Healthy Mama: Dealing with PMS

healthy mama logoBy Kimberly Steed, RN, MNSc. (woman, nurse, mother of 2 and wife of Dr. Steed)

Tense and irritable? Crazy appetite? Tight clothes? Feeling depressed? Can’t concentrate? Feel like curling up into a ball and being alone for a while?

And did you feel just like this about a month ago?

Most of us know exactly what all those symptoms add up to — Premenstrual Syndrome, a.k.a. the dreaded PMS. Another more severe form of PMS is called Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD.)

There has been some controversy about PMS being real, but for women who suffer with these symptoms each month, they’re VERY real. With the holidays coming up, who has time to deal with PMS? Identify the symptoms and talk to your doctor to find out if there’s a treatment right for you that could help.

PMS is common and includes a group of symptoms a women has right before her monthly period. Mild PMS is the most common and affects 75% of women with regular menstrual cycles. When PMS symptoms are severe, they’re called PMDD which is not as common. PMDD affects 3 to 8% of women and is usually a chronic condition that can have a serious impact on a woman’s quality of life.

It is believed that PMS and PMDD are caused by tissues throughout the body being sensitive to hormone level changes during a women’s menstrual cycle. Studies have found that rising and falling levels of hormones can influence chemicals in the brain, such as a substance called serotonin, which affects mood.

Common symptoms associated with PMS and PMDD include:

  • Bloating
  • Feeling tired
  • Feeling angry
  • Feeling worried
  • Feeling sad or hopeless, or crying a lot
  • Mood swings
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Eating more than usual or craving certain foods
  • Sleeping too much or having trouble sleeping
  • Breast soreness or swelling
  • Headaches
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Weight gain

Most women have one or more of the above symptoms with PMS, but with PMDD the symptoms can be more severe and can lead to problems at work, school or getting along with family and friends.

PMS or PMDD symptoms will occur one to two weeks before your period starts but not during or right after your period. The symptoms will also affect both your body and mood.

There are several things that can be done to help you feel better during PMS. They include:

  • Exercise – regular exercise usually helps people feel less sad and worried.
  • Relax – find ways to unwind. Yoga and relaxation exercises can help you achieve relaxation.
  • Avoid foods high in salt and avoid eating large meals.
  • Take an NSAID for pain and/or headaches. NSAIDS are medications like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve).

You can talk to your doctor about other treatments that include:

SSRI medications used to treat depression and anxiety

Birth control pills can also help some symptoms improve. There are various types of birth control pills and your doctor can help you choose the right one.

Other disorders can mimic PMS and PMDD. Those conditions include depression, anxiety disorders, and perimenopause (4-5 year period before menopause). Distinguishing between underlying depression and PMS or PMDD is important because treatments are different.

There’s not a test for PMS or PMDD, but your doctor can determine if you suffer from them by talking with you. He or she will want to know which symptoms you have and when you have them. It will be important to document your symptoms each day for 2 monthly cycles.

Dr. Steed’s number one passion is to care for the pregnancy and birthing needs of women. You may call him at the Mercy clinic at 479-338-5555 to begin your prenatal care and let him help you enjoy your pregnancy journey. His office is located in the Mercy Physician’s Plaza just off Interstate 540 in Rogers.

MERCY2 does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is for informational purposes only and isn’t a substitute for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor if you have questions about a medical condition. Don’t delay getting professional medical advice because of something you read online. This website doesn’t necessarily recommend or endorse any specific tests, doctors, products, procedures or opinions discussed on the site.