You’ve heard people talk about PMS like it’s a sign of the apocalypse or something, but when those symptoms hang around long after Aunt Flo fled, it leaves you wondering if Aunt Flo’s got a relative she didn’t tell you about. She does, and it’s time to ask the question: what is post-menstrual syndrome?
What Is Post-Menstrual Syndrome?
You know of premenstrual dysphoric disorder and premenstrual syndrome, but you’ll find many message boards and articles discussing the more elusive term “post-menstrual symptoms” online. Many women deal with these symptoms every month — they’re real.
Do you feel your premenstrual symptoms return around the middle to the end of your period? You may need more iron as your bleeding tapers off, and the spiking and lowering of estrogen levels can also give you the post-PMS achy breaky blues. Hello, post-PMS! The more we discuss post-menstrual syndrome, the more we gain knowledge of the symptoms and how to deal with it.
The Symptoms of Post-Menstrual Syndrome
You may feel fatigue, foggy-headed, blue, irritable, chilly and crampy among other similar premenstrual symptoms. The symptoms at the start of and beyond Aunt Flo’s visit closely relate — over 100 symptoms are linked to post-menstrual syndrome. Many women experience bloating, cramps, mood swings and acne breakouts before their periods, and some of these side-effects linger through to the end.
Still, while 75 percent of women reportedly deal with the effects of premenstrual syndrome, only 10 percent have said they’ve felt post-menstrual syndrome. Some doctors have noticed more and more women coming in to treat the latter, though it has yet to be recognized in mainstream medicine as an actual condition.
The biggest difference between pre- and post-menstrual syndromes is that the latter causes more psychological issues than physical ones. At the start of many women’s periods, they focus on the fact that they feel uncomfortable because of their bloating, cramps or imperfect complexions. But with post-menstrual syndrome, it’s all about a woman’s mental state.
Some women feel more emotional or anxious, reporting increased impatience, anger, easy tears, depression and mood swings. Physically, the symptoms of post-menstrual syndrome include pain during sex, nausea, vaginal dryness and physical pain — commonly headaches, joint pain and abdominal pain. In the worst-case scenario, some women’s symptoms mimic full-on depression. They have trouble sleeping and log abnormal rest times as well as feelings of low self-esteem and difficulty concentrating.
Common Causes of Post-Menstrual Syndrome
Many women despise the start of their period, while the end brings relief. But when post-menstrual syndrome invades, the ailments continue to alter your everyday life with problems like headaches, nausea, depression and other pains. So, what starts the after-period party?
Women experiencing post-menstrual syndrome can also have PMDD or PMS leading up to Aunt Flo’s visit. All good things come in threes? Forget that.
Some believe that the symptoms signify hormonal imbalance, particularly two key female hormones — progesterone and estrogen. These hormones regulate the reproductive system but also directly influence dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin in the brain. Each of these chemicals affects gastrointestinal, mood and more. If one or two hormones are imbalanced, then other hormones are likely imbalanced, such as the adrenal hormone and thyroid.
Those imbalances don’t run on a schedule. You won’t see the symptoms only once a month but at different times of the month. That’s why many women experience both premenstrual and post-menstrual syndromes. The root of this imbalance can result from insulin resistance or dysregulation.
Insulin secretion depends on the degree of sugar flowing in your blood. When constantly in a state of high blood sugar due to too much stress, refined carbs and sugar, it’s like riding a rollercoaster, and insulin instructs the operation of your hormones.
Still, according to fertility specialist Dr. Tanmoy Mukherjee, the same hormone imbalances that cause premenstrual syndrome probably don’t cause post-menstrual syndrome. Instead, he suggests that women who experience the latter have an abnormal sensitivity and, therefore, a more significant reaction to hormonal shifts in their bodies. So, the above remains true — unexpected changes in one’s hormones could be the root problem for those with post-menstrual syndrome. However, it’s not an ongoing imbalance that causes the problem but probably a shift that adversely affects a sensitive body.
To that end, Mukherjee believes that the slight shifts cause serotonin levels in the brain to change. Many researchers believe that serotonin has direct links to depression — without the feel-good compound present in the brain, a person’s mood can be affected. So, boosting the amount of serotonin could help assuage the feelings that come with these after-period sensations. Certain medications are designed to do just that, and your doctor will be able to prescribe such a treatment path — more on that later.
Start noticing when you feel these symptoms, and make notes about the experience. Make a few changes in your routine with more healthy options to lessen the intensity of the symptoms.
Ways to Treat Post-Menstrual Syndrome
If you decide to self-medicate with chocolate, choose dark chocolate and don’t over-indulge. Enjoy those endorphins, and add a magnesium supplement into the mix — magnesium helps prevent insulin resistance, reduce stress, calm uterine walls to relieve cramps and promotes a balanced excretion of estrogen while soothing both premenstrual and post-menstrual syndrome symptoms.
Your gut microbiome also affects your hormonal health and immune system. Make sure you’re getting more iron around the time of your period, and fill your plate with multiple colors, especially leafy greens. Fermented foods add natural probiotics, or good bacteria, back into the gut to balance its health and regulation. A healthy balance of complex carbohydrates and fiber will regulate your metabolism and help you make the most of your nutrients.
Some women experience relief with acupuncture or herbs. Acupuncture reorders the body by using points along the meridians through needles, massage and moxibustion, but most people think needles when they think acupuncture. You’re suffering, and now you get to be a human pin-cushion? Yes. Herbs like vitex and chasteberry also help with menstrual regulation and PMS symptoms. Always consult a doctor to get to the root of any reproductive concerns as well as treatments you may want to try at home.
If you’re feeling depressed, you can seek traditional treatments for that sensation too. For instance, speaking to a therapist and undergoing cognitive behavioral therapy could be enough, teaching you methods to guide yourself out of a dark spot. Light therapy could also be an option. For some, it’s the best way to soothe seasonal affective disorder, a type of depression that comes with dark and wintry weather. But light therapy can work for your particular brand of depression too — simple exposure to soothing light can boost your mood, which can then help pull you out of the state you find yourself in post-period.
Plus, as previously mentioned, a doctor can prescribe a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), antidepressant medications that increase the amount of serotonin present in your brain post-period. Such a treatment path could suit a more severe case of post-menstrual syndrome, should the aforementioned cognitive behavioral therapy or light therapy fail to work.
If you have ever wondered “What is post-menstrual syndrome?” just understand that the symptoms of pre-menstrual syndrome and post-menstrual syndrome are similar, but they come at different times. You can’t necessarily predict what hormonal imbalances will do to the body and mind. But you can get to know your body and nourish it with extra healthy foods and self-care routines.