What is premenstrual syndrome (PMS)?

Most women experience PMS before they begin menstruating every month, which includes both physical and mental symptoms.

What is a menstrual cycle?

Girls get their first period usually between the ages of 10 and 15 years old. Menstrual cycles last approximately 28-days, but when girls first start menstruating, they often experience irregular periods. This is common, but it’s still a good idea to talk to your family doctor about it. 

Throughout the menstrual cycle, the hormones in women’s bodies are constantly changing. These hormones cause the lining of the uterus (or womb) to build up. The lining is built up so that a fertilized egg can attach to the womb and start growing inside. When there’s no fertilized egg that attaches to the uterus, then the lining breaks down and causes women to bleed. 

This cycle occurs every month and can cause women to experience different types of physical, mental, and emotional symptoms. 

What is PMS?

PMS affects most women and they can experience symptoms as early as two weeks before the first day of their period. Symptoms usually finish a few days after menstruation starts. 

Physical symptoms of PMS include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Sore breasts
  • Acne
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloating
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue

Emotional and mental symptoms of PMS include:

  • Irritability and anger
  • Mood swings
  • Sadness
  • Emotional outbursts

In very rare cases for under 5% of women, these symptoms can be much more severe and lead to thoughts of suicide. If your symptoms become unmanageable, see a healthcare professional and get support immediately. 

How can I cope with PMS?

There are many ways you can lessen the symptoms of PMS, both when it’s occurring and through lifestyle changes. 

If you’re experiencing PMS, drink lots of fluids, get lots of rest, and consider taking pain-relieving medication like ibuprofen or aspirin. 

You may also want to consider building better habits that have proven to ease PMS like:

  • Having a balanced diets with plenty of fruits and vegetables, and cutting out sugar, salt, caffeine and alcohol
  • Taking supplements (talk to your doctor about which ones specifically help with PMS)
  • Exercising to decrease bloating and improve your mental health
  • Sleeping at least 8 hours every night
  • Trying individual or group counselling, specifically cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
  • Incorporating self-care in your day-to-day and and try to reduce stress from your life as much as possible 

Remember, hormonal changes are a normal part of growing up! There are lots of resources online for you to learn more about these changes, but be careful - there’s also a lot of misinformation on the internet. If you have any questions or concerns, you should speak to a trusted adult, like a parent, a teacher, a counsellor, or your doctor.