PeriodsCrampsWhat is Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)?

What is Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)?


Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) is a term used to describe a chronic condition with a potential range of symptoms that happen in-between ovulation and when you get your period (about 14 days). The symptoms typically stop when you get your period. Premenstrual therefore, with emphasis on the (PRE), has a lot more to do with when you get symptoms, rather than what the symptoms actually are.

What is PMS?

PMS is usually associated with reoccurring “distress” including: mood swings, fatigue, irritability, pains or depression that occur right before your period. Even though 85% (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) of women have at least one symptom of PMS during their period, it’s actually less common than most women think. Having a single symptom is not necessarily a “chronic condition” or reoccurring pattern of symptoms. A diagnosis of “PMS” would require a reoccurring, observable set of symptoms. So make sure that you see a doctor before you conclude that you have PMS – only 30% of women suffer from it and you might end up treating the wrong condition.

There are also physical symptoms of PMS

PMS might show up in other ways such as skin problems, breast tenderness, bloating, weight gain or backaches.

Diagnosing PMS

Keep a calendar or a journal (Downloadable PMS Symptom Tracker) of your symptoms and review them over a few months. Make sure that you take notes about how long your symptoms last. This information will be helpful for both you and your doctor, so that you can rule out other possible conditions that might show up with the same or similar symptoms.

What Causes PMS?

Changes in hormones are the most-likely culprits that lead to PMS. Some women are more sensitive than others to these hormones which can lead to chemical changes in the brain, resulting in psychological issues or mood swings. If you are suffering from depression, you might be more sensitive to premenstrual symptoms. However, there are other factors that might lead to the same symptoms: nutritional deficiencies such as low levels of vitamins, alcohol and caffeine, or salty foods which can lead to fluid retention.

What Are the Treatments for PMS?

If you have a mild case of PMS, you might start with lifestyle changes such as increased exercise, appropriate nutritional choices, and supplements such as: folic acid, calcium, magnesium, vitamin B-6, relaxation, and a good night’s sleep. There are medications to relieve pain like Ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) or birth control pills to stop ovulation.

Hi, I'm Samantha. I live in Seattle and I develop logistics management software. I'm also a fitness and health advocate and an assistant editor for the AP!

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