Better understanding premenstrual syndrome (PMS)

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) has many women... and men, talking. So, let's talk about it, in order to clear the air on the subject.

Premenstrual syndrome : myth or reality?

Premenstrual syndrome, often referred to by its abbreviation "PMS", sometimes gets negative press. The popular expression "being in PMS" is often not complimentary. It usually refers to a woman who is perceived to be irritable, emotionally fragile or has mood swing, for example. While some people endure the inconveniences on a cyclical basis, others doubt its very existence.

Yet, PMS is not a myth. It is important to note that it is not an illness per se, but rather a set of symptoms that manifest themselves at a certain time during the menstrual cycle in predisposed women. More precisely, it is during the luteal phase (between ovulation and the start of menstruation) that women experience its inconveniences. This is why we say that PMS predicts the imminent onset of menstruation.

The more severe form of PMS is described by the term "premenstrual dysphoric disorder".

How does PMS manifest itself?

Each woman is unique and may feel a variety of PMS-related symptoms, such as the following:

  • fatigue
  • decreased energy
  • sadness and tears
  • mood swings and angry outbursts
  • excessive anxiety or worrying
  • feeling of discouragement
  • irritability or aggressiveness
  • concentration problems
  • swollen or sensitive breasts
  • insomnia or hypersomnia (oversleeping)
  • headaches
  • increased hunger or food cravings
  • bloating

Symptoms can vary from one cycle to another, and the duration usually varies between 5 and 14 days. Most often, they dissipate during menstruation. They are sometimes mild and do not really influence a woman's performance. In other cases, symptoms disrupt daily activities and interpersonal relationships.

How do you know if you suffer from PMS?

For now, it is not known why some women suffer from PMS and others do not. That said, there seems to be a clear connection with cyclical hormonal changes.

There is no medical test allowing PMS to be diagnosed. The doctor's evaluation will first be based on the description of symptoms. It is important to obtain a diagnosis, since symptoms can be attributed to other health conditions or problems (depression, anxiety, burn-out, perimenopause, etc.) with which PMS is sometimes confused.

To facilitate the doctor's evaluation, he/she sometimes asks the patient to keep a journal describing symptoms for several menstrual cycles.

What can be done to reduce PMS symptoms?

Because PMS is not an illness, it cannot be "cured". However, manifestations can be eased by various methods, including lifestyle changes.

  • Practise a regular aerobic activity such as walking, jogging, swimming or cycling.
  • Opt for a healthy and balanced diet. Limit your intake of food and drinks that are rich in sugar, salt, caffeine, and alcohol.
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Learn to better manage stress.
  • Familiarize yourself with a relaxation technique (yoga, meditation, visualization, deep breathing, etc. ).
  • Meet with a specialist who can help you to better manage certain symptoms you are experiencing, such as a psychologist.

In some women, the use of medication will be considered to better manage symptoms and improve well-being and quality of life. The choice of medication will depend of the nature and intensity of symptoms, among other factors. Because several symptoms can manifest themselves, various treatments will be considered:

  • hormonal (e.g. oral contraceptive)
  • antidepressant
  • antianxiety medication
  • sedative
  • analgesic
  • etc.

For women who choose vitamin and mineral supplements or natural health products, it is key to underscore the importance of always consulting a pharmacist before taking this type of product. He/she can provide you with information about its effectiveness and benefits (if needed), the warnings and precautions, drug interactions, side effects and dosage.

Speak to your doctor and pharmacist if you think you suffer from PMS. They can help you find solutions to lessen the impact on your life. Each woman aspires to a state of sustainable well-being and deserves all the help needed to achieve it!


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Better understanding premenstrual syndrome (PMS)

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) has many women... and men, talking. So, let's talk about it, in order to clear the air on the subject.