Any woman will tell you premenstrual stress, commonly known as PMS, is a tough place to be – both physically and emotionally. The good news is that, with a little know-how and empathy, men can help relieve PMS symptoms rather than aggravate them. This is according to a study published in the medical journal PLoS ONE.
PMS is a range of symptoms that include anxiety, mood swings, headaches, back pain, and even depression, in extreme cases. Some women even get so angry that they want to leave their partners. Approximately 40% of women say they go through moderate to severe premenstrual stress 3 to 4 days before menstruating, although for some PMS can kick in as early as 1 to 2 weeks before the menstrual period.
PMS is often the result of a combination of hormonal changes and stress from day to day experiences. How severe PMS symptoms get usually depends on the coping mechanisms women adopt particularly in the context of their relationships. One study found that couples who went through counselling experienced reduced symptoms and a higher level of satisfaction from their relationship.
One of the common issues that arose in the study is how dissatisfied women are with certain aspects of their relationship. These range from the emotional support they get from their partners to the help they receive doing household chores. It was found that women who suffer from moderate to severe PMS are astute at repressing their dissatisfaction for three weeks of every month, but end up feeling like they’re losing control during that one week when they have their period.
When it comes to getting therapy as a way of alleviating PMS symptoms, the focus so far has been on helping women develop coping mechanisms such as avoiding confrontation, taking more time out to look out for themselves, and reaching out for emotional support. This has mostly been achieved through one on one sessions. However, one glaring omission in this method has been the absence of partners in such meetings. Many men say they want to help their partner during their period but are at loss of what to do, while others simply avoid their partners, making the premenstrual stress even worse.
After comparing the impact one-on-one therapy has on PMS with couples therapy in a 3-year study involving 83 women, what has come out is that the couples’ therapy is the best way of strengthening relationships and alleviating PMS. It’s no surprise then that women say they have better control when expressing their feelings during PMS after undergoing therapy sessions. They also report having a heightened awareness of the possibility of conflict in their relationship, and as a consequence are more predisposed to talk to their partners and reach out for support.
What this means then is that men can play a more active role in alleviating PMS symptoms in their women by participating in couples’ therapy; this way they don’t have to feel helpless or blamed when women go through postmenstrual stress.