There has long been speculation around how premenstrual syndrome (PMS) might be linked to menopausal symptoms later in life. Recent research sheds new light on the subject—indicating that PMS might signal certain menopausal symptoms, but not necessarily hot flashes.[i]
Common symptoms of menopause include a change in periods (shorter or longer, lighter or heavier, with more or less time in between), hot flashes and night sweats, trouble sleeping, vaginal dryness, mood swings, and trouble with memory and concentration. It’s been thought that the PMS women experience during their fertile, or menstruating, years might predict the symptoms they’ll experience during menopause. In a 2004 study published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology,women who suffered from PMS were twice as likely to experience menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes, mood swings and depression, and poor sleep.[ii]
This newer data indicates that women who experience PMS may have post-menopause complications in store based on PMS: namely, problems with memory and concentration, as well as depression and poor sleep and feeling less attractive. However, women can take some comfort in the fact that the data also indicates that monthly cramping, bloating, and mood swings don’t necessarily mean an increased chance of hot flashes during menopause.
Of the 120 healthy postmenopausal women questioned in the current study, almost 90 percent reported having had PMS. About 40 percent of the women described their PMS as moderate or severe. When the researchers compared these findings with participants’ menopausal complaints, they didn’t find a link between the severity of PMS and likelihood of postmenopausal hot flashes. On the downside, however, PMS did appear to predict for other postmenopausal symptoms that can interfere with quality of life, such as memory, concentration, and mood swings.
The message in this new research is certainly mixed: On one hand those of who experience PMS can be reassured that they’re not destined for hot flashes after menopause; on the other, they’re still vulnerable to several difficult symptoms. Fortunately, these symptoms are often treatable with medical (hormone replacement therapy, for example) and alternative approaches.
[i] Hautamäki H, Haapalahti P, Savolainen-Peltonen H, et al. Premenstrual Symptoms in Fertile Age Are Associated With Impaired Quality of Life, but Not Hot Flashes, in Recently Postmenopausal Women. Menopause [early online publication]. May 12, 2014.
[ii] Freeman EW, Sammel MD, Rinaudo, PJ, Sheng L. Premenstrual Syndrome as a Predictor of Menopausal Symptoms. Obstetrics & Gynecology. doi: 10.1097/01.AOG.0000124804.81095.7f.