Premenstrual Syndrome

Most women will sometimes have abdominal pain or a headache, be tense, sad and irritable or feel bloated and uncomfortable in the days leading up to their period. The medical term for this phenomenon is ‘premenstrual syndrome’ (PMS), also known as ‘premenstrual tension’ (PMT). Some women have such severe PMS that they are ‘unable to do everyday activities during that time. Some also have a hard time because of the prejudice that exists about women and hormones: as though they are at the mercy of their hormones and therefore irrational and unpredictable at times. For most women, the symptoms are not severe, and they take these swings around a period more or less in their stride.

But whether they have serious difficulties before a period, or are only bothered a little by it, many women would like to know what could be done to handle it better. In this fact sheet we look at PMS, how to cope and what could be done to relieve the symptoms.

What is premenstrual syndrome and how is it diagnosed?

Premenstrual syndrome is a set of physical and psychological symptoms that arise about a week to ten days before a woman gets her monthly period (menstruation). For example, many women have breast tenderness and headaches, as well as pain in their lower belly and back. Others have fluid retention, sleep problems or indigestion. They often feel tired, depressed or irritable in the days leading up to their period. Some feel insecure, sad, and anxious, cry easily, find it hard to concentrate and have the feeling that they are no longer in control of their own body and emotions.

PMS symptoms usually go away again when a woman’s period starts. But they might carry on for the first few days of her period. If the problem really is PMS, though, it will go away – and then it will come back with the next cycle. It will not necessarily be the same throughout the years: PMS can come and go.

Some women report that they experience positive changes in the days leading up to their period, like having more energy and finding it easier to get things done. About 15 out of 20 girls and women who menstruate have PMS symptoms to some extent every now and again. But up to 1 out of 20 women regularly have such severe PMS that it can affect their everyday lives. If a woman’s PMS is severe and clearly affects her mental health – causing, for example, depression, anxiety, tension and despair – some experts refer to it as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).

The type and severity of premenstrual symptoms vary from woman to woman. Because PMS symptoms are so different in each woman, it is difficult to say how they will develop over time. One thing is sure though: they will go away after the menopause at the latest.

Most women who have PMS cope well with it in everyday life. Premenstrual syndrome is not easy to diagnose because the symptoms vary so much from woman to woman. The same symptoms can also have other causes. To be sure that it is PMS, the doctor will first ask exactly what symptoms you have and when you have them. She or he may ask you to keep a diary over two to three months, in which you would make notes about your menstrual cycle and symptoms. This helps to find out whether the symptoms have other causes like other abdominal problems or depression.

What causes PMS?

It is not clear what causes PMS. It is probably various biological and psychosocial factors, which play a role. From a medical point of view it is associated with variations in hormone levels during the menstrual cycle, but women who have PMS do not necessarily have changes in their hormone levels. One possible explanation is that some women’s bodies overreact to the by-products made when the hormone progesterone is broken down. This hormone is mainly released in the second half of the menstrual cycle, before the woman’s period starts. You can read more about the menstrual cycle in our information ‘ How does the menstrual cycle work?’

Whether or not a woman has PMS and how severe it is could also depend on other factors, such as psychosocial stress, cultural influences, her relationship with her own body and sexuality, food, or other medical conditions.

How can I relieve my PMS symptoms?

Many women who have PMS try to take it easy around that time of the month, and balance out everyday stress with relaxing activities. You are the best judge of what will help you relax: you may find that it helps to have a few quiet evenings at home curled up on a sofa with a book or watching TV, or perhaps a warm bath, chatting with friends or going on a walk will do you good. Some women appreciate having this ‘time out’, using it as an opportunity to slow down and retreat from the pressures of everyday life.

There is a lot of advice out there about what changes you can make in order to relieve PMS or even make it go away completely. For example:

  • regularly getting enough sleep,
  • movement and exercise,
  • relaxation techniques and meditation,
  • not smoking,
  • cutting down on alcohol and caffeine,
  • a high-carbohydrate and/or low-salt diet.

Most of these strategies have not been scientifically proven to work. Some researchers have started to test exercise and relaxation in PMS. That does not mean that all this does not help – there simply has not been enough good-quality research in this area so far. You can find out if any of these strategies work for you by trying them out yourself. You could keep track of what happens over several menstrual cycles in your calendar or diary to see whether it affects your PMS symptoms.

Some women find it helps to talk to their partner about their PMS so that he or she can be more understanding, considerate and supportive about it. But others say that they sometimes find it hard to talk to their partner about premenstrual symptoms. Some are afraid to say that they have PMS in case people do not take them seriously when they are irritable or angry, putting it down to PMS instead of addressing problems. The effects the symptoms have on relationships – both at work and personal – as well as on women’s sexual lives can be the most difficult aspect of PMS. This possible impact has not been very well studied, however, although this was addressed in some research on psychological approaches to the problem, where improvement in symptoms appeared to also improve a couple’s sexual life.

How Sinol works on PMS Headaches

Sinol nasal spray is a fast acting, all natural and gentle remedy that relaxes the muscles and blood vessels. Sinol can relieve the pain when it first begins and is extremely effective, working faster than a pill or a liquid and can relieve the pain in minutes.

Reference: U.S. National Library of Medicine