The science of PMS, and offers some advice for men on how to be more compassionate to their partners during this time.
With all the jokes out there about PMS, let’s be honest: this is not a fun time for women and it’s also not a fun time for the men who have to live with them. Even guys who have been married to and/or living with a woman for a long time can be bewildered by the mood swings, strange food cravings and other symptoms there partner goes through on a monthly basis.
However, understanding a little about what exactly is going on in a woman’s body and how to help her out when she is going through it can make like easier for you and your partner both.
What Exactly is Going On?
Let’s face it, these big monthly changes just don’t happen in a guy’s body, so it can sometimes be difficult for guys to sympathize what a woman is going through because they don’t really understand it. But suffice it to say that, in order to ovulate (produce an egg) and then menstruate every month if that egg is not fertilized, a woman’s body goes through a complicated series of hormonal changes that can result in a whole array of symptoms, including breast tenderness and pain, water weight gain and bloating, fatigue, muscle and joint aches and headaches and changes in appetite, just to name a few.
And it’s not just all about the hormones, either: these changes also involve chemicals in the brain, especially to serotonin, the neurotransmitter which, at good levels, can bring about a feeling of wellness or peace. However, when these levels shift downwards, women can feel moody, irritable, depressed or having crying jags for no apparent reason. These can leave men feeling helpless, and not knowing what to do to help their partners – and women cannot always articulate what is going on, either.
No Two Women are Alike
What can also leave men at a loss is the fact that no two women are alike when it comes to PMS. Guys should keep in mind though that experts have estimated at some 85% of women have at least one PMS symptom from month to month, so it is unlikely that you will be able to escape this problem entirely! For some women, PMS barely makes a ripple in the rhythm of their lives. For some women, however, the problem is severe enough that their doctor will sometimes prescribe anti-depressants that are taken at certain times in the month to help keep relive their problem: if this is the case, simply being supportive and letting your partner know you are there for here is extremely comforting for many women!
What Guys Can Do to Help
Men are built to help. And they want something concrete to do if their partner is in distress. The good news Is that there are lots of small things that guys can do during this period to help their partner through the PMS and make life easier for them both. Here are a few examples:
Offer to cook dinner a few times during the week – and when you do, make sure you cook healthy. According to the Mayo Clinic, foods rich in calcium, magnesium and vitamin E can reduce symptoms like bloating and fluid retention and breast tenderness. So in terms of food, think of things like cheeses or yogurt (for their calcium),
If preparing meals, avoid lots of salt (which can increase water weight gain) and alcohol or caffeine, which can affect the mood. For drinks, opt for a nice herbal tea instead, preferably something relaxing like chamomile, which tends to relax and soothe.
Offer a gentle back rub or massage. According to the Mayo, this can help to reduce cramping and body aches during PMS and can help lower stress levels as well. Both can really help when the body is prepared for a period.
Go for a walk together. Gentle exercise can relieve cramping and bloating and also release endorphins, natural “feel good” chemicals that combat depression and stress. It is also a good way to spend “couple’s time” together, even at a difficult time of the month.
Take the kids for the night so she can have some time alone to rest and recharge her batteries. Fatigue is a major complaint for women with PMS and a little alone time or the chance to rest instead of running after kids and help your partner a lot.
None of these are complicated things, but offering them shows support that women need at a time when they are feeling more vulnerable and can make this time of month easier: women feel supported and men feel as though they are able to help fix the situation – and this can help both partners get through a stressful situation.
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