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PMS Symptoms: What’s Going On And How To Manage Them

Once a month, PMS symptoms make their unpleasant presence known. And while most women are familiar with the mood swings, general irritability, fatigue and cravings, not to mention the physical symptoms, they may not understand exactly what’s behind it all. While knowing what’s happening won’t make PMS magically disappear, it can help you manage symptoms by balancing hormones and supporting your reproductive health. Let’s review.

Key Takeaways

  • PMS, or premenstrual syndrome, is a combination of physical and emotional symptoms women experience after ovulation and before a period begins.
  • While exact causes are still unknown, experts theorize that hormones are likely.
  • Symptoms can vary and may change throughout the course of a woman’s life.
  • To manage PMS symptoms, try to eat a balanced diet, exercise, get enough sleep and take a prenatal vitamin formulated with key nutrients.

What Is PMS And What Causes It?

PMS, or premenstrual syndrome, is a combination of physical and emotional symptoms that generally kicks in after ovulation and before a period begins. Experts assume that timeframe relates to the sharp drop in estrogen and progesterone that women experience if they don’t become pregnant during ovulation. In that case, PMS symptoms go away a few days after a woman starts her period as hormone levels begin to rise again.

We say “assume” above because the precise causes of PMS are still not known. While hormones likely play a role, chemical changes in the brain and even undiagnosed depression may also be contributors.

Symptoms of PMS vary from one woman to the next and may be physical, emotional or both. Symptoms can also change throughout the course of a woman’s life.

Physical symptoms of PMS include:

  • Swollen, tender breasts
  • Headache
  • Backache
  • Reduced tolerance for light or noise
  • Bloating
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Cramps
  • Break outs

Emotional symptoms of PMS include:

  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep issues
  • Food cravings
  • Changes in appetite
  • Anxiety or tension
  • Depression
  • Mood swings, including feelings of sadness or crying spells
  • Reduced interest in sex
  • Memory or concentration issues

Who Gets PMS?

According to the Office on Women’s Health, up to three in four women experience PMS at some point (1). Fortunately, symptoms are mild for most of them, but that doesn’t make them pleasant. And for a small percentage of women, the physical pain and emotional toll is so great that it affects their daily life. This kind of PMS is known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) and includes symptoms of depression, anxiety, anger, difficulty concentrating, irritability and tension.

PMS and Fertility

PMS and fertility are interconnected through the complex dance of hormones that regulate both the menstrual cycle and fertility. Here’s how PMS and fertility are connected:

  1. Hormonal Balance and Regulation: Both fertility and PMS are significantly influenced by the balance of hormones, particularly estrogen and progesterone. These hormones regulate the menstrual cycle, affecting ovulation, menstrual regularity, and the symptoms associated with PMS. Disruptions in hormonal balance can impact fertility and exacerbate PMS symptoms.

  2. Ovulatory Function and Cycle Regularity: Regular ovulatory cycles are a cornerstone of fertility. The presence of PMS symptoms often indicates that ovulation has occurred, linking it to the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle. Consistency in the menstrual cycle and ovulation is crucial for optimal fertility. Irregular cycles or anovulation can lead to fertility issues and affect the pattern and severity of PMS symptoms.

  3. Underlying Reproductive Health Conditions: Conditions like Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and endometriosis can both impair fertility and influence the severity of PMS symptoms. These conditions can lead to hormonal imbalances, irregular or absent ovulation, and menstrual irregularities, thus affecting both the ability to conceive and the premenstrual experience.

  4. Emotional and Psychological Well-being: The emotional and psychological aspects of PMS, including mood swings, irritability, and anxiety, can also have an indirect effect on fertility. Stress and emotional health have been shown to influence hormonal balance and ovulatory cycles. Managing stress and maintaining emotional well-being can therefore impact both PMS symptoms and fertility.

While PMS and fertility are distinct aspects of reproductive health, they are closely linked through the hormonal regulation of the menstrual cycle. Understanding and managing PMS can offer insights into one's fertility health and highlight potential areas for improvement in achieving a healthy pregnancy.

What Can Be Done To Manage PMS Symptoms?

Whether or not you’re trying to conceive, your body is moving through the same cycle every month in preparation for a potential pregnancy. It’s an intricate cycle with a lot of moving parts and the process of preparing and releasing an egg requires a huge rush and then drop in key hormones, which can affect feel-good hormones like serotonin. That creates a physiological response, which is why it’s so common to feel moody and weepy.

So, what can be done to balance changing hormone levels? You might be surprised!

  • Prioritize a balanced diet. While you may be craving salt, sugar and caffeine, avoiding these foods in the two weeks before your period can actually help reduce PMS symptoms. Processed foods increase the chance of bloating, so try to incorporate plenty of fruit, veggies (particularly leafy greens), legumes, whole grains and healthy fats.
  • Make an effort to exercise. It may feel like the very last thing you want to do, but exercise can help reduce symptom severity and even help keep them at bay. It’s also a proven mood booster and stress buster, and it helps support higher energy levels. The best approach is to follow a regular fitness program so that you reap the benefits all month long.
  • Get plenty of sleep. Prioritizing sleep is always important, but especially when you’re dealing with PMS. Lack of sleep is associated with anxiety, depression and other conditions and can exacerbate PMS symptoms.
  • Take a great prenatal vitamin. Key vitamins and minerals can help reduce PMS symptoms, including B6 to support energy, vitamin D to boost mood and magnesium to reduce headaches.

    Beli for Women is a specialized supplement designed to support women before, during and after pregnancy. Experts recommend a prenatal vitamin for women during their reproductive years, whether or not they’re planning a pregnancy. It takes time to build nutrient stores and fuel your fertility, and in the meantime, you’re ensured a steady stream of nutrients—including B6, vitamin D and magnesium—that can help support you through those PMS symptoms!

    The Bottom Line

    Dealing with PMS is no fun, but it’s a sign that your cycle is functioning. Whether you’re hoping for a baby or not, knowing what’s going on with your monthly cycle can help you better manage your PMS symptoms. Leading a healthy lifestyle is the standard recommendation, and you’d be surprised by what the right vitamins and minerals can do as well.

    Article Resources

    1. Premenstrual syndrome. (2021.) https://www.womenshealth.gov/menstrual-cycle/premenstrual-syndrome

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