What is Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)?

What is PMS?

PMS is a chronic condition experienced by many women. Symptoms typically occur during the days/weeks before menstruation (period) and improve or disappear after the period ends. Around 30% of women experience significant PMS symptoms in the UK.

What are the symptoms of PMS?

There are many different symptoms associated with PMS, common symptoms include mood swings, depression, fatigue/tiredness, anxiety, anger and aggression, sleep disturbance, food cravings, bloating, changes in weight and breast tenderness. Every woman’s experience of PMS is different, and symptoms can vary between cycles and even during individual cycles. Symptoms impact different women at different times during their menstrual cycles and have variable duration.

What causes PMS?

Fluctuating hormone levels that occur during monthly menstrual cycles are linked with the symptoms of PMS.

How do you diagnose PMS?

There is no specific blood test which can confirm PMS, the diagnosis is based on symptoms and when they occur during a woman’s menstrual cycle. Keeping a diary of your symptoms and when they occur in relation to your periods is helpful for both you and your specialist in making the diagnosis and advising about possible treatment options.

What treatment options are there for PMS?

Women with mild symptoms often notice an improvement in their symptoms by making lifestyle changes, these include improving diet, increasing exercise, limiting alcohol, and smoking and reducing stress.

For women with more severe PMS, some complementary therapies have demonstrated benefit, these include Agnus Castus and magnesium. Medical treatments include hormonal therapies which aim to suppress ovulation (production of eggs by the ovaries) and medication to improve mood disturbance. In very severe cases of PMS, women may consider surgery (hysterectomy +/- removal of the ovaries) to resolve their symptoms.

What about menopause and PMS?

Hormone changes can become more pronounced as women approach the menopause. For some women PMS symptoms can worsen and for some women who haven’t experienced PMS previously, symptoms occur for the first time. Menopause symptoms such as insomnia and sweats can aggravate PMS symptoms further. Once menstrual cycles stop altogether, PMS symptoms can reduce and resolve but this can take 1-2 years from the last period.

Both Dr Katie Barber and Dr Helen Kennedy have experience in managing women with PMS and are happy to see women of any age who are struggling with symptoms associated with PMS at Oxford Menopause. Do get in touch if you would like to schedule an appointment.