Feeling irritated and bloated? Is that how you realise, every month, that it’s time for Aunt Flo’s visit? It is neither uncommon nor a psychological issue. It is called PMS, i.e. Pre-Menstrual Syndrome, and it is as real as the hormones in a woman’s body, which go crazy before menstruation, causing these symptoms. Every woman has a hard time dealing with PMS. So, here’s a quick lesson on PMS and a look at how you can manage the symptoms of PMS.

What is PMS?

During the week between the end of ovulation and the start of menstruation, women face a number of symptoms. This is known as PMS. While the exact cause of PMS is not known, experts believe that the shift in the levels of oestrogen and progesterone during ovulation and after its end is the reason behind PMS.

In addition, the changes in the oestrogen and progesterone levels also affect the levels of serotonin, which is responsible for regulating our mood, appetite, and sleep. As a result, you feel emotional and irritated without any particular reason, and also experience troubled sleep and food cravings.

Symptoms of PMS include:

Bloating
Irrational mood swings and crying spells
Unusual food cravings
Acne
Troubled sleep
Headache
Tiredness
Poor concentration
Breast tenderness or swelling
Body pain
Light or sound sensitivity
Low libido
Cramps

These symptoms can be even worse in case of two related conditions, i.e., Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) and Premenstrual exacerbation. 3 out of every 4 women suffer from common PMS. About 3-8% of women suffer from PMDD, and experience PMS symptoms so severely that it interferes with their daily life and even make feel them suicidal. For women with premenstrual exacerbation, the symptoms of pre-existing psychological conditions like depression or anxiety become more severe during menstruation.

How to Deal with PMS Symptoms?

While it may not be possible to eliminate the chances of PMS completely, it is possible to control them. Here’s how you can do that:

a) Track Your PMS Symptoms - There are many apps to track your periods and the PMS symptoms. Knowing that your body and mind are acting strangely because of a reason may help put things into perspective. Plus, you will be mentally prepared for them.

b) Medication - SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, are common types of anti-depressants that can help with pre-menstrual mood swings. These include sertraline (Zoloft), citalopram (Celexa), paroxetine (Paxil), and fluoxetine (Prozac and Sarafem). Other anti-depressants that can help are duloxetine (Cymbalta) and venlafaxine (Effexor). But, it is recommended that you consult a doctor to discuss the dosage.

c) Birth Control pills - Birth control pills regulate the cycles and help with some of the physical symptoms, especially bloating, cramps, etc. As for mood swings, pills have different effects. While some find help, others see their symptoms getting worse. So, you may have to try different ones to see which works for you.

d) Lifestyle Change - An overall change in lifestyle can help manage the symptoms, slowly but effectively. Regular exercise boosts serotonin levels to keep you happier and induce sleep, which in turn can leave you feeling well-rested and less stressed. Try making changes to your diet by cutting down on carbs, especially sugar, which can lead to mood swings. Try including more nutrients through fruits and veggies.

e) Medical Help - If you notice that the symptoms are going out of control, then it is a good idea to seek medical help. While a gynaecologist can address the root cause and help manage physical symptoms, you can also take the help of a therapist if you are unable to handle the psychological symptoms.

While many may dismiss PMS symptoms as nothing but imagination or general weakness, don’t let such comments get to you. The more you ignore them, the worse they can get. Believe in your own problems, and start making changes, today!