Healthcare News & Insights

Proof: Menstrual cramps change women’s brains

New research may help guide new treatments for severe PMS symptoms — while giving comedians more ammo for “my crazy girlfriend” jokes.

Researchers examined the brain scans of young women who regularly experienced moderate to severe menstrual cramps and compared them to scans of young women who reported minimal cramping.

They found that the women who suffered more severe cramps had several brain abnormalities, including:

  • a decrease in volume in regions of the brain that control pain processing, higher-level sensory processing and emotional regulation, and
  • an increase in volume in areas of the brain that handle pain modulation and endocrine function.

More research is needed to determine how the changes effect (or are affected by) the women’s menstrual symptoms. But researchers say the data shows that menstrual cramps and related symptoms need to be taken more seriously by the medical community, because they do have long-term consequences for women’s health.

The report is in the September issue of PAIN —
The Journal of the International Association for the Study of Pain
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