Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) 

Introduction 

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)

Lucy used to have PMS. She describes how the condition affected her physically and psychologically, and what it took to get diagnosed. An expert describes the different symptoms, causes and treatment options for PMS. Note: the phone number for the National Association for Premenstrual Syndrome (NAPS) has changed since this video was made. It is now 0844 8157311.

Media last reviewed: 23/04/2014

Next review due: 23/04/2016

Menstrual cycle

Find out about the menstrual cycle, periods, what's normal, PMS and fertility

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is the name given to the physical, psychological and behavioural symptoms that can occur in the two weeks before a woman's monthly period. It is also known as premenstrual tension (PMT).

There are many different symptoms of PMS, but typical examples are bloating, breast pain, mood swings, feeling irritable and loss of interest in sex.

These symptoms usually improve when your period starts and disappear a few days afterwards.

Nearly all women of childbearing age have some premenstrual symptoms, but women in their late 20s to their early 40s are most likely to experience PMS.

Around 1 in every 20 women have symptoms that are severe enough to stop them living their normal lives. This is often the result of a more intense type of PMS known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).

Read more about the symptoms of PMS.

When to see your GP

You should see your GP if you are finding it difficult to deal with the symptoms of PMS. They can help determine if you have PMDD and may be able to offer you advice and treatment to manage the symptoms you're experiencing.

Why it happens

The exact cause of PMS is not fully understood. However, it is thought to be linked to the changing levels of hormones in the body during a woman's menstrual cycle.

The fact that PMS improves during pregnancy and after the menopause, when hormone levels are stable, supports this theory.

Certain lifestyle factors, such as lack of exercise, stress and a poor diet, are also thought to aggravate the symptoms of PMS.

Read more about the causes of PMS.

Managing PMS symptoms

There is no cure for PMS, but if your symptoms are not severe, certain lifestyle changes can help you manage them. These include:

Psychological therapy or hormone medications may be recommended in more severe cases.

Read more about treating PMS.

Page last reviewed: 02/12/2013

Next review due: 02/12/2015

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Comments

The 6 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Happy Month said on 31 December 2013

I used to suffer with bad PMS for a number of years, until one day when I decided that I had had enough of this syndrome ruining my life.... So I started to read and research techniques that could help reduce my symptoms such as mindfulness, meditation, lifestyle changes and I can now say that my symptoms have reduced by 95%.... and in 2014 I am confident that I can reduce my symptoms by 100% with no medication required.

I have started a blog to share my knowledge: http://happymonth.wordpress.com/

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mrsrainbow said on 30 January 2013

I have suffered terribly with this condition for around 20 years now and was diagnosed around 10 years ago. I have tried the initial approach of lifestyle changes, ssri's, B6 but they are no longer affective and although I have seen my GP recently to request a referral to a gynecologist I was turned down. I feel unbelievably let down by this as I struggle massively each and every month with this condition sometimes feeling suicidal. I need help to control this disorder not to be made to feel like it's all in my head. Please take women with pmdd seriously and explore every avenue of treatment available to her! This disorder is difficult enough to live with!!

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mrsrainbow said on 30 January 2013

I have had pmdd for around 20 years now although only diagnosed around 10 years ago. I have tried the first line approach of lifestyle changes, B6 & ssri's which no longer work. I am doing everything within my power to help myself but I feel I need further help and treatment for this disorder as it is severely affecting mine and my families life. I contacted my GP last week for a referral to a gynecologist and instead was offered an ultrasound and some more B6. I really feel I need to be seen by someone who understands and has knowledge of this disorder and who can help me further as I don't feel I am getting the treatment I so desperately need. Please don't make us women feel like pmdd is all in our heads as it is so very real and already very difficult enough to cope with. Please listen to these women and explore every avenue possible to help them!

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sharon1971 said on 10 August 2012

I've sat here reading through all this knowing for years i've suffered with this horrible condition. Its become worse over the last 4 months as i've had the Marina Coil removed, Although, i still suffered even then only not as bad. I remember going to the Dr's for help and them just sayng i was depressed and that is so frustrating. My problem now is that like i said i've had the coil removed as i'm trying for a baby butmy partner doesn't seem to understand what i'm going through even though i've tried explaining and seem to always be apologising as i'm so irritable and down a week before my period starts. I think me writing this i hope someone understand what i'm going through and i could maybe join some forum where people like myself get relief by being able to express ourselves as my partner just doesn't seem to understand. Please if anyone knows of any reputable sites where i can just let everything out without being judged, it would be a great help as i know i feel better when i can just get off my chest the way i'm feeling. Thanks

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ambersmum said on 23 April 2012

'PMS usually improves after the menopause'

I hope so or there are going to be a lot of disappointed (and still premenstrual) women out there! Hell we're all just hanging on for the menopause for exactly that reason!

I understand whet the writer is saying regards improvements in hormonal stability but really, couldn't it be better phased/explained?

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Whitelighted said on 29 December 2011

I don't know that the link to the PMS Association should be there. They have a tonne of sponsored links from people like Wellness, the vitamin company, and lo! Physical symptoms treatment mentions nothing but stuff like evening primrose oil with everything caveated that there's no proof it works.

I've found a solution to my problems but if I were newly diagnosed and followed that link I'd be feeling a bit miserable right now.

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