Premenstrual syndrome throws men for a loop

May 29, 1997|By Jo Ellen Barnhart

PMS - three letters that strike terror in the hearts of men. Ask any man to give the definition of these letters and watch his face. "Ummmmmm, it's like aaaaa, like aaaaaa, well, aaaaa, ummm " They just freeze up.

That's exactly what happened during a board meeting not so long ago. In a hormonal state, I stood before a long table of suits proclaiming the benefits of child care. Then the PMS train hit me loaded with crying, confusion, mood swings, irritability, impatience, nervousness, headache, and fatigue. Everyone in the room, including my boss and my boss' boss, starred motionless as I sobbed so hard my words were drowned in snot. And not a tissue was to be found!

Men just can't explain or understand premenstrual syndrome. My husband says this time of the month is "like walking on eggs laid by an atomic chicken: One wrong step and BOOM - you're toast!"


We women must not only put up with the more than 150 clinical symptoms, but the stigma that surrounds PMS. Because there is no clinical test to diagnose PMS, my father used to tell me and my sisters "It's all in your head."

According to Donna Shoupe, author of "Management of Common Problems in Obstetrics and Gynecology," the classic symptoms begin seven to 10 days before menstruation. The five main categories include anxiety, depression, pain, water retention and hypoglycemia. Every woman deals with these very unwelcome visitors in a different way. Some women experience very low doses of discomfort. Others, like me, have to deal with something akin to listening to the Emergency Broadcast Signal for 240 hours straight.

I'm not advocating this, but PMS can be a great weapon, particularly with male bosses. They often turn to Jell-O. Big, jiggling semisolid blobs of colored water that don't know how to react to a woman who suddenly appears to have eyes turned to blood red, spinning counterclockwise and speaking in a voice three octaves deeper than his own.

Dealing with symptoms

Don't get the idea that women cannot be good, productive workers while this deep inner body experience occurs. There are methods of dealing with PMS.

Lisa Barber-Murphy of Duke University advocates overall changes in lifestyle, East less junk food, salty food and chocolate, and avoid alcoholic or caffeinated beverages, as well as artificial sweeteners. Develop a regular exercise program. And here's the biggie get at least eight hours of uninterrupted sleep each night.

This is all great advice if you're not a working mom. Sleep is something we only dream about; coffee often is our fuel; and chocolate is our sacred indulgence.

If you find that the premenstrual interval impacts your work, lifestyle or relationships, discuss treatment with your doctor. Mild tranquilizers, antidepressant medications, hormone treatments, birth control pills and diuretics to lesson bloating also may be recommended to assist with more severe PMS cases.

There is one good point to PMS: As long as the cause of PMS is unknown, a large portion of the feminine mystique remains.

Jo Ellen Barnhart is the working mother of three boys. She is a freelance writer and owner of a home-based marketing and public relations business.

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