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Premenstrual syndrome



Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) can affect you in the days leading up to your period, usually 5-11 days before a period starts. The symptoms usually go away by the time you get your period.

PMS is very normal.  

The causes of PMS are still not fully understood, but it is likely it is because of changes in hormone levels (chemicals in your body) such as oestrogen and progesterone, as well as chemicals in the brain like serotonin. It can affect emotions and physical health.

Some people find PMS very difficult, others don’t really notice it at all – its effects are different for everyone.

Common symptoms of PMS can include:

Emotional symptoms

  • Mood swings (frustration, anger)
  • Feeling anxious, depressed, or sad
  • Crying
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Food cravings
  • Avoiding friends and family

Physical symptoms

  • Sore breasts
  • Headaches
  • Pimples
  • Tiredness
  • Bloating (feeling like your stomach is full of air)
  • Diarrhoea or constipation (runny poo or not being able to poo)
  • Sore muscles and joints
  • Temporary weight gain

Looking after yourself:

While you can’t completely fix PMS, you can do things to make yourself feel a bit better:

Keep an even blood sugar - you can do this by:

  • Eating small meals often (every 2-3 hours)
  • Eating more complex carbohydrates, like pasta or spaghetti, whole wheat, cereals
  • Avoiding chocolate and sweets as these cause uneven blood sugar level

Decrease caffeine intake - caffeine can make you more nervous, anxious and irritable. It can also make it hard to sleep. Reducing the amount of caffeine you eat or drink can also help with sore breasts. Try and reduce the amount of:

  • Tea (try herbal tea instead)
  • Coffee (use decaf)
  • Chocolate
  • Coca Cola and other caffeinated drinks

Drink more water and other liquids

Get some exercise - for 30 minutes, four times weekly.

Decrease your salt intake - don’t use salt in cooking and allow others to add salt at the table.

Decrease the amount of alcohol you drink

Decrease the amount you smoke

If these physical and emotional symptoms start to affect your daily life, or if these symptoms don’t go away, you should make an appointment to see a doctor or nurse at Family Planning.

Family Planning has clinics located throughout New Zealand. Use the clinic finder to find your nearest clinic.