Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) affects around three quarters of menstruating people, although signs and symptoms vary widely. No one know exactly what causes it, but factors such as hormonal changes, chemical changes in the brain and depression are all likely contributors.
What is PMS?
PMS describes the symptoms you may experience in the run up to your period. They usually start a week or two before it starts, and symptoms can be anything from severe to mild. If you’re one of the lucky ones, you’ll have no symptoms at all.
You may find you’re more irritable, emotional, tired or hungry in the run up to your period. Or you may have tender breasts, feel bloated or experience headaches. However miserable these symptoms are, they’re are all perfectly normal and natural.
Every body (and everybody) is different. By tracking your periods you can learn to recognise your PMS symptoms. It’s a good idea too to read up about what physically happens in your body during your menstrual cycle. And to get to know your anatomy and what your cervix is all about. The more you know, the more in control you’ll feel.
There are ways you can help yourself too. Tempting as it may be to grab a glass of wine and fill your face with comfort food, that’s not going to help the bloating. What you need is water – and lots of it – bananas, leafy green vegetables, whole grains and yoghurt. Check out ‘How to Ease PMS With Nutrition’ for more information.
Try to reduce your alcohol intake (to zero if you can) and cut down on tobacco. Both of these will make symptoms worse.
As much as you might fancy a few duvet days, they’re not going to help either. You can help your symptoms to take a hike by… taking a hike. A bit of self-care, like regular exercise, a good night’s sleep, massage (yes, masturbation counts as massage) and practicing yoga will do you much more good than harm.
But be easy on yourself. If you miss a workout, can’t resist a burger or want to sob in front of kitten videos – you go for it.
There’s nothing to be embarrassed about if you’re feeling a bit cranky or your cramps are spoiling your fun. Talk to your friends and ask their advice. Or read some blogs. Whatever you’re feeling, you can be sure someone else is feeling too.
Why do I have PMS?
There’s no simple answer to why some people experience worse symptoms than others, or why some get away with no symptoms at all, but hormone changes almost certainly play a major role.
It’s thought that 20-40% have symptoms that affect their daily lives, despite eating a healthy diet, exercising, getting enough sleep. If that’s you, it’s worth making an appointment to see your GP.
If you can, keep a diary for two or three months, noting down what symptoms you felt, when, and what you did in terms of self-care. This will help your doctor to recommend a treatment plan.