Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a group of changes that can affect your physical and emotional health during days of your menstrual cycle, usually just before your period; PMS starts five to 11 days before menstruation. In this article, we’re going to give you a better understanding of the condition.
Causes of PMS
Unfortunately the exact causes of PMS are unknown; however, researchers think that a change in sex hormone (oestrogen and progesterone) and serotonin levels at the beginning of a menstrual cycle are the primary reasons for PMS.
Here’s a list of emotional, behavioural, physical signs and symptoms according to the Mayo Clinic:
Emotional and behavioural signs and symptoms
Tension or anxiety; depression; mood swings; irritability or anger; appetite changes and food cravings; trouble falling asleep (insomnia); social withdrawal; poor concentration and change in libido.
Physical signs and symptoms
The symptoms of PMS include joint or muscle pain; headaches; fatigue; weight gain related; fluid retention; abdominal bloating; breast tenderness; acne flare-ups; constipation or diarrhoea; alcohol intolerance
There are no specific lab tests to diagnose PMS definitively. However, research suggests that you are more prone to PMS if it is prevalent in your family. As part of their Women’s Wellness service, Marie Stopes will take a comprehensive family history.
A doctor may associate specific symptoms if it is consistent with your menstrual pattern. So, this begs the question, ‘how a doctor will establish a premenstrual pattern?’ He/she will usually ask you to keep a signs-and-symptoms calendar of at least your last two periods.
Some conditions may mimic PMS symptoms such as chronic fatigue syndrome, thyroid disorders, depression and anxiety (mood disorders). It’s essential to see a doctor so that he/she can make an accurate diagnosis.
Antidepressants: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as fluoxetine (sold under the brand name, Prozac) have been proven to reduce mood swings. They may be prescribed to take daily or two weeks before your period.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): NSAIDs such as ibuprofen can ease cramping and breast discomfort.
Diuretics: If weight gain, swelling and bloating aren’t lessened by exercise and reducing salt intake, diuretics can help to eliminate excess fluid.
Hormonal contraceptives: Prescription medications for contraception such as birth control pills, the patch and injection stop ovulation, which may bring relief from PMS symptoms.
Diet changes: Make sure that you eat a balanced diet to improve your overall health and energy levels. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and reduce your intake of sugar, salt, caffeine and alcohol.
Exercise regularly: Cardiovascular exercise such as running, cycling and swimming help improve physical and mental health
Take supplements: Folic acid, vitamin B6, magnesium and calcium can help reduce cramps and mood swings.
How Marie Stopes can help you
Marie Stopes is the global leader in women’s sexual and reproductive health. In South Africa, we operate 17 centres across seven provinces. We are devoted to providing high-quality women’s sexual and reproductive health services to all women across the country. Find the nearest centre for sexual health services here.