Menstrual Health Centre

Premenstrual Syndrome, or PMS

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Don't suffer alone

If you find yourself - or your body - griping and grumping in the week or so before your period, you may have Premenstrual Syndrome, or PMS. You’re not alone, because PMS is surprisingly widespread. In fact, up to 85% of us have said that we experience at least some of the symptoms of PMS1 during our monthly cycle.

We all know the major signs, even if we haven’t experienced them ourselves. Feeling cross, tired and ‘out of sorts’. Suffering with pain and discomfort that gets in the way of the things we want to do.

For some of us, PMS is just a monthly bother, and the symptoms usually go away after we start bleeding. For others, PMS may be so severe that it makes it hard just to get through the day.

What causes PMS?

The causes of PMS aren’t completely clear, but several factors may be involved. Changes in hormones during the menstrual cycle seem to be an important cause. These changing hormone levels may affect some women more than others.

PMS - spot the signs

PMS often includes both physical and
emotional symptoms, such as2:
  • Spots or 'acne'
  • Swollen or tender breasts
  • Feeling tired
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Upset stomach, bloating, constipation, or diarrhea
  • Headache or backache
  • Appetite changes or food cravings
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Trouble with concentration or memory
  • Tension, irritability, mood swings, or crying spells
  • Anxiety or depression

Who gets PMS?

PMS is most common in women who are3:
  • In their late 20s to early 40s
  • Already have one or more children
  • Come from a family with a history of depression
  • Have already had postpartum depression or some type of mood disorder

Can I relieve my PMS?

Because our bodies are different, so are the ways we can ease the problems that come with PMS. Some of the most reliable options include medication. If you suffer from mood swings and depression, your doctor may be able to prescribe antidepressants.

If you experience period related symptoms such as headache or backache, Feminax Express may help. That’s because it’s designed to work on period pain and associated symptoms and gets to work in half the time* it could take with standard ibuprofen.

* refers to absorption

A change for the better

Long-term, you can help to reduce the symptoms of PMS by making some simple changes to your lifestyle. Thankfully, they’re as straightforward as they are sensible:

  • Get out and about - especially with exercise that raises your pulse a little
  • Eat fruit, vegetables, oily fish and fibre-rich foods
  • Avoid salt, high-sugar foods, caffeine, and alcohol - especially when you have PMS symptoms
  • Try to get about 8 hours of sleep each night, because that can really help the way you think and feel. If pain gets in the way of sleep, try Feminax Ultra which provides long- lasting relief from period pain for up to 8 hours
  • Look for healthy ways to cope with stress. Some women find yoga, massage, or relaxation therapy helpful. You might like to talk to your friends, listen to music - or just have a sit down with your favourite biscuits
  • Many women relieve symptoms with, magnesium and vitamin B-6.
  • Many also find their PMS symptoms relieved by taking supplements such as evening primrose oil
  • Always talk with your doctor before taking a supplement, especially if you’re already on medication.

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, or PMDD

At its simplest, Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder - or PMDD - is a severe form of PMS. Some doctors think as many as one in twenty of us have persistent, troubling PMS that can be classed as PMDD4.

Even today, we don’t know as much about the brain as we would like to, but scientists think that a brain chemical called serotonin may play a role in PMS. Because it regulates the way we think and feel, changes in serotonin can cause major changes in some of our lives, and these changes can be difficult to cope with on our own.

If you have PMDD - it isn’t your fault. You’re not a bad person, and you haven’t done anything wrong. Sometimes, when you feel at your worst, that might be hard to remember, but it’s true.

PMDD is like getting a stomach bug or the flu, or breaking your leg - it’s a medical problem that you didn’t ask for, but you do have every right to ask for help.

Look for the signs of PMDD - not just in you, but your friends. If you see them in someone else, don’t be embarrassed to reach out - you could make a big difference to the way they feel. If you recognise them in yourself, remember that there are lots of things your GP can do to help - and your friends and family can help support you, too5.

What does PMDD look like?

Although most symptoms are ‘emotional’, there are also physical symptoms like unusually bad joint or muscle pain, cramps, bloating, tender breasts, and headaches.

‘Emotional’ symptoms often include6:
  • Feeling 'out of control' or very unhappy
  • Getting angry or grumpy all the time 'for no reason'
  • Unusual sadness or despair, or even thoughts of suicide
  • High levels of tension, panic or anxiety
  • You feel tired and ‘slow’, and can’t think clearly
  • You may have problems sleeping - not from PMS pain, but because of your feelings
  • Having a hard time controlling your mood, or crying a lot
  • Losing interest in normal activities and relationships
  • You may crave some types of food, or even binge eat

You don’t need all of the symptoms to have PMDD. If you feel like you need help, or a friend who knows you well says they’re concerned, it’s worth speaking to your GP.

  1. 1 Dickerson, Lori M., Pamela J. Mazyck and Melissa H. Hunter (April 2003). Premenstrual Syndrome. 67.
       American Academy of Family Physicians. pp. 1743–52.
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4 Dickerson, Lori M., Pamela J. Mazyck and Melissa H. Hunter (April 2003). Premenstrual Syndrome. 67.
    American Academy of Family Physicians. pp. 1743–52.
  5. 5
  6. 6

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