Periods suck for pretty much all menstruating women, and that’s partly because of the PMS symptoms we experience leading up to and during our monthly cycle which range from obnoxious to seemingly unbearable. And while for most of us, PMS is just a normal part of the joys of being a woman, more extreme symptoms can also be a sign of something much worse: an undiagnosed STD.
A new study out of the University of Oxford revealed that women with STDs they’re unaware of having are more likely to experience negative PMS symptoms. Basically, periods aren’t all that big of a deal in and of themselves, but since a lot of STIs don’t exhibit symptoms and can lead to fertility issues if untreated, you can see the connection.
According to Dr. Alexandra Alvergne, lead-author and Associate Professor of Anthropology at Oxford University: “Even now, when I write a research application on PMS, I still think, ‘Will this be taken seriously?’ [and] that needs to change. Not understanding or even acknowledging that PMS is more than ‘women’s raging hormones’ but rather, the by-product of cyclical immunity makes it harder to identify diseases and can even delay diagnosis of infections such as STIs, which can affect women’s fertility.”
Researchers used data from 800 users of the period tracking app CLUE and discovered that women who had undiagnosed herpes, HPV, or chlamydia were way more likely to report experiencing unpleasant PMS side effects of cramps, headaches, and extreme mood swings.
Dr. Alvergne hopes that by paying more attention to the PMS and period patterns we experience, we’ll be more likely to pay attention to our overall reproductive and sexual health (and our health in general). Plus, if we know that extreme changes in the PMS symptoms we usually experience, it could be a sign that we need to see our doctors in case of underlying cause.
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