What is Pre-Menstrual Syndrome (P.M.S.) and Pre-Menstrual Tension (P.M.T.)
Many women go through many physical and emotional changes just before and during their period. These symptoms, which usually begin 7-14 days prior to a period are known as either Pre-Menstrual Syndrome (PMS) or Pre-Menstrual Tension (PMT). PMS is very common, approximately 1 in 3 women suffer mild or severe symptoms each menstrual cycle.
What is the menstrual cycle?
The menstrual cycle varies in every female. The majority of women have cycles that last 25 – 35 days, though having a slightly shorter or longer cycle is still quite normal. Every month, it is quite common for your cycle to vary by a couple of days. To calculate the length of your cycle you count the first day you begin bleeding as day one, then the last day you count is the day before your next period starts. For more information on the menstrual cycle click here.
Is there a difference between P.M.S. and P.M.T.?
No, PMT and PMS are the same thing. However, some people argue that PMS better describes the range of symptoms that women can experience.
What causes P.M.S.?
It is not known why some people get PMS and why some don’t and why some people suffer more than others. The general view is that monthly hormone changes are responsible for triggering all the symptoms. In severe cases, doctors say it could be the woman’s body that is over-sensitive to their own progesterone. Other theories are based on the individual’s life style and social pressures. PMS is more common in women who have had children, eat a diet high in salt and sugar, don’t take regular exercise or those with high levels of stress.
What are the symptoms of P.M.S.?
All women are different and some women may suffer many painful symptoms, while others have such minor symptoms that they do not create a problem and might even go unnoticed. Some of the symptoms you may experience with PMS could include one or a few of the following:
- Tender swollen breasts.
- Stomach cramps.
- Feeling irritable.
- Stomach bloating.
- Feelings of aggresion.
- Acne outbreaks.
- Fluid retention.
- Weight gain.
- Mood swings and depression.
- Food cravings.
These symptoms tend to disappear or greatly improve once the bleeding actually starts. To be sure that PMS is the cause of your symptoms, you should keep a record over a 3 month period of your symptoms, what they are and when they occur. If there is a pattern to your symptoms e.g. they happen around the middle of your menstrual cycle, then PMS is the likely diagnosis. You can use this record to show your doctor.
What can I do to relieve the symptoms of P.M.S.?
Doctors can prescribe certain drugs (e.g. Prozac™ – an antidepressant drug) to help reduce some of the symptoms. However, the majority of these may have some side effects. The contraceptive pill is also very effective in controlling a woman’s period and is suitable for women who require contraception.
To help relieve the symptoms yourself, try the following:
- Make time for regular exercise.
- Plan your own relaxation time.
- Talk to others to see what helps them – you will find you aren’t alone.
- Take painkillers to relieve the symptoms of headaches and stomach cramps.
- Take water tablets to reduce bloating. These are available over the counter, ask your pharmacist for advice.
- Reduce the amount of caffeine you drink. Caffeine tends to worsen P.M.S. symptoms.
- Avoid drinking alcohol when your symptoms occur, some women find it can make the symptoms worse.
- Try to drink plenty of water to prevent bloating.
- Stick to a healthy balanced diet. Try to keep your blood-sugar levels constant as this will maintain energy and minimize mood swings and cravings. So try to cut down on fat, sugar, salt and red meat in favour of cereals, leafy green vegetables and fruit.
- Avoid going for more than 3 hours without food, aim for three starchy meals a day with snacks in between.
- If you have stomach cramps, try putting a hot water bottle on your stomach.
Alternatively the following vitamins and supplements have all been recommended by P.M.S. sufferers:
- Vitamin B6
- Magnesium and calcium
- Some women also find that taking a recommended daily allowance (R.D.A.) of evening primrose oil can help reduce the tenderness of their breasts.