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All You Need To Know About PMS, PCOD, And PMDD

*Written by Shireen, originally published on LAIQA 

The world of menstruation doesn’t exist in shades of red alone, but in various concepts that need we proper yet simple education of. One must be aware of what goes on inside, or could happen to the ever evolving female body. So let us break it down, just like the monthly lining of our wombs. 

PMS (Pre Menstrual Syndrome)

What it is: The unease and discomfort experienced by us in the days leading up to our monthly period are a result of changes in hormone levels. Not all women are affected by PMS, but most of us feel it at some point within our menstruating years. 

What it does to us: The symptoms are a summation of something out of an unpleasant dream that doesn’t seem to end. We go through random mood swings, bouncing between feeling okay and irritability, anxiety and fatigue. We may have trouble sleeping, head & stomach aches, and breast tenderness. Some of us also endure the heinous processes of bloating, skin breakouts, and unsettling highs & lows in our eating pattern and sex drive.

The first thing to realise is that PMS sits somewhere within and lurks just under the surface, showing up once every month just to make its presence felt, and then going back to where it’s comfortably nesting. To deal with something like that, we have to make big and small changes in our lifestyle, so as to both acknowledge its existence and consequently work towards its eradication.

What we can do to (numb) it: We must exercise everyday. A brief 30 minutes can suffice, but regularity is key. A balanced diet and sound sleeping pattern of 8 hours also helps. Meditation & yoga inculcate a mindful approach to life, which in turn creates room to focus – first into the discomfort and then gradually away from it. In an extreme case of the cramps, we’ve all had to take painkillers for relief – ibuprofen, meftal spas, bascopan, paracetamol. Try all, and pick your personal poison. And don't forget the two best friends that any woman can have during this tumultuous time of the month: a rubber hot-water bottle & icecream.

What we should avoid: We must avoid smoking, and drinking too much alcohol. We mustn’t avoid fun though, because the existence of PMS doesn’t mean the absence of a good time. Mindful consumption & moderation are the way to go while trying to navigate a life with PMS at its shore. 


PMDD (Pre Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder)

What it is: As if PMS wasn’t enough of a burden to carry around, some of us face its angry, meaner sister, PMDD – the crippling monthly spell of a pronounced PMS. A month is made up of four weeks and PMDD snatches an entire week in so brutal a fashion that roughly another one passes by in just trying to piece together the catastrophe its presence caused. 

It doesn’t take a genius to do the math here; women who suffer from this monthly monstrosity are often left heavily depressed & anxious. The time of clarity we manage to salvage in all this chaos, ends up being spent wondering how much we’ve managed to NOT GET DONE rather than figuring what we could maybe TRY TO DO now. Approximately two weeks every month – roughly just 24 weeks a year – that’s all the clarity PMDD allows.

PMDD is an endocrine disorder as its root cause lies in hyper sensitivity to changes in hormonal levels. In human speak, the stark difference between PMS and PMDD comes down to functionality. Those of us who battle the latter find little time to do much else. “PMDD is unmanageable while PMS is something one can find ways to live with,” says Dr Deepa Dureja, Gynaecologist.

What it does to us: Emotionally - mood swings, feeling sad and tearful, feeling angry, irritable, anxious, hopeless, tensed or being on edge; difficulty concentrating, feeling overwhelmed, lack of energy, loss of interest in things we usually like, suicidal feelings.

Physically (behaviourally) - breast tenderness/swelling, pain in muscles, joints headaches bloating changes in appetite; overeating, cravings sleep problems, difficulty avoiding/resolving conflicts, being overwhelmed by rejection.

What we can do to (numb) it: First things first – find yourself an doctor and tell them what’s going on so that they are able to diagnose you correctly.

Is PMDD a mental health problem?

PMDD is commonly defined as an endocrine disorder, meaning that it is a hormone-related disorder. But along with physical symptoms, people with PMDD also experience a range of different mental health symptoms such as depression and suicidal feelings. For these reasons, it has recently been listed as a mental health problem in the DSM-5 (one of the main manuals that doctors use to categorise and diagnose mental health problems).

What we should avoid: We must consciously steer clear from situations of self diagnosis caused by reading up too much material on the internet – as that can lead to self inflicted assumptions and induced symptoms/false stimuli. PMDD is curable through a balance of lifestyle changes and prescribed medication, so let’s call our doctors and begin the healing process.


PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome)

What it is: This is a common condition that affects the regularity of the functioning of women’s ovaries. The three main red flags of PCOS are irregular periods – which means our ovaries aren’t doing their job right: they’re not releasing eggs or not releasing them cyclically, as they’re meant to excess of Androgen – this means that the body is producing high levels of "male hormones", which can lead to visible signage such as excess facial or body hair Polycystic ovaries – this refers to when the ovaries become enlarged/swollen and carry many fluid-filled sacs (follicles) surrounding the eggs. Here's a little piece of relevant trivia for us to note in relation to all this talk of cysts: despite its very name, even if we have PCOS it never means that we have actual cysts at any point. What a relief!

What it does to us: PCOS tends to come knocking only around our late teens/early twenties. There are some obvious signs as to what it looks like when it does show up - irregular periods & often, no periods at all trouble getting pregnant as a result of irregular ovulation/failure to ovulate excessive hair growth (Hirsutism) – usually on the face, chest, back or buttocks weight gain thinning hair/hairfall or loss of hair from the head oily skin or acne 

PCOS is also associated a sort of warning call for life’s later days. It comes about with an increased risk of developing health problems on the road ahead, such as type 2 Diabetes and high cholesterol levels.

What we can do to (numb) it: Consciously identifying the warning signs, we must be overly observant with our bodies and period cycles. After getting our doctors involved and being prescribed the appropriate medication, we must mindfully work out a proactive lifestyle & adopt all necessary dietary changes. These balanced strictly with medication is the way to go for concrete long-term change. We must indulge wholeheartedly in regular exercise & healthy habits, devoid of malpractices like excessive smoking, drinking and eating junk.


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