Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a group of symptoms linked to the menstrual cycle. PMS symptoms occur in the week or two weeks before your period (menstruation or monthly bleeding). The symptoms usually go away after your period starts. PMS can affect menstruating women of any age. It is also different for each woman. PMS may be just a monthly bother or it may be so severe that it makes it hard to even get through the day. Monthly periods stop during menopause, bringing an end to PMS.
Estimates of the percentage of women affected by PMS vary widely. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), at least 85 percent of menstruating women have at least one PMS symptom as part of their monthly cycle. Most of these women have symptoms that are fairly mild and do not need treatment. Some women (about three to eight percent of menstruating women) have a more severe form of PMS, called Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD).
PMS occurs more often in women who:
- are between their late 20s and early 40s
- have at least one child
- have a family history of depression
- have a past medical history of either postpartum depression or a mood disorder
PMS often includes both physical and emotional symptoms. Common symptoms are:
- breast swelling and tenderness
- feeling tired
- having trouble sleeping
- upset stomach, bloating, constipation, or diarrhea
- headache or backache
- appetite changes or food cravings
- joint or muscle pain
- trouble concentrating or remembering
- tension, irritability, mood swings, or crying spells
- anxiety or depression
Symptoms vary from one woman to another. If you think you have PMS, keep track of which symptoms you have and how severe they are for a few months. You can use a calendar to write down the symptoms you have each day or you can use a form to track your symptoms. If you go to the doctor for your PMS, take this form with you.
Many things have been tried to ease the symptoms of PMS. No treatment works for every woman, so you may need to try different ones to see what works. If your PMS is not so bad that you need to see a doctor, some lifestyle changes may help you feel better. Below are some lifestyle changes that may help ease your symptoms.
- Take a multivitamin every day that includes 400 micrograms of folic acid. A calcium supplement with vitamin D can help keep bones strong and may help ease some PMS symptoms.
|Amounts of Calcium You Need Each Day
||Milligrams per day
|51 and older
|Pregnant or nursing women need the same amount of calcium as other women of the same age.
- Exercise regularly.
- Eat healthy foods, including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Avoid salt, sugary foods, caffeine, and alcohol, especially when you are having PMS symptoms.
- Get enough sleep. Try to get 8 hours of sleep each night.
- Find healthy ways to cope with stress. Talk to your friends, exercise, or write in a journal.
- Don’t smoke.
Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen, aspirin, or naproxen may help ease cramps, headaches, backaches, and breast tenderness.
In more severe cases of PMS, prescription medicines may be used to ease symptoms. One approach has been to use drugs such as birth control pills to stop ovulation from occurring. Women on the pill report fewer PMS symptoms, such as cramps and headaches, as well as lighter periods.
The causes of PMS are not clear. It is linked to the changing hormones during the menstrual cycle. Some women may be affected more than others by changing hormone levels during the menstrual cycle. Stress and emotional problems do not seem to cause PMS, but they may make it worse.
Diagnosis of PMS is usually based on your symptoms, when they occur, and how much they affect your life.