What are PMS symptoms?

PMS, or premenstrual syndrome, refers to physical and emotional symptoms that occur before a period and disrupt everyday life. PMS symptoms are no joke; in the worst case scenario they can lead to symptoms of depression and debilitating pain, and should be taken seriously.

What are the symptoms of PMS? 

PMS symptoms usually occur at the end of the menstrual cycle, before the ovulation phase. Up to a week before a period is expected, symptoms of PMS can include sore and/or swollen breasts, headache, and pain in the lower back and abdomen. Changes in the levels of hormones relating to how the ovaries function can affect the central nervous system and its transmitters, such as serotonin. This is believed to be partly responsible for the syndrome, although its root cause is still unknown.

In addition to physical symptoms, PMS can manifest as irritability, tearfulness, and depression. Symptoms vary greatly and occur in almost everyone who has periods at some point in their lives, most typically between the ages of 30-45.

PMS symptoms improve during the first days of the period and the range of symptoms experienced can vary between cycles. It’s worth writing down your symptoms or recording them on a menstrual cycle app on your phone. This makes it easier to monitor PMS and how it varies, and to discuss your symptoms with a gynaecologist. No laboratory tests are needed to diagnose PMS.

PMDD (Premenstrual dysphoric disorder) is a more severe form of PMS, which can even cause thoughts of self-harm. The symptoms of PDD begin during the ovulation phase and are experienced by around 5-8% of people who have periods.

How to relieve PMS symptoms 

In the worst-case scenario, PMS symptoms can cause friction in a relationship if one of the couple is stressed and even the smallest inconvenience feels like a heavy burden. That’s why communication and transparency are important, to ensure that partners can be supportive, even on difficult days.

PMS can be alleviated by taking general care of yourself, following a light diet, and getting lots of rest. Some people find that exercise and acupuncture help. It is recommended to avoid alcohol and caffeine. You can also try to manage symptoms with vitamins B and D, magnesium, and calcium. Pain can be managed with anti-inflammatory painkillers, which help with headaches and sore breasts.

For some, hormonal contraception, such as a hormonal coil or the combination pill, can help to alleviate PMS symptoms.  It’s worth discussing your options and any concerns with your gynaecologist. When visiting a gynaecologist, be prepared to discuss symptoms from the previous three months.


Source: Duodecim Terveyskirjasto

Read tips on how to support your overall wellbeing at different stages of your menstrual cycle.

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