Open Access Research article

Premenstrual symptoms in young adults born preterm at very low birth weight - from the Helsinki Study of Very Low Birth Weight Adults

Sanna Mustaniemi12, Marika Sipola-Leppänen34, Petteri Hovi56, Uriel Halbreich7, Marja Vääräsmäki12, Katri Räikkönen8, Anu-Katriina Pesonen68, Kati Heinonen8, Anna-Liisa Järvenpää6, Johan G Eriksson10111259, Sture Andersson6 and Eero Kajantie56*

Author Affiliations

1 Child and Adolescent Health and Welfare Unit, Department of Children, Young People and Families, National Institute for Health and Welfare, P.O. Box 310, Oulu 90101, Finland

2 Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Oulu University Hospital, P.O. Box 24, OYS 90024, Finland

3 Diabetes Prevention Unit, Department of Chronic Disease Prevention, National Institute for Health and Welfare, P.O. Box 310, Oulu 90101, Finland

4 Department of Pediatrics and Adolescence, University of Oulu, P.O. Box 5000, Oulu 90014, Finland

5 Diabetes Prevention Unit, Department of Chronic Disease Prevention, National Institute for Health and Welfare, P.O. Box 30, Helsinki 00271, Finland

6 Hospital for Children and Adolescents, Helsinki University Central Hospital and University of Helsinki, P.O. Box 281, HUS 00029, Finland

7 Biobehavioral Program, School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Hayes C, Suite 1, 3435 Main St., Building 5, Buffalo, NY 14214-3016, USA

8 Department of Behavioural Sciences, University of Helsinki, P.O. Box 9, Helsinki 00014, Finland

9 Department of General Practice and Primary Health Care, University of Helsinki, P.O Box 20, Helsinki 00014, Finland

10 Vasa Central Hospital, Sandviksgatan 2-4, Vasa 65130, Finland

11 Folkhälsan Research Institute, Paasikivigatan 4, Helsinki 00270, Finland

12 Unit of General Practice, Helsinki University Central Hospital, Helsinki 00029, Finland

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BMC Women's Health 2011, 11:25  doi:10.1186/1472-6874-11-25

Published: 3 June 2011



Clinically significant premenstrual symptoms are common among young women. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is characterized by emotional, behavioural and physical symptoms that consistently occur during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is a severe form of PMS. Individual variation in stress responsiveness may be involved in the pathophysiology of premenstrual symptoms. Preterm birth at very low birth weight (VLBW, < 1500g) has a multitude of consequences that extend to adult life, including altered stress responsiveness which could affect the prevalence of premenstrual symptoms.


In this cohort study, we compared 75 VLBW women with 95 women born at term (mean age 22.5). We used a standardized retrospective questionnaire assessing the presence and severity of a variety of symptoms before and after menses. The symptom scores were used both as continuous and as dichotomized variables, with cutoffs based on DSM-IV criteria for PMDD and ACOG criteria for PMS, except prospective daily ratings could not be used. We used multiple linear and logistic regression to adjust for confounders.


There was no difference in the continuous symptom score before menses (mean difference VLBW-term -18.3%, 95% confidence interval -37.9 to 7.5%) or after menses. The prevalence of premenstrual symptoms causing severe impairment to daily life was 13.3% for VLBW women and 14.7% for control women. For PMDD, it was 8.0% and 4.2%, and for PMS, 12.0% and 11.6%, respectively. These differences were not statistically significant (p > 0.1).


Our findings suggest that the severity of premenstrual symptoms and the prevalence of PMDD and PMS among young women born preterm at VLBW is not higher than among those born at term.