The menstrual cycle is triggered and regulated by hormones.
It’s a complex process with many stages, and the systems that regulate the production and release of hormones are subject to influence by genetics, diet, stress, age, and exercise. If any of these influencers cause hormones to be present in the wrong quantities, it can cause premenstrual syndrome, or PMS.
Phases of the Menstrual Cycle
The 28-day menstrual cycle has four main stages, some of which overlap. The first is known as the menstrual phase, which begins on the first day and lasts through the fifth. This is actually the end of the cycle – the phrase during which menstruation occurs. The temporary lining of blood and soft tissue loosens from the uterine wall and is expelled through the vagina. The muscles of the abdomen contract to squeeze blood from the uterus, and this is the cause of cramps.
The follicular phase, which overlaps the menstrual phase, lasts from day one through 13 and is the start of a new cycle. The pituitary – a pea-sized gland at the base of the brain – secretes a hormone which stimulates the growth of eggs cells inside of structures in the ovaries called follicles. It takes 13 days for the eggs reach maturity. Meanwhile, the follicles are secreting a hormone that causes the uterus to build up its lining of blood and soft tissue that would become the host for an egg, should fertilization occur.
The ovulation phase begins on day 14, when the ovary releases the mature egg. This is triggered by another hormone produced by the pituitary glad. The egg is carried into the fallopian tube.
On day 15, the luteal phase begins. The egg spends a day in the fallopian tube, and it is here that it can be fertilized by a sperm. If that doesn’t occur with 24 hours, the egg disintegrates. The hormone that the follicles produced is then used up, causing the uterus to begin shedding its temporary lining.
PMS and PMDD Symptoms
With so many complex hormonal interactions going on, it’s not surprising that a slight imbalance can cause problems in other parts of a woman’s body. As just one example: the hormone that triggers the follicular phase can cause overeating.
Pre-menstrual syndrome, or PMS, is a common ailment in women in their 30s and 40s. It often starts one to two weeks before menstruation begins and ends after its onset. Physical symptoms include bloating, cramps, weight gain, muscle pain, and breast tenderness. Behavior changes can include irritability, depression, anxiety, and withdrawal from loved ones. PMDD, or Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, is a condition in which these same symptoms are especially intense. As bad as PMS may be for some women, PMDD can be truly debilitating.
PMS and PMDD Treatment
Women who experience problems with PMS or PMDD should be tested by a physician. Doctors can monitor hormone levels to find out which may be out of balance. Once the problem is diagnosed, it is often possible to treat it with hormone therapy to bring things back into balance.
For women who are not trying to conceive, birth control pills can often accomplish this goal. Another treatment is prescription-dose bioidentical progesterone. Many PMS symptoms are caused by an excess of the hormone estrogen. Progesterone works to decrease estrogen, and “bioidentical” means the hormone is exactly like the one your body produces. In addition to reducing PMS and PMDD symptoms, these treatments can regulate the timing of the menstrual cycle and ease cramps. Exercise and lifestyle changes can also be effective in moderating symptoms, sometimes by themselves and sometimes in concert with hormone therapies.
With all these tools available, women have the ability to reduce or eliminate most of the physical and emotional problems associated with the menstrual cycle. If you experience PMS or PMDD, help is available.
Evolved Medical offers hormone testing, prescription-dose bioidentical progesterone, and other hormone-balancing treatments for PMS and PMDD to women in the San Francisco Bay and Monterey areas. Contact us for a free consultation: (888) 925-4568.