Periods

What Is PMS And How Do I Handle It?

PMS is officially known as Premenstrual Syndrome. Unofficially though, you may know it as: “my period is about to start and I totally feel like crying”. If you can relate to the rollercoaster emotions that come when your period’s due then you’re not alone – it's a condition that regularly affects many women at some point during their menstrual cycle.

So, what is PMS?

PMS involves a combination of physical and emotional symptoms that occur after ovulation and usually peak around two days before your period starts. These body and mind changes will usually reduce when your period arrives but for some women, the symptoms will continue along with menstrual bleeding.

Common symptoms of PMS can include the following:

Tiredness

Bloating

Body aches

Irritability

Appetite changes

Mood swings

Headaches

Weight gain

Breast tenderness

Skin changes – having oiler skin or getting spots

It’s usual to experience a combination of several of these symptoms, and symptoms can also change from month to month. Some women are lucky enough not to suffer with PMS at all.

Although it’s not 100% clear exactly what causes PMS, it is believed the fluctuation in hormone levels post-ovulation and prior to your period arriving are to blame for these emotional and physical changes.

How to handle PMS?

While there’s no exact medical treatment for PMS, making some positive lifestyle switches has been know to reduce the severity of the symptoms.

Taking regular exercise – especially outdoors, having a healthy, balanced diet (yes, this means avoiding the pre-period take-aways) and keeping hydrated, can all make the week before your period arrives feel more bearable.

Getting plenty of sleep, avoiding stimulants such as coffee, alcohol and cigarettes and trying to keep stress levels low, can also help.

If your symptoms are severe and are having a big impact on your life, it’s a good idea to keep a diary of how you’re feeling over two or three menstrual cycles and chat to your GP.

A doctor may recommend taking the combined contraceptive pill, advise talking therapy if you’re struggling to cope, or refer you to a gynaecologist, psychiatrist or counsellor.