High stress during a woman's cycle can make PMS (premenstrual syndrome) symptoms more intense according to the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) news announcement on August 23.

Researchers at the US National Institutes of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD) have been studying the ovarian function during the menstrual cycle in healthy women in a project known as the BioCycle Study.

Their findings, published in the Journal of Women's Health, discovered that women with high stress up to two weeks prior to menstruating experienced more severe "psychological and physical symptoms" including food cravings, mood swings, pain, tears, fatigue and cramps.

Audra Gollenberg, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in the Division of Epidemiology, Statistics and Prevention at NICHD, noted, "It may be possible to lessen or prevent the severity of these symptoms with techniques that help women to cope more effectively with stress, such as biofeedback, exercise, or relaxation techniques."

Mary Hediger, PhD, researcher at NICHD and co-author of the BioCycle Study, explained, "Each woman is an individual, and some women may experience severe symptoms that require medications. However, future studies may show that stress reduction techniques can prevent or reduce the severity of premenstrual syndrome, which might provide a cost effective alternative to medications for some women."

If you find that time of the month to be unbearable, you may want to chart your cycle with apps for the iPhone like the Monthly Cycles - Period Calendar €1.59, BioClock Fertility & Pregnancy €2.39 and iPeriod Ultimate (also available for the iPad) €2.39) and try lessening your stress level with yoga, pilates, meditation and healthy eating to help eliminate cramps and other discomforts associated with PMS two weeks in advance of menstruating. Most cycles range from 26 to 32 days.

Full NIH Study originally published in the online edition of the Journal of Women's Health on May 19, "Perceived stress and severity of perimenstrual symptoms: the BioCycle Study": http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20384452