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Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)

In the days leading up to your period, do you have bloating, moodiness, or some other feelings that you’d rather avoid? If so, you are not alone. Many women have uncomfortable feelings starting a week or two before their period that usually stop when their period starts. These feelings can vary from mild to severe and in how long they last each month. Doctors generally consider such feelings premenstrual syndrome (PMS) if they interfere with some part of your life. You may experience one or more of the symptoms below. 

Signs of PMS
  • Acne
  • Bloated (swollen) stomach
  • Constipation
  • Crying spells
  • Depression
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Hunger
  • Feeling tense
  • Feeling crabby
  • Being tired
  • Feeling anxious
  • Headaches
  • Joint pain
  • Mood swings
  • Tender breasts
  • Hard time focusing
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Swollen hands, feet
  • Weight gain
  • Hard time handling stress

It is important to know that these symptoms are often a normal part of having periods. No one knows for sure what causes PMS, but it seems to be linked to the changes in hormone levels that happen during your menstrual cycle. PMS is not caused by stress or depression, but they can make your PMS symptoms worse.

Girl with premenstrual syndrome.Steps to help with PMS

There are many steps you can take to help you feel better. You can start by making changes in your diet and exercise habits. Your doctor can offer some suggestions. You may need to try different things to figure out what works for you. Consider these tips:

  • Eat a healthy diet, including fruits, vegetables, and complex carbohydrates (found in whole grain breads, pasta, and cereals)
  • Stay away from salt the few days before your period to help with bloating
  • Drink less caffeine (found in soda, tea, and coffee) to feel less crabby and help ease breast soreness
  • Eat small, frequent meals each day rather than big ones
  • Make sure you are getting enough exercise
  • Make sure to get enough sleep
  • Keep a regular schedule for exercise, meals, and bedtime

You may have heard that vitamins and other pills such as vitamin B6, vitamin E, magnesium, and calcium can help relieve PMS. It’s important that you talk to your doctor before trying any supplements or herbal treatments.

Treating PMS arrow top

If you are having symptoms of PMS, let your doctor know. While there is no cure for PMS, your doctor can help. In addition to changes in your diet and exercise, he or she may suggest medicines.

Many medicines are over-the-counter (you can buy them without a doctor’s order), such as pain relievers that have ibuprofen (say: eye-byoo-PROH-fuhn) and naproxen (say: nuh-PROK-suhn ). You should still talk to your parents/guardian and doctor before taking these. For some medicines, you will need a doctor’s prescription (order).

Your doctor may suggest diuretics (say: deye-yoo-RET-ihks), which help your body get rid of extra fluid. This can help with symptoms like bloating and breast soreness. Sometimes, a doctor will suggest birth control pills to help with hormones that can affect PMS. If you’re having strong emotional symptoms, a doctor may also suggest antidepressants. Remember that it can help to talk about your emotions and get support from your family and friends.


Content last reviewed October 13, 2010
Page last updated October 31, 2013

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health.