What is PMS?

A lot of us find ourselves complaining about cramps, mood swings, unexplained tears, and more. We all know how common PMS is, and the stigma women are given when it is expected they’re on their periods. 

PMS stands for Pre-Menstrual Syndrome, and refers to the physical and emotional symptoms you feel due to the changes in your body right before menstruation.


There are four phases in the menstrual cycle:

1. Menstruation

2. Follicular phase

3. Ovulation

4. Luteal phase


During ovulation, your ovary releases an egg, and your body produces progesterone and estrogen. So, progesterone levels are at a peak during the luteal phase. If the egg does not get fertilized, progesterone and estrogen levels drop and then your period starts. These changes in hormones are what causes PMS symptoms, as estrogen and progesterone imbalances can affect serotonin levels in your body.  


Symptoms can occur up to 14 days before the start of your next period. Some physical PMS symptoms include body aches, headaches, bloating, cramping, nausea, and more. Menstruating people often experience emotional symptoms along with the physical symptoms. These emotional symptoms can include anxiety, depression, mood swings, and irritability. 


30% of menstruating people experience moderate PMS symptoms, and 5% of menstruating people experience severe symptoms that affect their day-to-day. When severe, these symptoms can be defined as pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). 


Although PMS is common, it is not normal. It is possible to experience a pain free menstrual cycle. If you think you are experiencing PMS, track your symptoms either in a diary or on an app (I use "Clue") to determine whether your symptoms are cyclical or not, then consult your doctor for potential resolution. 


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