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Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)

Girl with stomach cramps.

In the days leading up to your period, do you have bloating, moodiness, or some other feelings that you’d rather avoid? If so, you are not alone. Many women have uncomfortable feelings starting a week or two before their period that usually stop when their period starts. These feelings can be mild or severe.

Symptoms of PMS are often a normal part of having your period. Doctors generally consider such feelings PMS if they happen month after month and they interfere with some part of your life.

Keep reading to learn more about PMS. You can read about:

PMS symptoms arrow. top

You may have some emotional and physical symptoms from PMS. See the chart below for some examples.

Emotional changesPhysical changes
  • Crying spells
  • Depression
  • Feeling tense or anxious
  • Feeling crabby
  • Angry outbursts
  • Having mood swings
  • Trouble focusing
  • Wanting to be alone more
  • Constipation and other digestive symptoms
  • Hunger and food cravings
  • Being tired
  • Headaches
  • Aches and pains
  • Breast tenderness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Swollen hands or feet
  • Bloating or weight gain

What causes PMS? arrow. top

No one knows for sure what causes PMS, but it seems to be linked to the changes in hormone levels that happen during your menstrual cycle. PMS is not caused by anxiety or depression. They can make your PMS symptoms worse, though, and your PMS can make these conditions worse, too.

Steps to help with PMS arrow. top

There are many steps you can take to help you feel better. You may need to try different things to figure out what works for you. Your doctor can offer some suggestions.

Consider these tips for dealing with PMS:

  • Eat a healthy diet, including foods high in calcium (such as low-fat dairy products), fruits, vegetables, and complex carbohydrates (found in whole grain breads, pasta, and cereals).
  • Stay away from salt the few days before your period to help with bloating.
  • Drink less caffeine (found in soda, tea, and coffee) to feel less crabby and help ease breast soreness.
  • Eat small, frequent meals rather than fewer, big ones.
  • Make sure you are getting enough physical activity every day (and not just during your period).
  • Make sure to get enough sleep. Try to go to bed and get up the same time each day.

You may have heard that vitamins and other pills such as vitamin B6, vitamin E, magnesium, and calcium can help relieve PMS. It’s important that you talk to your doctor before trying any supplements or herbal treatments.

Medications for PMS arrow. top

If you are having symptoms of PMS, let your doctor know. There is no cure for PMS, but your doctor can help with the symptoms. In addition to changes in your diet and exercise, he or she may suggest medicines.

Many medicines for menstrual cramps are over-the-counter, so you can buy them without a doctor’s prescription (order). These include pain relievers that have ibuprofen (say: eye-byoo-PROH-fen) and naproxen (say: nuh-PROK-sen). You should talk to your parents/guardians and doctor before taking these. For some medicines, you will need a doctor’s prescription.

Your doctor may suggest diuretics (say: deye-yoo-RET-ihks), which help your body get rid of extra fluid. This can help with symptoms like bloating and breast soreness.

Sometimes, a doctor will suggest birth control pills to help with hormones that can affect PMS.

If you’re having strong emotional symptoms, a doctor may also suggest medicines that treat anxiety or depression, such as antidepressants. It can help to talk about your emotions and get support from your family and friends.


Content last reviewed April 15, 2014
Page last updated June 13, 2014