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.

Image: Hailey Hamilton

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.

Period pain can be horrible, we all know that. But sometimes it goes beyond the constant, dull, throbbing ache or sudden shooting pain that can be relieved with a hot water bottle, some painkillers and a lot of chocolate.

Endometriosis is, basically, a condition where your period pain is really, really bad – so bad it affects your everyday life, even when you’re not on your period. It’s a super-complicated condition (even experts don’t fully know all about it) but it’s surprisingly common, with one in 10 women in the UK suffering from it.

Despite how unfortunately common it is, it’s really hard to get diagnosed with endometriosis. The average time it can take to get diagnosed is 7.5 years. We know, that sounds awful and quite scary. BUT that’s why we’re here! Let’s all get swotted up on endometriosis, so if you or someone you know finds themselves in this situation, you can get tested and diagnosed faster.

So how do I know if I have endometriosis?

Symptoms of endometriosis vary, but they can include: really painful, heavy, or irregular periods that can’t be eased; irritation or pain when going for a wee or poo; being tired all the time; pain in your pelvis, or pelvic area; and back or leg pain.

Some people with endometriosis may have all of these symptoms, and some may have just one or two. Some might have completely different symptoms altogether. But the main thing to look out for is really painful and irregular periods.

How do you get it in the first place?

Here’s where it all gets really sciencey and complicated. Ready?

Endometriosis is caused by cells outside of your uterus behaving like ones inside your uterus. Copycats, right? When you’re on your period, these cells kick in too and bleed, just like your uterus. But because there’s nowhere for this blood to go, it becomes scar tissue which can cause the really bad pain.

Why do these cells do this? Nobody knows. There are some fancy theories but the bottom line is: there is no definite cause. It just happens. C’est la vie. All you can do is focus on getting yourself treated, and not worry about why it’s happened to you rather than perfect Megan from up the road. 

Is it treatable?

Yes. Endometriosis is treatable, but sadly not (yet) curable. Hopefully that will come when the experts figure out how and why these dastardly cells start to behave in their periody ways.

TLDR? Here’s the important stuff:
  • Endometriosis is when cells outside of your uterus act like the ones inside your uterus, causing a lot of pain and discomfort. It affects 1 in 10 women in the UK.
  • If you have super painful, heavy, or irregular periods, get yourself to your GP for testing. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about – they deal with this, and worse, all the time.
  • There are multiple treatments and you CAN find the right one for you. It might take time, but you’ll get there.
  • Periods suck. Sometimes.

There are a few treatments available depending on your age and the types of symptoms you have.

Pain relief

Hopefully your GP can help you find the right balance of pain relief methods. There might be certain painkillers that work for you, as well as physiotherapy and heat comfort (hot water bottles or a hot bath). There are also pain clinics in some hospitals that support those with chronic pain, and your GP may be able to refer you.

Hormone treatment

The dodgy cells with endometriosis respond to oestrogen, the female hormone, so you may be able to try some hormone treatments in an attempt to reduce or block your body’s production of oestrogen.

Surgery

This is obviously a more extreme option. You may be able to have surgery to remove any of the scar tissue that endometriosis has caused.

I think I might have it. What can I do?

Don’t panic. Endometriosis can sound scary, painful, and complicated, but it’s a common condition and is treatable. If you think you may have it, speak to an adult you trust – whether that’s your mum, dad, auntie, teacher, friend’s parent, school nurse or other helpful adult. They should not only be good at sorting the practical stuff, but they’re great for emotional support too. (You could be in for extra chocolate, if you’re lucky.)

Next, you’ll need a GP appointment. You can talk through your symptoms, and all the wonderful knowledge you have of endometriosis thanks to this article, and hopefully kickstart some testing.

Remember, there’s nothing to be scared or embarrassed about when speaking to someone about your body problems. We all have bodies and they all do crazy things. You definitely don’t have to suffer with your problematic period and unruly uterus alone.

@louisejonesetc 

1. Like a tiny man is busking in your uterus and has fashioned your fallopian tubes into guitar strings, so he can gently pluck them… constantly. Day and night. The same tunes, again and again.

2. Like someone’s replacing the cheese on their spag bol for your uterus and is ferociously grating it with all the strength they have because WHY NOT, EH.

3. Like some douchebag has snuck up on you and punched your uterus hard square in the face, then run away with plans to come back in approx. 10 minutes and do it again.

4. Like your P.E. teacher has decided that today’s dodgeball session will take place in your uterus and the whole school is playing.

5. Like an overenthusiastic orchestra conductor has mistaken your uterus for the Royal Albert Hall, is waving his arms incredibly dramatically, causing an absolute ruckus and EVERYTHING IS JUST A BIT TOO MUCH.

6. Like your uterus has gained actual sentience and is trying to claw its way out of your body for the great escape to freedom.

7. Like the douchebag from earlier has come back and given your fanny a bruised black eye. THROBBING. WHY THE THROBBING FANNY?!

8. Like it’s raining and the kids next door have decided to play Swingball in your uterus (instead of spending hours on YouTube like normal kids).

9. Like someone’s wringing out your uterus like a flannel.

10. Like your nan’s tied your fallopian tubes into a pretty little bow for her cat.

11. Like a Brownie group are camping in your uterus but have had too much sugar on their first night away from their families and are screaming, ‘KOOKABURRA SITS IN THE OLD GUM TREE’ while running around playing Tag and you’re just weeping.

12. Like your uterus is about to do a bungee jump and is shaking with nerves so much it might actually fall out.

13. Like someone is using your ovaries as stress balls.

14. Like you’ve got those really weird pins and needles in your foot where it’s super numb but if you try and move it a fraction then it suddenly vibrates and feels SO WEIRD.

No?? Just me?

Oh. 

@louisejonesetc

Image: Hailey Hamilton