PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome)

Patient Education Materials

Women’s Health

PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome)

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a series of changes that affect how you feel and think. It happens usually about 10 to 14 days before a woman begins her period each month.

What causes PMS is still a mystery. Some researchers think PMS may be related to the changes in your hormone levels before your period. Others think some hormones may react with chemicals in your brain, which may cause PMS symptoms.

Do I have PMS?

About 40 percent of women experience some form of the many symptoms linked to PMS. About 5 percent of these women have symptoms that get in the way of their daily lives.

There are ways to help you figure out if you have PMS. Start by keeping a daily journal of any changes to your body and emotions. Keep this record for 2 to 3 months. This will help you see if the same changes happen at the same time each month. You’ll also know when to expect them and how long they are going to last. This may help you deal with your PMS symptoms.

A complete check-up by your doctor, including a review of your health history, will help decide if you have PMS.

What are the symptoms of PMS?

There are more than 150 symptoms that have been linked to PMS. Some of these symptoms include:

  • Changes to your body: bloating, weight gain, breast tenderness, stomach fullness, headache, clumsiness, constipation, and swollen hands and feet
  • Emotional changes: sadness, irritability, anxiety, mood swings, changes in sex drive, inability to concentrate, negative outlook, tiredness, food cravings Remember, these changes have to take place every month before or during your period to be called PMS.

Though the strength of these symptoms may change, they should be the same from month to month. PMS symptoms go away within 24 hours after your period begins. Afterwards, you should feel normal for at least 1 or 2 weeks. As women get older and near menopause, they will notice these symptoms during the first half of their period.

Is there treatment for PMS?

There is no known cure for PMS. Vitamins, birth control pills, bright light therapy, and hormone medicines have been used, but there’s no proof that these treatments work for most women. There are some signs that small doses of certain anti-depressants may help some women. In general, a healthy life style with a good diet and regular activity can help relieve your PMS.

  • Don’t eat foods high in salt. This will help reduce water build-up in your body and bloating.
  • Cut down on caffeine. Caffeine is found in coffee, chocolate, tea, and soda pop. Too much caffeine can cause nervousness, tension, and breast tenderness.
  • Eat a balanced diet of 5 or 6 small meals a day. Smaller meals give you a steady flow of energy so that you will feel less hungry and tired.
  • Avoid foods with a lot of sugar. Eating these foods can cause a sudden rise and drop in your body’s insulin level. This can lead to fatigue, headaches, depression, and irritability.
  • If you have cravings, eat fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grain cereals and breads, brown rice, soybeans, and lentils.
  • Avoid alcoholic drinks (beer, wine, hard liquor).

Regular exercise can help to relieve body tension. Exercise can also help PMS-related depression by producing pain-killing hormones (endorphins) in the brain. These hormones act as natural anti-depressants.

Ask your doctor

Be sure to have your doctor’s approval before changing your diet or starting a regular exercise program. Life style changes may not completely relieve all of your PMS symptoms, but you may find some relief. Counseling also may be helpful in finding ways to deal with a serious PMS problem. If you have questions or concerns, call your doctor.