A very common disorder

Painful periods are among the most frequent gynecological disorders. Far from being harmless, they can seriously spoil the lives of women who are victims. If the origin of this problem remains mysterious, high stress levels can double the risk of their occurrence.

Stress stress doubles the risk of painful rules

Extremely widespread, the pains accompanying the rules are often considered by women as a cruel fatality. But for the first time, a study suggests that better stress control has a preventive effect 1.

After two or three days of pain in the abdominal area and / or lower back during menstruation, we speak of dysmenorrhea. Among female gynecological disorders, the painful rules are extremely widespread. The proportion of women affected varies between 43% and 90% according to the studies. Approximately, between 10 and 15% suffer from severe and disabling dysmenorrhea, which can lead to work stoppages, school absenteeism and a reduction in quality of life 4.5.
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At the same time, evidence is accumulating around the deleterious role of stress in the occurrence of gynecological problems of pregnancy, such as premature births.6 But despite an increasingly serious suspicion, the links between stress and painful menstruation, Had not been identified. Previous studies were confronted with the difficulty of linking these two conditions precisely over time, based only a posteriori on the subjective statements of women.

Desiring to clarify the situation, US and Chinese researchers have recruited several hundred women between the ages of 20 and 34, having stopped any contraception after obtaining permission to have their first child ... birth control made in China obliges! After excluding women suspected of organic gynecological disorders, each participant completed daily a questionnaire mentioning the level of stress, the onset of illness, taking medication, the rate of sexual intercourse and of course the characteristics of their cycle , Including the occurrence of pain. This follow-up lasted 12 months or until the appearance of a pregnancy. In total, 1,160 cycles of 388 women were studied.

The results highlight the influence of stress. The incidence of dysmenorrhea increases with the degree of stress: from 21.9% for a low stress to 43.9% for a high level. Compared to a "peaceful cycle", the risk of experiencing these gynecological discomforts was more than doubled (2.4) in the event of severe stress. The researchers also showed that the influence of stress is greater during the two weeks preceding ovulation (luteal phase) than during the two weeks after (luteal phase).

Currently, the biological mechanisms at work remain to be elucidated even if the most probable hypothesis rests on a cascade of events whose origin would be an alteration of the secretion of certain hormones. Despite this mystery, the identification of risk factors is all the more important as this disorder handicaps the lives of millions of women. According to the authors, "prevention (by better management of stress) could be a safer approach than pharmacological treatment, especially in women desiring a child and in whom painkillers are often contraindicated." So no longer to let these intimate problems spoil your life, go to our section "Stop stress"!


1 - Occup About Med 2004,61: 1021-1026; 2 - Arch Gynecol 1981,230: 173-7; 3 - Obstet Gynecol 1996,87: 55-8; 4 - Women Health 1983,8: 91-106; - J Reprod Med 1985,30: 154-67; 6 - Am J Epidemiol 2003,157: 14-24