PMS is the name for the symptoms women can experience 7 to 10 days before the start of their period. Most women will have PMS at some point, no two women are alike and each woman’s symptoms can vary from month to month. Up to 80% of women report one or more physical, psychological, or behavioural symptoms of PMS.

The origins of the psychological symptoms are still not entirely clear. However, it is clear that hormones play a significant role which means emotions are often beyond her control. PMS has over 150 symptoms which include;

  • mood swings
  • feeling upset, anxious or irritable
  • tiredness or trouble sleeping
  • bloating or tummy pain
  • breast tenderness
  • headaches
  • spotty skin or greasy hair
  • changes in appetite  (craving comfort food)
  • changes  sex drive

What can women do when suffering from PMS?

  • regular exercise
  • eat a healthy, balanced diet
  • get plenty of sleep – 7 to 8 hours is recommended
  • try reducing your stress by doing yoga or meditation
  • take painkillers such as ibuprofen or paracetamol to ease the pain

Things they should avoid;

  • smoking
  • drinking too much alcohol

What can a you do to help?

Firstly try and put yourself in her position, rest assured she is not thrilled at what’s coming, even before the bleeding. Whilst most women do NOT want men to ask “are you on your period” as if it is a choice, it is good to recognise the “time of the month” in a compassionate way.

  • Accept that it’s as important as any other issues you both have.
  • Keep a diary so you know when to expect a change in behaviour (approx every 28 days) if PMS is the only issue consistently affecting your partner’s behaviour, then there will be a pattern to it.
  • Know how the woman/women in your life reacts, be understanding enough to not make it worse
  • If it’s your daughter, she has most likely confided in her mother however, try to have a conversation so she is aware you are both supporting her – click here for our article on Dads Navigating Periods.
  • Keep a note of anything that bothers you and discuss the situation when symptoms subside.
  • Ask what you can do to help and support her. i.e. getting a hot water bottle or pain killers
  • Do whatever you feel is best for yourself and the relationship – it’s important to note that abuse of any sort, verbal, emotional or physical is not acceptable at any time of the month

Treating PMS

As well as changes to your lifestyle, a GP can recommend treatments including:

  • hormonal medicine – such as the combined contraceptive pill
  • CBT , cognitive behavioural therapy which is a talking therapy
  • prescribe antidepressants

If symptoms persist after trying these treatments, the woman may be referred to a specialist such as a gynaecologist, psychiatrist or counsellor.

What is PMDD?

Premenstrual Dysphonic Disorder (PMDD) is a very severe form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS); it sometimes referred to as ‘severe PMS’.  While many women may experience symptoms of PMS, if you have PMDD these symptoms are much worse and can have a serious impact on your life. Experiencing PMDD can make it difficult to work, socialise and have healthy relationships. In some cases, it can also lead to suicidal thoughts.

How is PMDD diagnosed?

To get a diagnosis of PMDD the best place to start is by visiting the doctor. To help them understand the symptoms the woman’s doctor may ask her to keep a detailed record of symptoms for several months.  She may also be given a daily questionnaire to complete.

  • This will be required to be completed for at least two months to see if the symptoms show a pattern over time.
  • Ask you about their medical history.
  • Give the woman a physical examination along with some blood tests (this is to rule out other medical problems).

How do you and your partner navigate ‘the time of the month’ together? Do you wish she was more open with you about her experiences and how you can help. Join or start the conversation in the comments below.