An impressive 90% of women in the United States report some symptoms of PMS, or premenstrual syndrome, that range from mild cramps to severe mood swings. Though most women soldier through with only mild discomfort each month, some are severely affected by PMS, which interrupts their lives in appreciable ways. So why the difference? There are many theories, and one may lie in your genes.

At our Cos Cob, Connecticut, practice, Dr. Donna Hagberg specializes in all the issues that affect women in every stage of their lives, and PMS is certainly far up on the list. If you’re struggling each month because of PMS, here’s a look at what may be happening.

PMS 101

Believe it or not, there are up to 150 different symptoms that have been ascribed to PMS, which can present themselves physically, mentally, and emotionally. For the purposes of this discussion, let’s use the top 10, which are:

  • Bloating
  • Cramps
  • Tender breasts
  • Mood swings, including irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in appetite
  • Head and backaches
  • Anxiety
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Gastrointestinal issues

Again, this list is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to PMS, but it gives you an idea of the breadth and scope of the condition.

PMS typically strikes women in their 30s, and it comes on just after ovulation and before your period starts each month. Once your menstrual cycle begins, the symptoms usually start to dissipate. This timing is what gives us our first clue about what may be driving your PMS — your hormones.

The hormone piece of the puzzle

Your reproductive system is regulated by your hormones, namely estrogen, and progesterone. Right before you ovulate, these hormones are at high levels in order to precipitate the release of your egg. Once it’s released, these levels drop considerably, which can have an effect on your body in some surprising ways. For example, researchers believe that these hormones may affect the serotonin levels in your brain, so when your hormones recede after ovulation, so, too, might your serotonin, which is what causes problems with moodiness and anxiety.

The physical symptoms of PMS are trickier to figure out, and researchers have made credible links to pre-existing conditions. To illustrate this point, if you have problems with irritable bowel syndrome, the severity of your symptoms may be affected by the changes in your hormone levels.

As well, if you have a history of depression or anxiety, the sudden drop in hormone levels right before your period may make your symptoms worse if you’re sensitive to these hormonal fluctuations.

The genetic piece of the puzzle

This brings us to the role that heredity may play in your PMS. Although researchers have found possible links to family history, the area is still a gray one. Here again, your PMS might be a symptom of something greater. For example, if you have a family history of depression, you may be more prone to mood swings with your PMS.

Researchers have found that women whose mothers and sisters suffer from PMS are more likely to develop the condition. This may be because you inherited an increased sensitivity to hormones or another medical condition that is affected by your hormone levels.

The bottom line is that the exact cause of PMS is unknown, but we do know that there’s much we can do to help you better navigate your menstrual cycles each month. After thoroughly reviewing your family history, your medical history, and your current health, we’ll come up with a plan that will restore your quality of life.

To get started, call to set up an appointment.