Menstrual cycle symptom variation in a community sample of women using and not using oral contraceptives

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Abstract

Background. The prevalence of significant symptom change (symptom cyclicity) prospectively rated over multiple menstrual cycles has not been established in a non-clinical population.

Methods. Seventy-three women charted 57 symptoms over 2–6 menstrual cycles each. Symptoms, and summarized symptom scores within seven symptom groups, were tested for changes between the follicular phase and the luteal phase of each cycle. Recurrent symptom cyclicity over multiple cycles within individuals was ascertained and the stability between cycles of mean symptom scores for both the follicular phase and the luteal phase.

Results. Forty-five percent of the participants experienced cyclicity over multiple cycles in at least one symptom and 23% in at least one symptom group. Eighteen percent of the participants consistently reported a higher symptom score during the luteal phase compared to the follicular phase (a PMS-like pattern) in all symptoms in which they experienced a change. The remaining 27% experienced a varying direction of change in the same symptom between cycles, or consistently experienced a lower symptom score during the luteal phase (a reverse PMS-like pattern) of the cycles they charted. Recurrent cyclicity was experienced by 16% of the participants in one symptom; in two symptoms by 15%; in 3–8 symptoms by 14%; in one symptom group by 19% and in two symptom groups by only 4% of participants. Average symptom severity did not vary significantly between cycles.

Conclusion. Due to the varied direction of symptom severity change over multiple cycles, prospective daily ratings are necessary to achieve a true picture of menstrual related symptom cyclicity in the general population.

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