When it comes to the menstrual cycle, there’s still plenty of research to be done. Post-menstrual syndrome is just one example.
While most people are familiar with premenstrual syndrome (PMS) — aka the uncomfortable symptoms that can occur the week before a period — its post-menstrual counterpart is guaranteed to leave many scratching their heads.
Whether you’ve never heard of post-menstrual syndrome or want to dig a little deeper, here’s everything you need to know about this lesser known menstrual condition.
Post-menstrual syndrome is a term used to describe symptoms that arise after a person’s period ends.
These can range from physical symptoms like headaches to emotional ones like anxiety.
No. Although post-menstrual syndrome does come with a similar set of symptoms to its premenstrual relative, its symptoms always occur after menstruation.
PMS, on the other hand, always shows itself before a period.
The post-menstrual condition is also associated with more intense psychological symptoms than PMS.
The biggest reason to explain post-menstrual syndrome’s elusiveness is the fact it’s not yet recognized in mainstream medicine.
In fact, there is no real medical term for post-menstrual symptoms. There’s also not much research into it.
The name “post-menstrual syndrome” came about as a way for people to more easily describe their experiences, and is largely based on anecdotal evidence.
That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist — just that there’s a lack of scientific study on the topic.
Hormonal imbalances could be to blame for the symptoms that come with post-menstrual syndrome. (They’re also believed to cause PMS in some people.)
“The cause [of the syndrome] is thought to be due to a surge of hormones, including estrogen and testosterone,” says Dr. Soma Mandal, board certified internist and women’s health specialist at Summit Medical Group in New Jersey.
She says this is “unlike with PMS, where the progesterone decreases.”
Further research is needed to back this theory up.
Still, this hormonal surge “occurs with anovulatory cycles (where ovulation did not occur),” Mandal explains.
“Insulin is a big factor,” says Mandal. “It can control how other hormones, such as estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone function.”
Diet may also play a part, according to Mandal.
A high sugar diet with lots of processed foods can cause blood sugar levels to rise, putting your body “under more oxidative stress.”
“This, in turn, affects other hormones and can cause menstrual cycle abnormalities and the symptoms associated with post-menstrual syndrome.”
Just because you menstruate doesn’t mean you’ll experience symptoms before or after your period.
Post-menstrual symptoms are actually believed to be less common than premenstrual ones.
Up to 90 percent of menstruating people report premenstrual symptoms, states a recent study, and 20 to 40 percent experience PMS.
According to holistic health coach Nicole Jardim, an estimated 10 percent of people that visit her practice have post-menstrual difficulties.
The symptoms of post-menstrual syndrome can be split into two: physical and psychological.
Psychological symptoms tend to be reported more often than physical ones.
They can include mood swings and anxiety and may present themselves as irritability, anger, or being teary.
Severe cases may report feeling depressed, having trouble sleeping and concentrating, or noticing issues with coordination.
Pain is one of the physical symptoms. It can show up as pain in the stomach area, joints, back and neck, or as headaches and pain during sex.
People may also experience vaginal discomfort, including dryness, itching, or burning.
Typically, post-menstrual symptoms can last for a few days.
In some cases, people may find they last up to 2 weeks after the end of a period.
Treating post-menstrual syndrome in a similar way to PMS can be effective.
Try to manage your daily stress levels, and ensure you get enough sleep and regular exercise.
You can even embark on a better self-care routine by using essential oils and trying relaxing techniques like yoga or massage.
When it comes to diet, Mandal advises watching your salt and caffeine intake and eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, fish, and whole grains.
Supplements may help, too. “Iron levels naturally drop after a menstrual cycle, and even a small decrease can cause body aches, fatigue, irritability, and brain fog,” says Mandal.
Check your iron levels with your doctor, and boost them either with iron-rich foods —like red meat, shellfish, and legumes — or a daily iron supplement.
Mandal also recommends taking B-complex and vitamin E supplements to help with the likes of fatigue and bloating.
She adds that magnesium — found in foods like dark chocolate, nuts, seeds, and avocados — “can help with mood symptoms.”
A low intake of magnesium has been
Magnesium supplements have been effective in treating mild to moderate depression, according to a 2017 study.
If you’re ever worried about menstrual abnormalities, book a doctor’s appointment.
To help them understand your personal experience, keep a diary of your symptoms to see if a pattern develops.
Do you notice the same symptoms at the end of every menstrual cycle? Or are they more irregular?
It’s also worthwhile to note down aspects of your daily routine, including what you eat and drink and how much you exercise.
That way, your doctor can rule out underlying conditions and come up with the best possible course of treatment.
Right now, there’s no specific treatment for post-menstrual syndrome.
A few clinical treatments exist to help relieve specific symptoms.
For example, cognitive behavioral therapy or antidepressant medication may be prescribed for depression.
Hormonal contraceptives that prevent ovulation can also
A doctor will investigate whether an underlying condition, like PCOS, could be causing post-menstrual symptoms.
They can then recommend other medications and therapies based on this diagnosis.
Post-menstrual syndrome may still be a medical mystery, but you should never be afraid to discuss menstrual issues with a doctor.
Together, you can find ways to manage your symptoms and cope with any change brought about by your menstrual cycle.
Lauren Sharkey is a journalist and author specializing in women’s issues. When she isn’t trying to discover a way to banish migraines, she can be found uncovering the answers to your lurking health questions. She has also written a book profiling young female activists across the globe and is currently building a community of such resisters. Catch her on Twitter.