If you’re a woman (and you probably are if you’re reading this article), you’re probably familiar with the signs that your period is approaching. Ninety percent of women have premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms at some point in their reproductive life.
Even though a huge portion of the world’s female population has uncomfortable and unpleasant premenstrual symptoms, doctors still aren’t totally sure why they happen. Changing hormones are the reason behind it all, but experts don’t know exactly how, for example, hormonal shifts would cause cramps or feelings of depression.
Brain chemicals are also involved, but it’s unclear to what extent.
If you have more severe premenstrual symptoms, it doesn’t mean that you have higher or more out-of-whack hormone levels than other women. Researchers think it’s because you’re more sensitive to hormonal changes. But why, again, they don’t know.
Regardless of what’s on your personal pre-period checklist, you’ll usually start noticing the signs 1 to 2 weeks before your period and they’ll go away once bleeding starts. How many of these do you recognize?
- You’re breaking out. Acne is a very common problem at that time of the month. Adult women suffer from acne much more than men do, and it’s all because of hormones. Rising hormone levels activate sebum (oil) production, which clogs pores and causes pimples as your period is about to start.
- Your breasts are changing. Breast swelling and tenderness is another frequent one. Again, doctors aren’t sure exactly what role hormones play here, but these symptoms could be linked to high levels of prolactin, the breastfeeding hormone.
- You’re tired… but you can’t sleep. Fatigue is a vicious cycle for many women at this point in their cycle. Shifting hormones make you tired, but they also disturb your sleep patterns. In fact, PMS and chronic fatigue syndrome share many of the same symptoms.
- You have cramps. Abdominal cramps are the most frequent menstrual complaint. Unlike many other symptoms, which begin 1 to 2 weeks before your period and end when bleeding starts, cramps usually show up right before show time and last for 2 to 3 days.
- You’re constipated… or have diarrhea. When your period is approaching, digestive symptoms tend to fall to the extremes. Some women get constipated, and others have diarrhea.
- You’re bloated and gassy. Water retention is another major complaint. It’s also hormonal, but you can curb premenstrual bloat by cutting out salt, eating more fruits and vegetables, and exercising regularly.
- You have a headache. Changes in estrogen levels are to blame if you experience headaches leading up to your period. If you’re prone to migraines, you’ll probably find that you get them before your period.
- You’re having mood swings. All PMS symptoms are caused by hormones, so the emotional signs are just as real as the physical ones. Even though mood swings are seen as one of the classic PMS traits, doctors don’t know exactly why they happen.
- You’re anxious and depressed. Depression and anxiety are doubly linked to PMS. A history of either condition could make your premenstrual symptoms worse. And PMS can also cause both.