PMS 101

December 17, 2020

Menstrual cycleIf you are just having your periods for the first time, or you’ve finally had regular periods restored for the first time, it’s worth getting a little PMS (premenstrual syndrome) 101 update.

(FYI: Irregular periods are never normal. Click Here to learn more)

PMS is Different For Every woman

While almost every woman experiences PMS in some form or another during her reproductive years, the experience varies widely from woman to woman. And, because most women don’t track their periods, symptoms can creep up on you unawares.

On that note, visit our post, Our Favorite Health Apps, the first of which discusses period trackers and how helpful they can be throughout your life. Knowing when your period is going to start and stop, as well as basic symptom tracking, helps women prepare for when they may experience PMS symptoms and learn more about how to take care of themselves to minimize any discomfort.

If you are new to getting your period, we want to welcome you into the sisterhood of women and honor your rite of passage. This is a perfect time to find the right gynecologist, schedule your first visit, and begin building a trusting relationship, so you have answers to the many questions you’ll have about your body, your health, and your periods as you grow and change over time.

Most common PMS symptoms

Notice the ever-important ‘P’ in PMS? That stands for “Pre,” meaning “before.” Many of the most common symptoms of PMS begin a day(s) before you see any signs on your underwear or toilet paper. That’s why it’s good to be prepared.

Symptoms of PMS are the result of hormone changes in your body. More specifically, the rise and fall of estrogen during the cycle. If serotonin levels drop along with estrogen levels, you are more prone to experiencing PMS symptoms.

The most common of these are:

  • Moodiness or irritability
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Bloating in the pelvic and abdominal region
  • Tenderness or achiness in the pelvic/abdominal region
  • Slight weight gain
  • Breast swelling and/or tenderness
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Mental confusion
  • Being a bit clumsier than normal
  • A stronger body odor
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea or stomach upset
  • Lower back tenderness or discomfort
  • Loose stool or diarrhea
  • Headaches

In most cases, these symptoms peak and fade with your cycle, and they are rarely debilitating. For other women, PMS can mean missing out on work, school, or favorite activities due to the severity of their symptoms.

Extreme PMS symptoms may indicate you suffer from premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), and that warrants a visit to your OB/GYN for a check-in and check-up. Read PMS vs PMDD to learn more.

Honor your body before and during your menstrual cycle

The more cycles you have, and the more familiar you become with your body’s rhythms, the better care you’ll take of yourself when things are on the more uncomfortable side.

Some of the simplest ways to find relief from PMS include:

  • Over-the-counter (OTC) antiinflammatory/pain relievers. Ibuprofen, Aleve, Motrin and any other non-steroidal, anti inflammatory medication usually provide relief from pelvic discomfort and other PMS discomforts. Take them as advised on the packaging.
  • Getting 30 minutes of daily exercise. You may not feel like exercising, but according to womenshealth.gov and ACOG (American College of Obstetrics & Gynecology), “…exercising may help relieve symptoms of PMS, such as bloating and mood swings. Studies have shown that women who exercise regularly have fewer or less severe PMS symptoms.” Feel like there isn’t enough time? Read, Making Exercise a Natural Part of Your Day.
  • Use a heating pad. The consistent heat from a heating pad, placed across your abdomen or lower back is a go-to for many women who suffer from PMS. You can buy them online or at your local pharmacy. Keep one by your bed, the couch, or your favorite chair.
  • Birth control pills or hormonal birth control. Women who have more severe PMS often use hormonal birth control as a way to regulate their cycle and diminish period discomfort. This is often the first-rung of treatment for women with endometriosis.
  • Be diet conscious and avoid inflammatory foods. Foods that make inflammation worse include sugars, high fats, salty foods, and processed foods. Avoiding these can help minimize PMS symptoms. Check out the Cleveland Clinic’s recommendations for 11 Diet Changes That Help You Fight PMS to learn more. 

If these don’t work, it means your symptoms are on the more intense side of the PMS experience, and we recommend scheduling a Telehealth appointment with your gynecologist to talk about it.

Your experience may change over time

Just because you get PMS as a teen or a younger woman doesn’t mean you’ll always have it. On the flip side, women who never really had PMS to speak of find they have it more intensely when they’re older or entering perimenopause. It can fluctuate and change from month to month and year to year during your life because it’s all driven by ever-changing hormone balance.

Would you feel more comfortable working with an all-female team of extraordinary OB/GYNs? Schedule an appointment with us here at Women’s Health Associates.