Before your period arrives, you may feel like your emotions are all over the place. You go from feeling sad, to happy, to angry or confused in a matter of minutes! Most of you might have been asked by your partner or family member that “Is it that the time of your month again?”

Premenstrual syndrome or PMS often takes the blame when women show more aggressive and emotional behaviors. The facts about PMS are a lot more complicated and are always surrounded by myths, misconceptions, and scientific arguments.

First, let us understand what is PMS, really?

Premenstrual syndrome or PMS refers to an array of physical, mental and emotional changes that occur on days preceding your periods. Most women will experience these symptoms a week before their periods and it will usually disappear within 1-2 days after their period starts. Even though, the exact cause of PMS is not clear, many researchers believe that the changes in hormones (progesterone and estrogen) during menstrual cycle and fluctuations of serotonin levels, a neurotransmitter in the brain, can contribute to PMS.

According to research, about one in four women have PMS symptoms at some point in their lifetime; it is not the same for everyone. For most women, the symptoms are mild. Sometimes, the symptoms can become intense and affect them physically, emotionally, and psychologically.

PMS may happen more often in women who:

  • Have reached their late 20s and early 40s
  • Are approaching menopause
  • Have high levels of stress
  • Have a family history of mood disorders or depression
  • Have a personal history of postpartum depression

How do you know if you have PMS?

If you have experienced any mood swings or other symptoms around your periods, there is nothing to worry. According to the journal American Family Physician, nearly 80 percent of women experience one or more symptoms of premenstrual syndrome that does not substantially affect daily functioning.

There are no specific tests such as a blood test or imaging tests to diagnose PMS. It is usually self-diagnosable. The diagnosis is based on specific signs and symptoms.

The list of major signs and symptoms for premenstrual syndrome includes:

  1. Physical symptoms
    • Tender breasts
    • Constipation or diarrhea
    • Abdominal bloating
    • Cramping
    • Headache or backache
    • Clumsiness
    • Lower tolerance for noise or light
    • Weight gain due to fluid retention
  2. Emotional or mental symptoms
    • Irritability or hostile behavior
    • Feeling tired
    • Sleep problems
    • Appetite changes
    • Poor concentration
    • Tension or anxiety
    • Depression, feelings of sadness
    • Social withdrawal
    • Mood swings
    • Change in libido (sexual desire)

You probably have PMS if you have symptoms that:

  • Are present five days before the period starts for at least three menstrual cycles in a row
  • End within four days after the period starts
  • Keep you from enjoying or doing some of your normal activities

Since there are so many possible symptoms of PMS, it is advisable to keep a track of which PMS symptoms you experience. You should also make a note whether the symptoms are mild, moderate, or severe for a few months. You can either write down the symptoms each day on a calendar or you can use any symptom tracker application on your phone. The approach of keeping a record of your premenstrual symptoms will be helpful in assessing your own condition and will also help your healthcare provider figure out the best treatment choices for you.

You can also undergo any authorized online PMS screening tests to assess the degree to which you experience PMS symptoms.

It is important to consult a doctor for detailed diagnosis and proper treatment options.

When to see your doctor?

Consult your gynecologist if you experience physical pain, mood swings, and other symptoms which may get worse before your periods. To make a clinical diagnosis of PMS, your healthcare provider will grade the severity of your symptoms. The treatment plan is designed depending on the severity of your symptoms.

If you experience any signs and symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, you should know that you are not alone. According to studies, a girl whose periods begin around age of 12 or 13 can have an average of 450 periods during their lifetime. This means that some of these women may also suffer from PMS that many times.

So, speak up and seek solutions that will help you feel better.

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