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Premenstrual syndrome is a collection of heterogeneous symptoms that are attributed to hormonal fluctuations and that vary among individuals for unknown reasons. We propose that much of what is labeled "premenstrual syndrome" is part of a broader set of infectious illnesses that are exacerbated by cyclic changes in immunosuppression, which are induced by cyclic changes in estrogen and progesterone. This cyclic defense paradigm accords with the literature on cyclic exacerbations of persistent infectious diseases and chronic diseases of uncertain cause. Similar exacerbations attributable to hormonal contraception implicate hormonal alterations as a cause of these changes. The precise timing of these cyclic exacerbations depends on the mechanisms of pathogenesis and immunological control of particular infectious agents. Insight into these mechanisms can be obtained by a comparison of timing of menstrual exacerbations with the timing of exacerbations associated with pregnancy.