much information available online about the prevalence of dysmenorrhea (period pain). However The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website states that Dysmenorrhea is the most commonly reported menstrual disorder, and that more than 50% of women have some period pain for 1-2 days each cycle.
Dysmenorrhea is more common among adolescents and teenagers, and is the leading cause of recurrent short-term school absence in this group. One study in India indicated that 67.2% of adolescent females experienced dysmenorrhea. According to that study, the daily routine of 60% of girls was affected (due to prolonged bed rest, missed social activities/commitments, disturbed sleep and decreased appetite). Period pain had caused 17.24% of them to miss a class, and 25% to abstain from work. Period pain usually reduces with age, however a survey in Norway showed that 14% of females between the ages of 20 to 35 experience symptoms so severe that they stay home from university or work.
Dysmenorrhea is ‘severe uterine pain’ during menstruation. While most women experience minor pain during menstruation, dysmenorrhea is diagnosed when the pain is so severe as to limit normal activities, or require medication. Dysmenorrhea can feature different kinds of pain, including sharp, throbbing, dull, nauseating, burning, or shooting pain. The pain may radiate to the thighs and lower back. Other symptoms may include nausea and vomiting, diarrhea or constipation, headache, dizziness, disorientation, hypersensitivity to sound, light, smell and touch, fainting, and fatigue. Dysmenorrhea may precede menstruation by several days or may accompany it, and it usually subsides as menstruation tapers off. Compared with other women, females with primary dysmenorrhea have increased activity of the uterine muscle with increased contractility and increased frequency of contractions.
Do you experience PMS?
Do you experience PMS and/or painful period cramps? How common do you think PMS is (compared with painful period cramps)? If you experience PMS, have your symptoms changed over time or have they basically stayed the same? Does PMS run in your family (ie. is it partly genetic)? How does PMS affect your day-to-day life, and what do you do to manage your symptoms?