It’s that time of the month again… you think to yourself. Easily aggravated. Extremely sensitive. Depressed mood. Unable to sleep, yet very tired. Sound familiar? You may be one of many who experience Premenstrual Syndrome, or PMS (either personally, or as a victim of the monthly hurricane that sweeps through your household). And yes, it is a real thing.
For some of us, just knowing why we’re having mood swings and knowing that it’ll be over once the period comes and goes, helps us cope with PMS. But for others, being “Hormotional” can be overwhelming, and we may need more tools in our arsenal to cope.
What is premenstrual syndrome (PMS)?
A syndrome is simply a collection of signs and symptoms that present together in specific situations or diseases. In the context of PMS, the term is describing the physical and behavioral changes during the days before a woman’s period, or menstruation (hence pre-menstrual). When this happens month a after month, and interferes with your normal life, that is PMS.
Premenstrual symptoms are common, affecting up to 75 percent of women with regular menstrual cycles (meaning up to that many women have some sort of noticeable change right before their periods). Clinically significant PMS (symptoms severe enough to warrant medical attention) occurs in 3 to 8 percent of women.
How is PMS diagnosed?
A health care provider must confirm a pattern of symptoms.
- Symptoms must be present in the 5 days before your period AND end within 4 days after your period starts
- Symptoms must occur at least three menstrual cycles in a row
- Symptoms must interfere with some of your normal activities
Keeping a record of your symptoms can help your health care provider decide if you have PMS. Each day for at least 2-3 months, write down and rate any symptoms you feel. Record the dates of your periods as well.
What are the emotions that I can experience?
Why do I feel so emotional on my period?
Although there is no hard evidence yet on menstruation-related mood swings, erratic emotions seem to be associated with the hormonal fluctuations throughout the menstrual cycle. The main culprit is thought to be estrogen.
Is there anything I can do?
There are some simple lifestyle changes that you can make that have been shown to be effective in reducing PMS symptoms.
- Exercise: Regular aerobic exercise can lessen depression and fatigue. Any exercise that increases your heart rate, anything from brisk walking to swimming, can help. The key, though, is to exercise regularly, and not just on your period.
- Relaxation techniques: Relaxation techniques can help with the symptoms of PMS, especially anxiety and anger. Breathing exercises, mediation, yoga, even a massage, have all been shown to be an effective tool to being Hormotional.
- Sleep: Getting the right amount of sleep is super important for your general health. It’s probably obvious, but it cannot be overstated. For PMS, having enough sleep can lessen moodiness and fatigue.
- Diet: Eating complex carbohydrates during PMS may reduce mood symptoms and food cravings. What the heck are complex carbohydrates? Whole grains, wheat bread, pasta, cereals, brown rice, beans, lentils are some common foods with complex carbohydrates.
What if lifestyle changes don’t work?
If the above tips don’t work, then it’s time to see your medical provider. Your doctor may decide to prescribe you antidepressants (SSRI’s), which can help with many of the symptoms, not just your mood. They can be used 2 weeks before the onset of symptoms or throughout the menstrual cycle.
Being hormotional sucks! There’s no doubt about it. But being armed with information and some practical tips might make it easier to bear. Also, it is usually a relief to know that you are not the only one that may experience PMS. There should be absolutely no shame or hesitation to ask your medical provider about PMS and get help. Remember, if in doubt, go get checked out.
This is Your OB/GYN Next Door, Dr. Kendra until next time.