Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) affects up to 75% of menstruating women. Symptoms most often occur the week prior to menstruation, but they can also linger after and reoccur during ovulation. Hormone fluctuations, stress, diet, and lifestyle all have a part; and symptoms can change in intensity and duration from month to month. The most apparent issues are usually physical.
How should a Christian woman handle PMS?
The Physical Side of PMS
The physical issues associated with PMS are particularly insidious because easing one can cause another to flare up. For instance, cravings for sweets and salty foods are common, but sugar can make bloating and intestinal issues worse, and salt can increase fluid retention. The natural reaction to cramps is to curl up on the couch, but going for a walk is one of the best ways to relieve the pain.
One of the best ways to mitigate physical symptoms is to just be aware. For those who are regular, keep track of your cycle. If you're not, keep track of your symptoms. Symptoms usually occur in a specific order. If you notice you're breasts are tender, it may be a signal to watch your diet. Or if your libido starts dropping off, it may be time to start thinking about taking pre-emptive pain medication. Just having a plan and being prepared can help you take care of the symptoms and feel a little more in control.
The Emotional Side of PMS
Sometimes PMS causes more emotional issues than physical. It's common to feel fuzzy-headed, depressed, tense, angry, and over-emotional. That tension can cause you to overreact to small issues or take things personally when you'd normally disregard them. Eventually, it can lead to uncharacteristic bursts of anger or sadness.
Many women see the positives in this side of PMS instead of just the negatives. A crying spell can release tension you may have held onto the rest of the month. Anger may lead you to address an issue you've been avoiding. And even Jesus craved quiet time away from the crowds; if God gives you the opportunity to take some time for yourself, it's okay to do it. Even so, Scripture says that women are to be self-controlled (Titus 2:5); emotion should not control attitude or reactions.
The Spiritual Side of PMS
In Matthew 22:34-40, Jesus says the greatest commandments are to love God and love others. This is not affectionate love; it is agape which is a love that chooses to sacrifice for another. First Corinthians 13 explains what love looks like. It is patient and kind, it does not insist on getting its own way, it is not irritable, it bears and endures all things. Nowhere does the Bible say that Christians are exempt from showing such love because of any reason.
When Jesus hung on the cross, beaten and tortured, He saved a thief (Luke 23:43), cared for His mother (John 19:26-27), and forgave His murderers (Luke 23:34). It's an extreme example, but it's still something to think about (Philippians 2:1-11). Jesus did not let His physical condition get in the way of His obedience to God and His love for others. How you express that love may look different when you're in pain and feeling the emotional weight of unwanted hormones, but PMS doesn't have to control you. Galatians 5:22-24 promises that you can exhibit the fruit of the Spirit instead of being enslaved to the desires of the flesh.
It's noteworthy to realize that God did not design people to go through life — or even PMS — alone. Despite the cultural norm that encourages women to hide when they are menstruating, it helps to have someone else to rely on. They may pick up extra chocolate, make excuses for missed social events, and be an emotional support. They can even encourage us to recognize when we're letting the hormones get the better of us. Hebrews 10:24 says, "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works." Proverbs 27:6a says, "Faithful are the wounds of a friend." Sometimes you need someone else to remind you how to live like Christ. If you can trust your husband to take that role, you are very fortunate, indeed.
The Medical Side of PMS
That is not to say that having enough faith will miraculously clear up the symptoms of PMS. God will give you the strength to not sin (1 Corinthians 10:13), but He does not promise to ease cramps, clear minds, or cure depression just by praying. If symptoms are severe enough that they significantly interfere with daily life, it's time to get help. Extreme pain could mean cysts and/or endometriosis — both serious health issues that should be addressed by a doctor. Excessive bleeding can result in an iron deficiency. And on-going depression should always be taken seriously.
It is common for doctors to prescribe hormonal birth control for PMS symptoms, and many women have found relief this way. The use of hormonal birth control requires wisdom, however. Although the primary way such medications control pregnancy is by shutting down ovulation, it is possible that they could also prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. If life begins at conception, this is abortion.
PMS is inevitable for much of the population, but you don't have to be ruled by it. A few preventative measures, extra rest, and a healthy reliance on God can ensure you are led by the Spirit and not controlled by the flesh. PMS is not a free ticket or an excuse to be unkind. It's an opportunity to become closer to God and rely on Him for your needs (Philippians 4:19).
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