PMS stands for Premenstrual Syndrome.

It’s also sometimes known as Premenstrual Tension (PMT), the monthly blues, or The Bit Before Your Period Starts When You Feel Like You Want to Hide Under Your Duvet with Three Packets of Oreos and Shout at Everyone. But that’s less catchy.

Give it to me straight

People experience PMS in different ways, and 25% of women don’t experience PMS at all. With any luck you’ll be one of those people – but if you’re not, here is the rollcall of things that you might find you experience for a day or two before your period.

Physically, PMS might make you feel a little bloated, tired or achey. Some people have headaches or backache, some get a few cramps before their period actually arrives. Others notice they’re more clumsy (mind that lamp!). You might find your skin gets a little spotty, or your fringe does that annoying flicky thing you hate.

TLDR? Here’s the important stuff:
  • PMS stands for premenstrual syndrome, and it generally affects three in four women. That’s lots of us. Hiya.
  • Emotionally, it might make you more irritable, anxious or weepy. Physically, PMS might cause bloating, acne, headaches, backache or sore breasts – but hopefully not all at once.
  • Exercise and a healthy diet can both help decrease PMS symptoms. But if you’re really struggling, a chat to your GP might give you more options.

Emotionally, you might find yourself feeling a little… fragile. This could mean that you’re more irritable, anxious, weepy and/or prone to slamming doors. One minute you might be on top of the world, the next you could feel like the world is getting on top of you. Or it might just be a general feeling that everything is a little… blarrgh.

A bit… arrghh.

Basically, all the fun stuff. But you probably won’t have all these symptoms; most people just experience a few.

Who can I blame?

Don’t shout, but nobody knows exactly what causes PMS. It’s thought to be something to do with the changing levels of hormones in your menstrual cycle, which can throw everything… off. A little.  

The most important thing to know is that you’re not just being a drama queen – PMS is very real, and you’re definitely not alone.

PMS Treatment: How do I make it go away?

While there’s not much you can do to prevent PMS, there are lots of ways you can help yourself feel better.

Eating a balanced, varied diet with lots of fresh fruit and veg could help ease those symptoms. PMS might make you feel like face-planting a bucket of KFC, but too much salt or fatty, processed foods can actually make things worse (don’t get us started on the unfairness).

And while it might be the last thing you feel like doing, regular exercise can also help keep PMS in check, as well as generally making you feel more like a queen. That could be a run, a fierce game of hockey, a nice long walk with a favourite playlist or just punching a pillow quite hard.   

As time goes on you’ll find your own, personal ways to beat the premenstrual blues – but some of our favourites are: weeping along to a sad film, having a one-woman dance party, learning to cartwheel, giving yourself a craft project or watching videos of unlikely animal friendships. For more inspiration, visit Weepy Girls’ Corner.

NOTHING. IS. WORKING.

Be kind to yourself, and remember that some people suffer more than others – and it won’t last forever. But if PMS is still having a big impact on your life, it might be a good idea to head to your GP for about what will work best for you.

There’s only so much those poor pillows can take.

Sometimes periods are a walk in the park. A piece of cake. Easy as pie. A doddle. Sometimes you barely even notice they’re there.

There’s a ‘but’ coming, isn’t there?

But… sometimes, they do hurt. We’re not going to lie. Don’t worry though, it’s totally normal.

Period pain, or ‘dysmenorrhoea’ if we want to be fancy about it, is thought to happen because the muscles in the wall of your womb are contracting. It’s hard to measure because the type and amount of pain is different for everyone, but as many as 90% of women experience period pain at some point or another.  

What sort of pain are we talking about here?

Period pain typically feels like cramps in your lower abdomen, which can sometimes spread to your back and thighs. Some women also have headaches during their period, and some find it pops up in more unusual places – one of the betty team even gets period twinges in her knees. Seriously.

TL;DR? Here’s the important stuff:
  • Not everyone has painful periods, but some cramps below your tummy are common and nothing to panic about.
  • The amount of pain is different for everyone, but it’s usually over in two or three days.
  • For most people period pain is totally bearable, and there are plenty of options to help.

The pain can arrive in short spasms (ow!) or can take the form of a more consistent, dull ache (owwww). Neither are exactly the dream, but don’t worry – we’ve got your back. Or tummy. Or thighs. Or knees.

How long will the misery last?

Not long, don’t worry. It could be just a few twinges, or it might go on for a little longer – but most period pain is over within two or three days. It usually appears just before your period starts, or at the beginning, when your period is heaviest.

Period pain tends to be worst in the first year or two after you begin your periods, and usually gets better as you get older. So that’s something to look forward to.

For most people period pains are just a nuisance, not a day-ruiner – but remember, you never need to just grin and bear it. If the pain in your uterus is becoming a pain in the arse, there are plenty of things that can help, like hot water bottles and heat packs, painkillers, exercises and other solutions your GP can recommend. 

In the meantime, there’s always a walk in the park. Or a piece of cake. Or a pie.