PMS Symptoms Emerge When Women 'Discover' the Syndrome

March 22, 1999

The amount of physical and emotional suffering connected with premenstrual stress syndrome (PMS) may depend on what women think they should experience, a Mexican team of scientists says.

Dr. Maria Luisa Marvan and a colleague at the Universidad de las Americas in Puebla, Mexico, showed a 10-minute videotape describing PMS and its negative impact on daily life to half of a group of 86 Mexican women factory workers. The women averaged six years of formal education and had little in the way of either knowledge or preconceptions about PMS.

The other half of the group saw a videotape that simply described the menstrual cycle. Both before and after, the two groups were asked to report on the pain, psychological distress, and other symptoms they experienced in their premenstrual periods.

The results, published in the March issue of Psychosomatic Medicine, show that the PMS videotape had a dramatic effect on those who saw it.

Before viewing the videotape: After viewing the PMS videotape: Most women in the control group reported no symptoms or mild symptoms (55.8 percent and 41.9 percent respectively), whereas only 2.3 percent reported moderate symptoms and none reported severe symptoms.

Although Mexican women with higher levels of education were not included in the study, Marvan noted that Mexican women with professional degrees report more severe premenstrual symptoms than those with less formal education. Attending a university and being in a professional environment may make these women more aware of the existence of premenstrual symptoms.

Another possibility is that professional women in Mexico have more exposure to news and information from other countries and may be influenced by North American models of PMS, the scientists observed.
Psychosomatic Medicine is the official peer-reviewed journal of the American Psychosomatic Society, published bimonthly. For information about the journal, contact Joel E. Dimsdale, M.D., editor-in-chief, at 619-543-5468. Posted by the Center for the Advancement of Health For information about the Cetner, contact Petrina Chong, 202-387-2829.

Center for Advancing Health

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