Have you ever felt grumpy or bloated or had bad headaches right before you get your period? If your answer is “yes,” then you know what premenstrual syndrome feels like.
Premenstrual syndrome, also called PMS, is a group of symptoms that show up during the second half of your menstrual cycle – usually after ovulation. PMS can make you feel grumpy, anxious, depressed, uptight, and emotional. You might even have trouble staying focused.
Your body may also feel different. Common physical symptoms include:
- A feeling of fullness in your lower belly
- Weight gain, usually because you body is holding on to water
- Tender or painful breasts
- Feeling tired
- Feeling like you can’t have a bowel movement, and
- Swelling in your lower belly or your hands and feet
Doctors don’t know exactly what causes PMS. But it might have something to do with the way your hormones affect chemicals made in your brain. Doctors and scientists are working to figure out the cause of PMS.
Premenstrual syndrome is really common. It is estimated that at least half of all women get PMS sometime during their reproductive years, or when they are still having periods.
You can help your health care provider make a diagnosis of PMS by keeping track of your periods and your symptoms. Get a calendar and write down when you have symptoms and when your periods start and stop over several months in a row. If all of your symptoms always happen around 2 weeks before your period and then go away during or after your period, then you probably have PMS. There aren’t any blood tests or other tests that can diagnose PMS.
Living With PMS
PMS symptoms can be very mild or really strong. You do not have to have all the symptoms to have PMS. Some months, your PMS may be mild and barely noticeable. But other times your PMS may be more severe.
You can get PMS at any age after your periods begin. You might find that it is strongest in your younger years. Or, you may not get any PMS symptoms until you are in your 40s. When your body starts preparing for menopause, your PMS symptoms are likely to get worse. This period is called perimenopause and usually starts in your late 40s. After you reach menopause you won’t have PMS because you no longer have your period.
Mild PMS symptoms are easy to handle. But, strong PMS symptoms can sometimes cause problems in your family life, your friendships, and your ability to work.
There is also a serious form of PMS called premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD. If you think your symptoms are serious or causing problems in your life, you should talk with your health care provider.
There are many treatments for PMS. A treatment that works well for your friend may not work as well for you. But there are some basic guidelines that will help reduce symptoms:
- Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet
- Get plenty of exercise
- Get plenty of sleep
- Schedule some “down time” to reduce stress and avoid getting too tired.
- Talk to your health care provider to see if taking certain vitamins and minerals might help.
- In some cases, drugs called antidepressants can also be used to treat PMS for symptoms that are difficult to control otherwise
- Avoid lots of sugar and caffeine
PMS doesn’t have to be a problem. If your symptoms are getting in the way of your daily life, or are causing problem between you and your family or friends, ask your health care provider for help.
What We Have Learned
- Premenstrual syndrome usually starts before ovulation. True or False?
The answer is False. PMS is a group of symptoms that shows up during the second half of your menstrual cycle – usually after ovulation.
- Tracking your periods and your symptoms can help your health care provider make a diagnosis of PMS. True or False?
The answer is True. If all of your symptoms always happen around 2 weeks before your period and then go away during or after your period, then you probably have PMS.
- Only young women who haven’t had children yet get PMS. True or False?
The answer is False. You can get PMS at any age after your periods begin.