For those women who suffer through monthly symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), awaiting the day menopause will bring an end to the cramps and bloating, "the change" may be a mixed blessing.
Women who suffer from PMS symptoms are more likely to have symptoms during the transition to menopause, a new study in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology suggests. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University came to this conclusion after studying 436 women for a period of five years during perimenopause, the transition period before menopause.
Menopause, when women can no longer bear children, begins when a woman first goes a full year without a period, usually in her early 50s. Perimenopause is the decade or so before that, when a woman’s cycle is erratic and hormones fluctuate. Symptoms associated with perimenopause and menopause include hot flashes, depression, difficulty sleeping, and decreased libido. These symptoms, unlike PMS, can occur at any time rather than following the menstrual cycle.
All women in the study were between the ages of 35 and 47 and their three monthly periods prior to the study were normal. The researchers, led by Dr. Ellen W. Freeman, asked the participants to track their menstrual cycles and daily symptoms. The researchers measured the women’s hormones and helped to measure their depressive symptoms and sleep quality.
They found that women who had symptoms of PMS during their childbearing years were more than twice as likely to suffer from hot flashes and depressive moods than those who did not have PMS. The women who reported PMS at the beginning of the study were also 50% more likely to suffer from a decreased libido, and had an almost 75% greater rate of poor sleep.
The link between PMS and menopausal symptoms has long been suspected. Menopausal symptoms are a result of fluctuating hormones, and women with PMS are especially sensitive to changing hormonal levels.
Some relief is in sight for women who suffer from PMS. Although new symptoms may appear, the frequency of PMS symptoms decreases by 26% during early perimenopause, and by 80% near the end of the transition period.