Premenstrual syndrome is associated with blunted cortisol reactivity to the TSST.Stress 2015; 18(2):160-8S
This study assessed the effects of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and menstrual phases on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, sympathetic nervous system axis and psychological responses to the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST). Thirty-six PMS women (mean age 21.69 ± 2.16 years) and 36 control women (mean age 22.03 ± 2.48 years) participated in the TSST task, either in the follicular phase or in the late luteal phase (each group N = 18). Saliva samples, heart rate and subjective stress levels were collected for seven time points throughout the test (10, 20, 30, 40, 55, 70 and 100 min). The results indicated that in comparison with control women, PMS women displayed blunted cortisol stress responses to the TSST irrespective of the menstrual phases, as indexed by the cortisol levels across time, area under the curve with respect to ground (AUCg) and peak change scores of cortisol. The results also demonstrated that the measurements indexed by cortisol levels across time, AUCg and peak change scores of heart rate were smaller in women tested during the late luteal phase than during the follicular phase. Correlation results indicated that AUCg was negatively correlated with PMS scores. These results suggest that measures of cortisol, rather than heart rate or subjective responses to stress, may be most closely associated with PMS. Furthermore, hypo-reactivity of the HPA axis may be pathologically relevant to PMS because it predicts heightened PMS severity.