Premenstrual syndrome

What is PMS and what can you do about it?

Premenstrual syndrome is better known as PMS. It refers to the symptoms that women experience in the time leading up to their period and is a common occurrence for around 90% of women. This tends to happen around a week or a couple of days before you start menstruating. 

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What are the symptoms of PMS?

PMS is often characterised as a change in mood or experiencing mood swings but there is a range of other symptoms associated with it: 

  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety, irritability or getting upset easily
  • Tiredness
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Cramps
  • Bloating
  • Tender breasts
  • Headaches
  • Spots
  • Appetite increase
  • Changes in sex drive

Not all women will experience it exactly the same and your symptoms might not always be as prevalent every month. However, you’ll likely get to know what’s normal for you which can help you to realise that PMS is what’s causing you to feel this way. 

 

What causes PMS?

There’s no definite cause but it’s likely to happen due to the changes in your hormone level at this point in your cycle. While you are ovulating, the level of the sex hormone progesterone is high- helping to thicken the lining of the womb and essentially prepare the body for a possible pregnancy. When this doesn’t happen, the unfertilised egg dissolves and the level of progesterone drops. It could also be a result of changes to the level of serotonin, which is the chemical in your brain which regulates your mood. 

 

PMDD

Severe PMS may be caused by a condition called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). This is where the symptoms of PMS have a significant impact on your life, causing significant emotional problems and distress on a monthly basis. It can be linked to feelings of depression and thoughts of suicide or self-harm. 

The symptoms include: 

  • Mood swings
  • Being upset or tearful
  • Anger
  • Irritability
  • Hopelessness
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling tense and on edge
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Lack of concentration 
  • Loss of interest in things you normally enjoy
  • Lack of energy

You may also experience the same physical symptoms listed above. While these symptoms sound similar to those of anxiety and depression, they will only occur either a week or two before you get your period, and ease off as you reach the end of it. If you are feeling like this all of the time, then reach out to your GP for help. 

 

How is PMS treated?

There is a range of possible treatments for PMS. Not all of them will be suitable for everyone, it really depends on the nature of your symptoms and what might work best for you. 

  1. The combined pill - this is the most popular choice for treating PMS. The contraceptive pill stops you from ovulating, preventing PMS from having such an impact
  2. Antidepressants - you may be prescribed antidepressants if you’re struggling with PMDD, particularly if you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts 
  3. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy - CBT helps you to voice problems and difficult emotions, giving you the tools to deal with them

 

Home remedies for PMS

There are things you can do at home to help ease PMS. Prioritising self-care will have a positive impact on your experiences and help to identify what your struggles are. 

  • Get plenty of sleep or rest
  • Ensure you are eating a healthy diet
  • Exercise or do something active
  • Yoga
  • Meditation 
  • Painkillers
  • Talking to someone about how you’re feeling

 

Sources

Mind.org> Premenstrual Dysmorphic Disorder: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/premenstrual-dysphoric-disorder-pmdd/about-pmdd/

NHS> PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome) https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pre-menstrual-syndrome/

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