May 7, 2009
Pill to banish PMS
A new pill called Yaz may help many, including men, who often suffer in silence. POON CHIAN HUI reports
A newly approved pill claims to alleviate the woes of women who suffer from pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS).
Launched last Tuesday, Yaz is said to be the first and only birth control pill that also treats symptoms of PMS. It is produced by Bayer-Schering Pharma.
It is available at general clinics with a prescription at $34 a month. It has to be taken for 24 days every month, compared to the conventional 21 days for other contraceptive pills. It also contains a lower dose of the active ingredient ethinyl estradiol.
Half of the women in Singapore experience at least one pre-menstrual symptom once in their lifetime, according to the Obstetrics and Gynaecological Society of Singapore.
The pill may help banish symptoms linked to PMS that cause many, including men, to suffer in silence.
'The topic of PMS has always been taken as a joke,' said
Dr Lee Keen Whye, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at Gleneagles Medical Centre. 'Because of our Asian culture, few couples will be open about problems at home that result from pre-menstrual symptoms.'
These include physical symptoms like bloating and tension headaches and emotional ones like irritability and mood swings.
This is true for 28-year-old Nancy (not her real name). The investment banker suspected that something was awry late last year when she began to get annoyed at things that normally did not bother her and it was beginning to affect her work.
'I got so upset that I wouldn't talk to my colleagues for the whole day,' she said.
She sought medical advice from a gynaecologist last November and has been taking another oral contraceptive. She is now feeling 'more in control'.
While many are able to cope with PMS, 5 per cent of women suffer its most severe form, the pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).
Dr Christopher Ng, an obstetrician and gynaecologist at Camden Medical Centre, said that PMDD can wreak havoc on a woman's work and personal life.
'Symptoms can be severe enough to disrupt a woman's daily life, such as her relationships with family and friends and work productivity,' he said.
Sufferers may also feel hopeless, sad or over- whelmed, cry frequently and have trouble sleeping.
While the exact cause of PMS is unknown, it could be aggravated by stress, hormonal fluctuations and a poor diet that lacks vitamins and minerals. In addition, low levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, could trigger PMS symptoms, said Dr Ng.
According to a study by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, women over 30 years old are at higher risk of developing PMS.
However, that does not mean that younger women will not get PMS. Many other factors also come in play, such as the ability to tolerate stress, said Dr Ng.
'Women with PMS often do not tolerate high stress levels as well as those without PMS,' he said.