PMS 'worse for Aussie women' Australian women reported higher rates of severe PMS symptoms than women in Europe or Latin America. March 18, 2008 Australian women suffer significantly higher rates of severe and debilitating premenstrual syndrome (PMS) than females in Europe and Latin America, a new global survey has found. Research presented at an international mental health conference in Melbourne showed that about 40 per cent of women get PMS, typically mood swings, irritability, stomach bloating and sore breasts in the two weeks prior to getting a period. Physical symptoms were more prevalent than emotional symptoms, but the latter were more "bothersome" for women, according to the findings collated from phone interviews with more than 4,000 women from eight countries, including Australia, the UK, France and Brazil. About three per cent of women across all countries suffered the most severe type of PMS, called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). But the rate was significantly higher in Australia, where nine per cent of women interviewed met the criteria of at least five physical or mental PMS symptoms suffered on a severe scale almost every period. Research leader, psychiatrist Professor Lorraine Dennerstein from the University of Melbourne, said the preliminary findings were both surprising and concerning. "It's very new data which hasn't been fully explored yet so we don't know what it's linked to," Prof Dennerstein said. "But we know smoking is bad for PMDD, and it can also be affected by stress, income levels, cultural background and other factors." She said it may also be that Australian women were more aware of their bodies and reproductive-related problems. "What ever the reasons, it is worrying because this syndrome is very, very debilitating," she said. "It has a major impact on how a woman runs her daily life, her work, her relationships." The research was funded by a pharmaceutical company which is soon to launch a new contraceptive pill in Australia that is claimed to help alleviate PMDD symptoms. Prof Dennerstein said the pill, called Yaz, works on both physical and mental symptoms by partially suppressing the menstrual cycle. Conference convenor professor Jayashri Kulkarni said the pill was promising. Other medications like new generation antidepressants known as SSRIs and anti-anxiety drugs had also shown some benefits, she said. Some women were also able to manage their condition with vitamins like evening primrose oil, exercise, cognitive behavioural therapy and by reducing the stress in their lives, Prof Kulkarni said. "This is not a minor problem, it's terribly disruptive, so we need to explore as many different pathways as possible to find treatments."