Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

Changes in your body's hormone levels before your period can cause physical and emotional changes. This is often known as Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS). A more severe form of PMS is known as Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD).

There are lots of different things you can do to help try and ease the symptoms of PMS. You can get help if it impacts your daily life.

What to expect

There are many possible symptoms of PMS, but typical symptoms include:

  • mood swings
  • feeling down or anxious
  • feeling irritable
  • feeling bloated – your tummy sticks out more than normal
  • headaches
  • breast tenderness or changes
  • loss of interest in sex
  • changes in skin (like spots or dryness)
  • changes in appetite
  • tiredness and/or difficulty sleeping

These symptoms usually improve when your period starts and disappear a few days afterwards. PMS doesn't affect all people who have periods. But some people can experience very severe symptoms that can affect their everyday life. It's important you speak to your doctor if you feel you need help managing your symptoms.

PMS can occur at any point in your reproductive life – but can worsen during menopause.

It can be helpful to keep a note of your period dates and symptoms using a calendar, a diary or an app. You can then discuss this with your doctor who can decide if any tests or treatments might be needed.

If you’re seeing your doctor, there are some useful pieces of information to think about beforehand:

  • the first day of your last period (when it started)
  • how many days your period usually lasts
  • what was the shortest time between your periods (from the first day of one period to the first day of the next)
  • what was the longest time between your periods (from the first day of one period to the first day of the next)
  • how often you need to change your period products on a heavy day
  • if you are over 25, when you had your last smear test

How to help PMS

There are lots of different things you can do to help try and ease the symptoms of PMS:

  • gentle exercise – like going for a walk or cycle
  • eating a healthy, balanced diet
  • taking pain relief like paracetamol or ibuprofen – always follow the manufacturer's instructions
  • trying to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night
  • yoga, breathing exercises and meditation to help reduce stress
  • complementary therapies or supplements such as calcium and vitamin D

Talking to your doctor

Although PMS symptoms are normal, speak to your doctor if they’re affecting your day to day life. There are options and support available to help you, such as:

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)

PMDD is another term that is used to describe severe PMS. It can occur at any time, but is more often experienced when periods start or during menopause. It's a complex condition where you may experience difficulties with your mental health as well as physical symptoms.

Emotional symptoms can include:

  • mood swings
  • feeling angry or irritable
  • feeling tired and disengaged
  • feeling anxious or tense
  • feeling overwhelmed
  • difficulty concentrating
  • suicidal feelings – if you have suicidal feelings, it’s really important to seek help

Further information about mental health

Physical symptoms can include:

  • breast tenderness or swelling
  • headaches
  • pain in your muscles and joints
  • feeling bloated – when your tummy sticks out more than normal
  • changes in your appetite
  • tiredness and/or difficulty sleeping

If you feel you're experiencing some of these symptoms, speak to your doctor.

Last updated:
18 May 2022