As many as three in four women experiences PMS. PMS, or premenstrual syndrome, is well known to people who have periods, and not always for good reason. The range of physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms that can accompany PMS can be far from fun. There is a wide range of symptoms that are normal, and these symptoms include:
Emotional and behavioral symptoms and changes: Depression or sadness; anxiety or worry; irritability, anger, mood swings, or crying spells; difficulty concentrating and confusion; insomnia or trouble falling asleep; social withdrawal; changes in libido
Physical symptoms and changes: Breast tenderness; bloating, water retention, swelling of hands and feet, or weight gain; joint and muscle pain or aches; skin problems like acne breakouts; headaches; fatigue; appetite changes, increased thirst, and food cravings; gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea or constipation
If you’re someone who experiences symptoms like these in the few days leading up to your period, you’re not alone. Because PMS is so common, many people assume that if they’re in discomfort, well, it’s just normal - but you certainly shouldn’t suffer. So how can you know if what you’re experiencing is normal or if it’s something you should speak to a healthcare provider about?
If your PMS is really affecting your life in negative ways, you should speak with your healthcare provider. Even if what you’re experiencing is normal, they can work with you to try to find ways to treat your symptoms so that you can feel as good as possible. Again, you shouldn’t suffer, and there are a lot of things that you can do to feel better, from lifestyle or diet changes to medication.
It’s important to speak with a healthcare provider about PMS symptoms because sometimes there are other conditions that can seem like PMS, overlap with PMS, or be worsened by PMS, but that are really something else. Conditions that can seem like PMS include depression, anxiety, thyroid disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, or perimenopause. The symptoms of depression and anxiety in particular are very similar to the emotional and behavioral symptoms associated with PMS. Depression and anxiety often overlap with PMS - about half of women who seek treatment for PMS have depression or anxiety, and while people who have these conditions have symptoms throughout their cycle, symptoms can sometimes become more severe in the time leading up to a period. Other conditions can also become worse in the time leading up to a period, including migraines, seizure disorders, asthma, and allergies. And PMS symptoms that are especially serious could be evidence of PMDD, or premenstrual dysphoric disorder, a severe type of PMS.
Your healthcare provider can work with you to figure out exactly what’s going on. Whether you’re experiencing normal PMS symptoms and need relief, or have something else going in, your provider can help give you guidance. At the end of the day, no matter what’s going on - even if your symptoms are totally normal - you shouldn’t have to suffer.
Mayo Clinic Staff. “Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS).” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, April 5 2018. Retrieved February 25 2019. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/premenstrual-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20376780.
“Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS).” Office on Women’s Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved February 25 2019. https://www.womenshealth.gov/menstrual-cycle/premenstrual-syndrome.
“Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS).” The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, May 2015. Retrieved February 25 2019. https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Premenstrual-Syndrome-PMS.