Most women feel a considerable amount of discomfort that may take place for a day or two before menstruation or may continue over the entire two-week period after ovulation.
Temperate physical or emotional pain during this time, every now and then called premenstrual tension, is very common. But 20 to 40% of women experience symptoms that are serious enough to agitate normal activities. This is usually called premenstrual syndrome, or PMS.
A particular cause for PMS has not been discovered, but the side-effects are all too common for many women. Physical symptoms can involve bloating, tenderness of the breast, back pain, tiredness, and dizziness. More affecting are the emotional symptoms: irritability, anxiety, depression, lack of concentration, difficulty sleeping, difficulty making decisions, and weird food cravings. These PMS symptoms can happen in different combinations and levels of severity. The most compelling element of PMS is usually the inconsistency and intensity of a negative mental state, which can send loved ones running for cover. Between 3 and 5% of women have premenstrual storms bad enough to cause serious brawls at home, school, or work, a condition entitled in recent years as premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD.
What is PMDD?
PMDD is a condition where a woman has pronounced emotional and physical problems that are closely linked to her menstrual cycles. Be careful not to mistake PMDD for PMS. While PMDD can bring some of the same symptoms as PMS, it’s more severe. PMDD is caused by the physical imbalance of hormones in the body. Symptoms can range from depression, anxiety, sever mood swings, irritability, and muscle tensions. With PMDD, the symptoms often start several days before your period and last several days after it ends. With PMDD, the intensity of these symptoms is very disruptive to the women’s life.
There are ways of diagnosing PMDD, so talk to your doctor about being evaluated and tested. If you are diagnosed with PMDD, your treatment will likely involve several components: 1. Medications, 2. Behavioral analysis and counseling to help you develop new coping skills, 3. A plan for specific nutritional changes to help you bring your body’s hormones into balance.
It is estimated that up to 1 in 25 menstruated women may be affected by PMDD. If you are struggling with these symptoms, month after month, reach out to your doctor. There may be a lot of helpful information and relief at the end of that phone call.
Treatments for PMS and PMDD
A few years ago, PMS was thought out to be for the most part a psychological event, to reproductive issues or life in general. This no longer holds true. PMS and PMDD should be taken as seriously as any other physical issues. While there are no quick fixes or cures for PMS or PMDD, a number of areas can help you minimize their force.
Make sure your emotional and physical symptoms are in fact PMS or PMDD- Other life affairs or even depression may be at the root of the problem. If there are any inquiries, symptoms can be documented on a calendar, along with menstrual periods, for a couple of months. You should witness a change for at least a week following menses. If symptoms continue on throughout and after the period cycle, then that involves something other than PMS or PMDD, including depression. Keep in mind that PMS or PMDD may be overlapping on a continuous depression, and symptoms take a turn for the worse—sometimes suicidal thoughts—during the week or two before the onset of menses. Anyone who have suicidal thoughts—even if it is just during certain times of the month—should be checked out by a doctor and treated right away.
Keep the lines of communication open with your loved ones, and plan in advance- Those who have normal menstrual cycles are usually able to figure out when the more bothersome days are approaching. This may give others at home a little “heads up” that a storm is brewing and hopefully they will behave accordingly with an extra measure of TLC—or at least a slack. This is important especially if multiple people at home have problems with PMS or PMDD, since the encounter of two unstable moods can be quite bad. Of course, if you are crabby because of the time of the month and a change for the better is hopeful in the near future, you would be smart to defer any communications about emotionally charged issues for a couple of days, if at all possible. It is crucial to recognize the reality of PMS and PMDD and its symptoms without granting them to become a blanket of excuse for any and all forms of unreasonable behaviors.
Ensure sensible eating and exercise- Small, frequent meals and avoiding sugary foods may help keep blood glucose and mood fixed. Refraining from salt can decrease fluid retention. Caffeine may boost irritability, so decaffeinated drinks (and medications) are more suitable. All-around physical conditioning throughout the whole month can bring relief and help you drive more smoothly to the end of a cycle.
Additionally, a wide range of remedies, nutritional supplements, and medications have been suggested at one time or another for problems associated with PMS or PMDD. Some have a more constant track record than others, and you should think about getting advice from your doctor before trying any of these remedies. Eventually, the bottom line for any PMS or PMDD treatment is an honest evaluation of the effectiveness, safety, and side effects for the person taking it. Here are a few other treatments to consider.
- Over the counter medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen may be of some help in reducing discomfort.
- 1,200 of calcium and 200 mg of magnesium per day have both been shown to decrease symptoms of PMS and PMDD by 40 to 50%. Improvements may not be seen, however, until two or three menstrual cycles have passed while taking these supplements.
- Supplementing with 400 IU of vitamin E has displayed mixed results in research studies on PMS.
- Vitamin B6, which has long been supported as a remedy for PMS symptoms, had behaved poorly in controlled studies and maybe has limited usefulness somewhat. If you experience numbness or tingling of the extremities while taking vitamin B6, it should be discontinued.
- A few herbal preparations, most notably evening primrose oil, have been advocated for one or more symptoms of PMS and PMDD, but research studies inspecting such claims have produced mixed results. While the scientific jury is out, be mindful that the FDA does not approve herbal remedies for safety and effectiveness.