Whether or not you’re familiar with premenstrual syndrome, it’s likely that you have experienced it in one way or another. In fact, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists report that at least 85% of women have at least one PMS symptom as part of their monthly cycle. For the 15% that don’t, well, consider yourself lucky - it’s not fun. For the rest of us, knowledge is power! Understanding what PMS is, what causes it, what the symptoms are, and how you can deal with it (without losing your mind) is so important. The more you know, the better in control of your reproductive health you can be.
So, what is PMS?
Usually occurring 1 to 2 weeks before your period, PMS (short for premenstrual syndrome) is a group of symptoms linked to the fluctuating hormones of your menstrual cycle. The symptoms usually go away once you start bleeding. Every person experiences PMS differently, though, like I mentioned above, most women do have some kind of PMS symptom each month. From the time you reach your menarche (first period) to the time you reach menopause (when your period ends), PMS is a real - and often frustrating - possibility.
Possible PMS symptoms
That brings us to what symptoms are classified as PMS. For starters, menstrual cramps. But that’s not the only one. Headaches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, mood swings, food cravings, insomnia, and fatigue are also side effects of your hormone levels riding the menstrual cycle rollercoaster.
Learn to recognize your PMS symptoms
Since every person has a different experience on their menstrual cycle and with premenstrual syndrome, yours is likely to differ from your moms, your sisters, and your best friends. Of course, it’s not fun to experience any of the symptoms but knowing what yours are and when they strike can help you nip them in the bud. Use a period tracker like Clue to manage your flow and start getting familiar with which days present the most symptoms, what they are, and how bad they are. This is also helpful should you ever need to see a doctor about your period - you’ll be able to show them a log of how you felt and that can assist them in giving you good advice on how to manage any issues.
Practice preventative self-care
One of the main benefits of getting familiar with what your body does when your estrogen levels rise and fall is that you’ll be able to stop - or at least manage - them before they get bad. For instance, if you start to realize that 3 days before your period you get weepy and have an insatiable craving for fruit snacks, you’ll know what to blame your tears on if your partner looks at you funny and you start to cry. You’ll also know to stock up on strawberry fruit snacks (because they’re obviously the best flavor ever) so that you don’t get all hangry on your friends. Knowing what to expect and when to expect it can help you manage your symptoms like a boss.
Go easy on yourself
Perhaps the most important thing to remember during these trying times is to be gentle with yourself. Don’t beat yourself up over missing a workout or eating a bit of junk food. Let yourself cry when you need to and rest when that’s what calls to you. Negative self-talk will do nothing but make you feel worse. Plus, you deserve better than that.