What is PMS?

For some of us, PMS is a regular part of our cycles, to be expected with the same predictability as the changing of the seasons. Others may wonder ‘what is PMS?’ and be totally unaware of the symptoms and how it can affect others. Read on to find out the meaning of PMS, the theory behind why it happens and some ways we can help reduce and manage the symptoms.

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The meaning of PMS

PMS stands for premenstrual syndrome. Premenstrual refers to the period of time leading up to menstruation, and syndrome is a collection of symptoms which often occur together. So PMS means the symptoms we get in the lead up to our period. As a condition, PMS is fairly broad, and since we are all different, many women experience premenstrual syndrome in a different way.

What are the symptoms of PMS?

Everyone is different and PMS symptoms can vary vastly from woman to woman. They can be both emotional and/or physical, but some common symptoms include:

  • Mood swings
  • Feelings of anxiety, upset or irritability
  • Insomnia or tiredness
  • Bloating/stomach pain
  • Tender breasts
  • Headache
  • Spotty skin or greasy hair
  • Changes in appetite
  • Increased/decreased sex drive 

Why do you get PMS?

We are not 100% sure why women experience PMS, but mostly it’s thought to be caused by the high levels of the hormone progesterone which is at its peak at the end of your cycle. At the start of a new cycle – when we get our periods – progesterone is low again and PMS symptoms subside. So in theory, PMS is a natural part of the menstrual cycle and is simply our bodies responding to those hormonal changes. For some women PMS is more debilitating and there is a very extreme form of PMS called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). If you find your PMS symptoms are interfering with your everyday life, you should speak to a healthcare professional. 

Ways to manage PMS

Exercising, reducing stress, eating healthily and getting plenty of sleep are all recommended to minimize the symptoms of PMS. Tracking your cycle is also a  great way to also keep track and manage symptoms. With Natural Cycles you can easily track your cycle on your phone. The intelligent app learns your unique cycle and can even send you PMS alerts so you’re always prepared and never caught unawares.

Understanding your body and being able to anticipate the changes which bring PMS is a great first step to managing your symptoms. The more you learn about your body, the better you can tailor your routine to fit your needs. Check out our post on how hormones affect your skin or read up on the best time to take a self-breast exam for more info on how your body changes throughout your menstrual cycle. 

Birth control for PMS

For some women hormonal birth control can help relieve the symptoms of PMS, because it changes the hormone levels in the body, and menstruation simply doesn’t happen on hormonal birth control. Those who are particularly sensitive to hormones might experience PMS-like symptoms on hormonal birth control. For those women, a non-hormonal birth control method might be a better fit and can still help manage the symptoms of PMS. 

Natural Cycles is a hormone-free method, delivered in the form of an app. Unlike conventional period trackers, Natural Cycles goes one step further, using an algorithm to work out your ovulation, predicting it from cycle to cycle. As well as being able to either prevent or plan a pregnancy, the app has the unique side effect of teaching you about your body, so you know exactly when to expect your period, PMS and know exactly when you are fertile.

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Written By

Jennifer Gray

A writer with a passion for women’s health, Jennifer Gray has years of experience writing about various reproductive health topics including birth control, planning pregnancy, women’s anatomy, and so much more.

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Scientifically Reviewed

Jack Pearson

With 10 years of experience working in the field of fertility, Jack Pearson is Natural Cycles’ in-house expert. As Medical Affairs Manager, he dedicates his time to conducting groundbreaking research and educating healthcare professionals.