PMS: What every man should know

Home Away from Home with Abi Adeboyejo

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Abi AdeboyejoHere’s a list of symptoms we should all be familiar with: Lethargy or fatigue, sleep disturbance, appetite disturbance, abdominal bloating, breast tenderness, headaches, muscle aches, joint pain and joint swelling. I bet guys reading this are wondering what I am on about. Do these symptoms seem very uncomfortable?  Well, other symptoms could include anger, irritability, anxiety, sensitivity to rejection and sense of feeling overwhelmed or social withdrawal.

If you are a man reading this article and you couldn’t already figure that the symptoms above are those of a woman suffering from Pre Menstrual Syndrome (PMS), then you are likely a cold, hard-hearted individual with no sense of realising when things go wrong. It is rare to find a man who hasn’t lived with a female at some point in his life, be it mother, sister, aunty, girlfriend, wife or daughter. So why are men so ignorant of this condition?

It is very annoying when men try to ignore that women go through emotional and physical changes for a few days in a month and this usually affects the way they behave. Life would be a lot easier if men realised that women aren’t fickle or weak, but are slaves to the way their bodies react to their monthly cycle. Some men don’t even believe PMS actually exists. They think it is all made up so that women can behave badly for a few days of the month and blame their period.

I have had female bosses and I always have a good relationship with them because I never take them for granted. My current boss is a pussycat. She is as kind as a priest and goes out of her way to see that members of her team are treated well. But if I go to her office and she answers my questions in a monosyllabic grunt and she seems to be fidgety or cross, I just leave her alone for a few days and then try again. My male colleagues don’t see this. Instead they moan about her being very inconsistent. They complain that sometimes she is nice and sweet and on some days she can’t be bothered if the office burns down. With wives and daughters at home, you would have thought they would recognise the signs for what they are: PMS.

I have noticed that I get very snappy and impatient. My other PMS symptoms include body aches and headaches. I tend to scream at the children too, but bless them; even they know what it means when mummy is snappy. I was so touched when I shouted at my daughter (a bit unnecessarily) to finish her food and the poor girl asked ‘ is your back hurting, mummy? Should I rub it?’ Of course, I burst into tears because I was tired and fed up with work and the TV was just showing sports and there was no bread in the kitchen. Not reasons to cry, normally, but at that time, they were good enough for a few tears. What did my husband do? He just avoided me, poor man!

So for all the clueless men out there, I am going to attempt a brief explanation of PMS and how to help the females you love bear the few days of discomfort as best as they can. After all, you can’t carry pregnancies for us, you can’t breastfeed and some of you can’t even cook! Perhaps this will be your saving grace if you pay attention.

Many women in their reproductive years experience transient physical and emotional changes around the time of their period. In fact, at least 75% of women with regular menstrual cycles report unpleasant physical or psychological symptoms pre-menstrually.  This is called PMS. For the majority of women, these symptoms are mild and tolerable. However, for a certain group of women, these symptoms (see top of this article) can be disabling and may cause significant disruption in their lives. Women aged 30 to 45 years often experience most severe PMS.

We are all different.  Women don’t all suffer the same symptoms or with the same severity.  There are a number of approaches to treatment. For women with severe PMS, herbal and vitamin supplements may help. Very few women may require medical help. Doctors might be able to help with appropriate medication, sometimes including hormonal treatment.

So what can a husband do to help his wife through PMS? Avoid expressing your discomfort, grossness or negativity towards menstruation and brush her off. You are together because you are supposed to be together for better or worse, not only when you see fit. Help her pick up her pads and tampons from the store, especially if she’s not capable of doing it herself. Please get the right ones so you won’t annoy her even more.

Don’t point out the fact that she’s being moody or irritated. You really think she doesn’t know that? Don’t cause her more stress than she already has. Avoid any “surprises” or asking for her judgment for any large scale questions or decisions. Do anything that’ll soften her heart. Give her a lower back or lower abdominal massage. If her conditions require painkillers, make sure you have them available and offer it to her as necessary.

Help her keep track of her period, which might also be in your interest to know when she’s getting close and about to start. If you keep good track, your records might be even better than hers. Fulfil her daily tasks because she probably isn’t up to them. It isn’t going to kill you to do things around the house.

Finally, get her to open up if you can about her period. It is embedded in most girls that periods should be a hidden thing and an often uncomfortable discussion with men. This will help you understand what you can do for her and perhaps make her feel more at ease when she’s on her period around you.

Try it. Let’s see if things won’t be better next month.