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Altern Ther Health Med. 1998 May; 4(3): 75-9.

Incidence of premenstrual syndrome and remedy usage: a national probability sample study.

Singh BB, Berman BM, Simpson RL, Annechild A.

Complementary Medicine Program, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, USA.

CONTEXT: Premenstrual syndrome is believed to affect 30% to 80% of women. Studies in various cultures have used a variety of methodologies to determine prevalence, symptom profile, and effectiveness of available treatments. This study was designed to provide information on incidence of PMS and therapies used based on a national probability sample of US women. METHOD: In 1996 a national probability sample (N = 1052) of women aged 21 to 64 years was surveyed by telephone using random digit dial methods. The survey included demographic information, questions concerning respondent knowledge of premenstrual syndrome, incidence rates of common premenstrual syndrome symptoms, and any remedies that were used to control the symptoms. RESULTS: Forty-one percent of the women responded "yes" to the question, "Do you suffer from premenstrual syndrome?" An additional 17% indicated that they experienced symptoms prior to their menstrual cycle that are commonly associated with premenstrual syndrome (e.g., pain, bloating, feeling more emotional, weight gain, food cravings), though without associating these symptoms with premenstrual syndrome explicity. The most frequently noted severe symptom was that of "[feeling] more emotional." Of those reporting premenstrual syndrome symptoms, approximately 42% took either prescription or over-the-counter medications to relieve them. Eighty percent of the women taking any type of medication relied on over-the-counter medications. Prescription drug use for premenstrual syndrome symptoms focused on medications to control pain; hormone supplements were the second most frequently prescribed rugs. Fewer than 3% of the respondents used prescription medications. Respondents were asked to indicate whether they had used a complementary medical therapy to control symptoms. Exercise was used most frequently (18%), and acupuncture was the least frequently used. Although only a small percentage of women used complementary therapies, for most of these therapies a near-perfect concordance was found between usage and belief in efficacy. CONCLUSIONS: Women were aware of symptoms related to premenstrual syndrome more frequently than they recognized a formalized medical syndrome. Less than half of the women reporting symptoms had taken either over-the-counter or prescription drugs. Those who tried complementary therapies generally found them to be effective.

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