Study Finds Premenstrual Mood Swings Linked to Gene Changes


PMS or premenstrual syndrome is a group of symptoms associated with a menstrual cycle. Symptoms of PMS occur one to two weeks before the period and its intensity varies from woman to woman. About 85% of American women experience PMS in childbearing years. Of these, 5% are disabled by PMS due to the extreme severity of symptoms they experience. However, there’s even more severe form of PMS called PMDD or premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Most women who go through this experience mood changes and although it was assumed they’re linked to hormones, the new study discovered the abnormalities in gene network play a role.

Premenstrual Mood Changes – What’s causing them?

In a new research whose findings were published in the Molecular Psychiatry, scientists discovered that women with PMDD experience an abnormal gene expression in the ESC/E(Z) or Extra Sex Combs/Enhancer of Zeste network. The primary purpose of this network is to control gene expression in response to sex hormones.

Dr. Peter Schmidt and a team of researchers at the Behavioral Endocrinology Branch of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) carried out the study to discover the underlying cause that could contribute to the premenstrual mood swings. Previous studies on this subject discovered that women who experience mood changes prior menstrual cycle are hypersensitive to normal sex hormone changes. However, the reason behind this hypersensitivity was unknown.

Dr. Schmidt and his colleagues explain that PMS is 56% heritable. This finding indicates that genetics does play a significant role in the premenstrual syndrome. Their research aimed to discover whether this is really the case i.e. to find out if genetics is associated with mood changes before menstruation.

PMS Info

The Role of Gene Network

For the purpose of the research, scientists evaluated the gene expression of white blood cell lines from women with PMDD. Participants were between 18 and 48 years old. The research team compared these white blood cell lines to those of healthy women from the same age group. Both women with PMDD and control group had a regular menstrual cycle.

Shockingly, the analysis demonstrated that women with PMDD had different gene expression cell lines than ladies from the control group. That’s not all, researchers discovered the abnormal cellular response to sex hormones in PMDD. For example, progesterone enhanced the expression of several genes in the ESC/E(Z) network of cell lines in the control group. On the other hand, estrogen decreased gene expression in cell lines from the PMDD group.

These results indicate the molecular mechanism increases a woman’s susceptibility to premenstrual mood swings. The importance of this research is that it’s the very first time scientists discover the cellular evidence of abnormal signaling in cells derived from ladies with PMDD.

The research team emphasizes the importance of new studies on this subject. Learning more about the influence of gene network will help scientists and doctor invent new treatments for this widespread disorder.

Tips to Manage Premenstrual Mood Changes

  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol
  • Eat several small meals throughout the day rather than two or three big meals
  • Exercise (physical activity improves moods and depression)
  • Get enough sleep
  • Practice yoga
  • Try acupuncture
  • Try various relaxation techniques to manage stress


A vast majority of women experience a number of symptoms associated with premenstrual syndrome. The severity of these symptoms varies which is why some women experience severe mood swings, pain, and so on. The latest study discovered that mood changes and symptoms linked to PMDD have a lot to with gene network abnormalities. These findings indicate that heredity and genes do play a role in a woman’s likelihood of experiencing these symptoms. The study gives a glimpse of hope that scientists will invent more effective treatment for this prevalent syndrome.



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Expert Author : Dr. Ahmed Zayed (Consumer Health Digest)

Dr. Ahmed Zayed Helmy holds a baccalaureate of Medicine and Surgery. He has completed his degree in 2011 at the University of Alexandria, Egypt. Dr. Ahmed believes in providing knowledgeable information to readers. Other than his passion for writing, currently he is working as a Plastic surgeon and is doing his masters at Ain shams University.