PMS stands for Premenstrual Syndrome. It’s when the hormones that control your menstrual cycle cause changes in your body and emotions around the time of your period.
Some people get PMS every time they have their periods. Others only get PMS every once in awhile. You may have all or just some PMS symptoms. And some people don’t get PMS at all. There are two main kinds of PMS symptoms: the ones that affect you physically and the ones that affect you emotionally.
Physical symptoms of PMS include:
- Craving certain foods or being more hungry than usual
- Tender, swollen, or sore breasts
- Feeling bloated (puffy or full in your stomach)
- Gaining a little weight
- Swelling in your hands or feet
- Aches and pains in your joints or muscles
- Feeling more tired than usual or needing more naps
- Skin problems, like pimples
- Upset stomach
- Cramps or pain in your belly
Emotional symptoms of PMS include:
- Feeling sad, depressed, tense, or anxious
- Mood swings
- Feeling more irritable or angry than normal
- Crying suddenly
- Not feeling very social or wanting to be around people
- Having trouble concentrating
- Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
In order for a doctor to officially diagnose you with PMS, you need to have PMS symptoms for at least 3 months in a row. They must start in the 5 days before your period and interfere with some of your normal activities, like school, work, or exercise. If you think you may have PMS, keep a record of your period and symptoms each day for at least 2-3 months.
Other conditions, like perimenopause and thyroid disease can act like PMS, so visiting a doctor is the only way to know for sure what’s going on.
Some people have really severe PMS that’s called Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD). PMDD symptoms can be really scary and may include feeling out of control, depressed, having panic attacks, or even feeling suicidal. If you think you’re experiencing symptoms of PMDD, see a doctor as soon as possible.
Menstrual cramps are one of the most common symptoms to have before/during your period. They can be very painful, or just a little uncomfortable. The cause is, during your period, your uterus contracts – meaning it squeezes or cramps up. This makes the lining come off the walls of your uterus and leave your body. When your uterus cramps up, it’s helping the period blood flow out of your vagina.
Most people get cramps during their periods at some point in their lives. They usually feel like throbbing pains in your lower belly. They can start a couple of days before your period comes, and sometimes continue throughout your period. Cramps are usually worse during the first few days of your period, when your flow is the heaviest.
You can get cramps as soon as you get your first period. Your periods may get more or less painful throughout your life. For many people, cramps become less painful as they grow older.
You can calm cramps by taking pain medicine (like ibuprofen). Putting a heating pad where it hurts, taking a hot bath, exercising, resting or stretching your body can also help.
Sometimes people have period cramps that are so painful it’s hard to do everyday things (like go to school or work). If your period pain is really bad, and over-the-counter medicine doesn’t help, talk with your doctor. They can help with other ways to manage the pain, or they may want to check to see if there’s something more serious going on.
Cramps that are really bad may be a sign of:
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease – an infection in your reproductive organs.
- Endometriosis – a condition where the lining of your uterus grows outside of your uterus.
- Adenomyosis – when the tissue that lines your uterus grows into the muscle wall of your uterus.
- Uterine fibroids – non-cancerous tumors that grow inside your uterus, in the walls of your uterus, or on the outside of your uterus.
Cramps caused by these conditions may start when you’re older. And they might get worse as time passes. They can also last longer than other cramps or last longer than the last day of your period.