What is Premenstrual Syndrome? What are the changes in the body during PMS?

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Anshruta Poddar


What is Premenstrual Syndrome? What are the changes in the body during PMS? 

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) refers to the symptoms that typically occur in a menstruator between ovulation and a period. It is estimated that 3 of every 4 menstruators have some form of PMS. These symptoms can be both, emotional as well as physical. Although, it is perfectly normal to have these symptoms, it can often affect the mental health of the menstruator if they are not fully aware of why they are feeling the way that they are.

Following are some of the more common Premenstrual Syndromes-

1.Emotional or Behavioural Symptom:

  • Mood Swings
  • Irritability
  • Social Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Poor Concentration

2. Physical Symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight Gain
  • Water retention and Bloating
  • Breast tenderness
  • Muscle and Joint Pain
  • Headaches
  • Acne
  • Constipation or Diarrhea

The exact cause of PMS is unknown; however, it can be assumed that the changing levels of hormones through the menstrual cycle play some part. Leading up to ovulation, there is an increase in the production of estrogen and progesterone. However, once ovulation has occurred, and if the egg has not been fertilized, then there is a drop in hormone levels until the onset of the period. This, coupled with the changing serotonin levels in the brain, has a bearing on the mood and mental health of the menstruator. It has also been observed that certain lifestyle factors can also have an impact on the severity of the PMS. Smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, a high sugar and fat diet, lack of exercise and sleep are all factors that can worsen the symptoms.

One may not be able to completely avoid the symptoms of PMS, but there are certain changes that can surely help with easing the PMS.

  1. Dietary Changes: One must avoid eating foods that are high in fats, sugar and salt. Certain foods that are high in salt can cause water retention and thereby bloating. Caffeine and alcohol can also aggravate symptoms and hence should be avoided. It is important for menstruators to consume smaller but frequent meals to reduce the sensation of fullness. It would be beneficial to eat foods that are rich in vitamins and calcium. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are good to consume at such time.

  2. Lifestyle Changes: Menstruators that exercise regularly have shown to have lesser PMS symptoms than their counterparts. Breathing exercises and yoga have shown good results for menstruators. Sleep deprivation should be avoided to allow the body enough time to rejuvenate and recuperate. Habits such as smoking and consumption of excessive alcohol should also be eliminated.

  3. Reducing Stress Inducing Factors: Stress is known to have a direct bearing on the menstrual cycle and can worsen symptoms of PMS. If menstruators can identify and subsequently try to eliminate stress-inducing factors from their lives, it would surely go a long way in maintaining a healthy menstrual cycle. 

  4. Medicinal Support: In some cases, where the PMS symptoms are severe, doctors may recommend some medicinal remedies for the same. They may ask menstruators take vitamins and calcium tablets, or in other cases prescribe medication as well. A lot of menstruators opt for herbal and ayurvedic remedies as well.


PMS is an inconvenience that menstruators have to face on a monthly basis, and while for most the symptoms are mild and manageable, for some they may be more severe. If one is concerned that one’s symptoms are extreme and out of the ordinary, then one must consult a gynecologist and get checked for PMDD (Premenstrual Disphoric Disorder). PMDD is a more severe version of PMS, where the menstruator faces difficulty in performing daily tasks and activities due to heightened symptoms pre-menstruation.

A note to all the menstruators out there: You are not alone! Premenstrual Syndrome is an all-pervasive issue that affects millions across the globe. One can take measures to reduce its impact, however, eliminating it completely may not be possible. That being said, it is always helpful to know that one is not fighting this battle all alone.

Also read,

What are the nutritional requirements during menstruation? How does lack of proper nourishment affect health?

10 common period questions asked by first time menstruators.