Stress Seems to Play Role in Premenstrual Symptom Severity

Relaxation techniques may help prevent, reduce some of the worst effects, researchers suggest

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 26, 2010 (HealthDay News) -- Feeling stressed early in the menstrual cycle may worsen women's premenstrual symptoms, but teaching women how to reduce their stress levels may help, a new study suggests.

The study included 259 healthy women, aged 18 to 44, who were provided with an at-home fertility monitor to follow the phases of their monthly cycle. The participants also completed questionnaires about their stress levels for each of the four weeks of their cycle. None of the women were taking oral contraceptives or any other hormone medications.

Women who said they felt stressed two weeks before the beginning of menstruation were two to four times more likely to report moderate to severe premenstrual symptoms than those who didn't feel stressed, according to the report published recently online in the Journal of Women's Health.

Symptoms reported by the participants included mood swings, depression, fatigue, decreased concentration, breast swelling/tenderness, general aches, abdominal bloating, and feelings of anger and anxiety.

"It might be possible to lessen or prevent the severity of these symptoms with techniques that help women cope more effectively with stress, such as biofeedback, exercise, or relaxation techniques," researcher Audra Gollenberg, a postdoctoral fellow in the Division of Epidemiology, Statistics and Prevention Research at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), said in a news release from the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

There are a number of medications available to treat the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, noted study author Mary Hediger, also of the NICHD.

"Each woman is an individual, and some women may experience severe symptoms that require medications," she said in the news release. "However, future studies may show that stress reduction techniques can prevent or reduce the severity of premenstrual syndrome, which might provide a cost effective alternative to medications for some women."

More information

The U.S. National Women's Health Information Center has more about premenstrual syndrome.

SOURCE: U.S. National Institutes of Health, news release, Aug. 23, 2010
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