Guide to PMS

Guide to PMS

PMS – What is it and how to beat it?

It’s tough being a woman sometimes. Surging hormones, breast growth, pregnancy, birth and of course - periods. When it comes to the doing the major jobs, they definitely got handed out to the females of the species. As if bleeding once a month wasn’t bad enough, millions of women also suffer from PMS, otherwise known as Pre-Menstrual Syndrome, or the scourge of women of child-bearing age everywhere. Bleeding equals inconvenience, but PMS is a lot worse. The average period lasts for somewhere between five and seven days, but PMS can make our lives a misery for two weeks or more of the month. It often gets confused with PMT, Pre-Menstrual Tension, but that’s just a bit of hormone grumpiness in comparison. PMS is a real condition that has a medical diagnosis, it can affect women emotionally and physically as well as affecting their behaviour in the run-up to their period.

It’s a very common thing, up to 90% of women experience some or all of the symptoms, with between 20-35% of women suffering moderate to severe symptoms which significantly affect all or part of their lives. And this is where medical intervention begins to be considered. Period cramps and feeling a little a tearful is unfortunately normal for most women and there isn’t really anything a GP can do about it, apart from maybe suggesting more exercise and lots of sleep, but when the symptoms become worse and include severe physical pain, acne, emotional outbursts, headaches and fatigue, then there are steps that can be taken to alleviate them – thankfully! It’s worth mentioning that having sex is actually one of the best ways to help with cramps, but don’t forget that you’re still fertile, even if you’re on your period, so stock up with condoms as usual.

Looking at the main things that crop up with PMS, they include:

  • -Sore or painful breasts.
  • -Abdominal cramps or bloating.
  • -Acne.
  • -Food cravings.
  • -Constipation.
  • -Headaches.
  • -Fatigue.
  • -Irritability.
  • -Emotional outbursts.

But how do you know when it’s time to see your doctor? Where’s the tipping point between – ‘it’s unpleasant but OK’, and ‘it’s so bad I can’t function’? The tell-tale signs will be severe mood swings that are bad enough to affect your everyday home and working life, physical pain that leaves you unable to do what is necessary in your day to day life, whether that’s walking the dog and looking after the toddler, or stops you working, full stop. If you have these and any other symptoms then it might be time to get in touch with your GP. Either that, or you have symptoms that just don’t go away.

What can the Dr do?

First of all, they’ll ask you for the details of what you’re experiencing, so it might be a good idea to keep a diary of how you’re feeling. Then they’ll probably carry out a physical examination to rule out other causes for what’s happening. Then they might suggest blood tests if they think they’re necessary. It’s all straightforward stuff, there’s nothing invasive at this stage. All you have to do to get help is turn up for your appointment (or answer the phone for your consultation in this pandemic era) and be honest about how bad you’re feeling and what toll it’s taking on you.

For a clinical diagnosis of PMS to be made, you’ll need to have more than one recurrent symptom in the right time frame that is severe enough to cause specific symptoms (the ones already mentioned above) that interfere with your day to day life, and – crucially – that aren’t there at other times of the month. There are other conditions that might be looked for to rule out, such as:

  • -Endometriosis.
  • -Anaemia.
  • -Irritable bowel syndrome.
  • -Chronic fatigue syndrome.
  • -Thyroid disease.

Again, this is where a record of how you feel on what days will be very helpful to your GP and any specialist that you might be referred to.

PMS is a condition that can’t be cured, but it is very treatable and with the right treatment you should be back to managing to function in the run-up and during your period each month.

Suggestions for easing your PMS symptoms are:

  • -To have a look at your overall health and energy levels; making sure that you’re eating a healthy, balanced diet and taking in lots of fluids to combat the abdominal bloating.
  • -Some supplements can help relieve you, vitamin B-6, magnesium and calcium.
  • -Vitamin D in particular relieves symptoms. This is something that you can get naturally from sunshine in the right quantity, but sadly in the UK the chances of that are somewhat lower than elsewhere on the globe!
  • -Aim for at least eight hours sleep to allow your body to rest and recover.
  • -Make sure that you’re taking regular exercise, this will give a boost to your mental health, as well as easing bloating.
  • -Keep up with any hobbies, anything that relaxes you. Exercise might be this, running, horse-riding, swimming. Or maybe something more sedentary, like reading.

If you don’t feel that your symptoms are bad enough for a trip to the doctor, then it’s a good idea to take regular painkillers like ibuprofen or aspirin because these will relieve muscles aches, cramps and headaches. And if bloating is a problem than taking a diuretic might help. Even if you don’t have a clinical diagnosis of PMS, you really don’t have to suffer in silence.

Stuart Brown

Stuart Brown

I'm Stuart, senior Editor at British Condoms. I am an expert in all areas of sexual health and have a passion to drive knowledge to youth in the UK. Any questions for me or media enquiries, please feel free to tweet me @britishcondoms. Always open to engagement.

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