PMS is Not Just a Cliché

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New research shows PMS is real and should be taken seriously.

For many years, women have been told that PMS was not a real thing. Many women, in particular those who consider themselves to be feminists, were offended by the cultural messages that seemed to dismiss and diminish women as being hormonally imbalanced and emotionally unstable and unpredictable because they had periods.

On June 8, 2019, The New York Times paper had an editorial written by Dr. Lisa Feldman Barrett, a psychologist and neuroscientist. In this editorial, Dr. Barrett, self- identified as a life -long feminists who was angry and resentful at this social caricature which characterized women as being emotionally imbalanced and less able to do critical thinking or objective analysis than men merely because they had periods.

This week, Dr. Maupin will talk about this as an OBGYN, a feminist, and a doctor. In many respects, she agrees with the arguments presented by Dr. Barrett and is also excited by the new research presented by Dr. Barrett as a way to understand and explain to others (women in particular) that helps factually support the argument that there neural networks in the brain, the default network and the salience network that work simultaneously.

The salience network is like a sensory monitor, it always tracks the input data from all of the senses we possess, and it helps you decide which set of stimuli to pay attention to at any given time. The process is similar to triage in the hospital. If we need to pay close attention and not distracted because of a critical situation, we can hyper-focus.  This can be a learned behavior.

But what makes this interesting is that Doctor Maupin and Dr. Barrett both make the case that when a woman is about to have her period there is an intensification and an imbalance in the amount of progesterone and estrogen in their hormone system.

Dr. Barrett is reluctant to admit that when this intensification of the amount of progesterone and estrogen occurs, that there is an increased awareness of negative stimuli and that there is a stronger memory of negativity which will color their awareness and thinking. She goes on to say that this does not limit their critical thinking, but that women will be more receptive to negativity during this time.  Dr. Maupin maintains that this is not new, that Gynecologists have known this for quite some time.

The accumulation of accurate scientific data will help us understand that a cultural myth is inaccurate and help us explain why this is so. With this understanding, we can change the way we both men and women understand the ways that hormones impact us.


This Health cast was written and presented by Dr. Kathy Maupin, M.D., Bio-identical Hormone Replacement Expert and Author, with Brett Newcomb, MA., LPC., Family Counselor, Presenter and Author.

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