Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a group of physical and emotional changes that occur in a woman's body after ovulation and subsides with menstruation. In simple words, these are physical, behavioral, and psychological changes that a woman experiences 4 to 5 days before her period begins and ends with the onset of menstrual flow.
Research shows that about 80% of women across the world experience some premenstrual symptoms. The severity, onset, and duration of these symptoms may vary from one woman to another as per her health and lifestyle. Hence, some women develop mild premenstrual symptoms that subside a day or so after menstruation while others may have severe and prolonged symptoms that may need some medical care and attention. There are various factors that contribute to PMS.
The major cause for PMS is the hormonal changes that a woman undergoes during her entire menstrual cycle. On an average, a menstrual cycle usually lasts for 28 to 30 days, and involves three stages called the follicular (menstrual bleeding), ovulatory (egg release), and luteal (egg disintegration) stages. During all these stages, especially after ovulation, the body undergoes a lot of fluctuations in the estrogen and progesterone levels which subsequently affect other hormones in the body and lead to various premenstrual symptoms.
Apart from these cyclic changes in the hormones, there are some chemical changes in the brain like fluctuations of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that controls the mood states, which can also trigger common premenstrual symptoms like depression, fatigue, mood swings, etc. Stress and poor eating habits, i.e., diet deficient in vitamins and minerals, or high in sodium and salt can aggravate some severe symptoms like gas, bloating, anemia, weakness, etc.
- Joint or muscle pain
- Menstrual migraines or headaches
- Nausea, fatigue, and dizziness
- Weight gain from fluid retention
- Abdominal bloating
- Abdominal pain and pelvic cramps
- Aggravation of chronic conditions like arthritis and ulcers
- Changes in bowel habits
- Difficulty with coordination or decreased balance
- Changes in libido or decreased sexual desire
- PMS breast tenderness and swelling
- Acne flare-ups
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Edema (visible swelling, particularly in the hands, feet, and legs)
- Asthma and breathing difficulty
- Sinus problems or sore throat
- Heart pounding (palpitation)
Emotional and Behavioral Symptoms
- Tension or anxiety
- Depressed mood
- Hopelessness and severe depression
- Crying spells or tearfulness
- Mood swings, irritability or anger
- Appetite changes and food cravings
- Trouble falling asleep (insomnia)
- Social withdrawal
- No interest in relationships or daily activities
- Decreased alertness, inability to concentrate
For mild symptoms one may not need any medication; however, if the symptoms are severe and causing too much pain or discomfort the doctor may prescribe some drugs like antidepressants to alleviate the symptoms such as mood swings, fatigue, food cravings, and sleep problems. Likewise non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can ease the menstrual cramping and breast swelling or discomfort. In case of chronic PMS and bloating, or swelling in different parts of the body, some diuretics can help shed extra water from the kidneys.
Some dietary changes like avoiding salty foods, caffeine, and alcohol, eating fresh fruits and vegetables, having small but frequent meals, increasing calcium intake, and taking multivitamin supplements can help in curb the symptoms. Also, incorporating exercise in your daily routine like walking, cycling, swimming, etc., getting plenty of sleep, and practicing some progressive muscle relaxation or deep-breathing exercises to reduce stress can also help.
Hence, by making some healthy changes in your lifestyle, you can surely combat these premenstrual symptoms and lead a regular life. However, in case of severe symptoms, before taking any medications, do consult your doctor to avoid unexpected complications.
Disclaimer: This HerHaleness article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.