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What's Normal Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)?

Medically reviewed by Mary Rani Cadiz, MD · Obstetrics and Gynecology

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Jun 03, 2021

    What's Normal Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)?

    Often called PMS, premenstrual syndrome is a group of physical and emotional symptoms that happen about a week before menstruation starts. To be more specific, the signs of premenstrual syndrome occur roughly after ovulation.

    There’s still no exact cause as to why PMS happens. According to researchers, this may be because of the low levels of hormones, like estrogen and progesterone.

    The signs of PMS will resolve on their own once the menstrual period starts. This could be attributed to the normalization of the hormonal levels.

    The Signs of Premenstrual Syndrome Differ from Woman to Woman

    It’s very important to understand that experiencing PMS is not the same for all women. Some women experience mild symptoms, while others have severe signs.

    The truth is, some women need to skip work or school because their symptoms are so severe they couldn’t get out of bed. On the other hand, some ladies report that PMS has little to no effect in their life.

    Additionally, two ladies who report mild premenstrual syndrome can experience different symptoms. For instance, one may have bloating and fatigue, while the other experience crying spells and acne breakouts.

    The signs of premenstrual syndrome also vary depending on the woman’s situation. For example, after giving birth, PMS symptoms may come back, but they will be different from before.

    The bottom line is, the signs of premenstrual syndrome differ from woman to woman. This is also the reason why we sometimes attach the word “potential” to the signs of premenstrual syndrome.

    signs of premenstrual syndrome

    The Potential Signs of Premenstrual Syndrome

    As of now, you may already have an idea about how diverse the potential signs of PMS are. Here are the most common symptoms of PMS:

    Emotional Signs and Symptoms

    • Mood swings, irritability, or being angry for small things
    • Inability to concentrate
    • Crying spells or weepiness
    • Social isolation
    • Depressed mood
    • Inability to sleep
    • Anxiety
    • Changes in appetite (not wanting to eat, or always being hungry)
    • Confusion
    • Memory lapses
    • Lack of self-confidence
    • Loneliness
    • Less interest in sex (decreased libido)

    Physical Signs and Symptoms

    • Fluid retention, often resulting in weight gain
    • Constipation
    • Diarrhea
    • A general feeling of tiredness or fatigue
    • Acne breakouts
    • Headache
    • Breast tenderness
    • Joint pain
    • Muscle pain
    • Bloating
    • Gassy feeling
    • Intolerance to alcohol
    • Increased sensitivity to noise and light
    • Clumsiness
    • Sleepiness
    • Hot flushes and sweating

    Please remember that you won’t necessarily experience all these potential signs of premenstrual syndrome.


    Unlike other health conditions, PMS does not require laboratory tests for a positive diagnosis. The doctor will interview you about the symptoms you experience and how often you experience them. They will also ask about how these symptoms are affecting your life.

    You probably have PMS if:

    • The potential signs happen 5 to 7 days before the start of the menstrual period.
    • The symptoms keep you from enjoying or doing some daily activities.
    • They have occurred for at least 3 menstrual cycles.
    • They end at least 4 days after you start your menstruation.

    Because of this, it’s a good practice to keep a record of all the symptoms you experience for at least three menstrual cycles. This is so you can report it back to your doctor during a consultation.

    Home Remedies for the Signs of Premenstrual Syndrome

    Fortunately, there are a lot of home remedies to manage the signs of premenstrual syndrome. In general, the management involves soothing the symptoms. Some of the home remedies are:

    • Perform aerobic exercises. Physical workouts like aerobic exercises can improve fatigue and lift your mood. In some cases, it can also lessen premenstrual or menstrual pain. If you are not comfortable with aerobic workouts, even 30 minutes of brisk walking will do.
    • Make healthy choices in your diet. At least two weeks before your period, cut back on caffeine, salt and sugar. This may help lighten your PMS symptoms. Additionally, you can take small, frequent snacks to reduce abdominal bloating.
    • Find healthy coping mechanisms for stress. If you feel particularly down, you can try simple ways to reduce stress. Examples include journaling, talking to friends, and activities such as yoga and massage.
    • Get enough rest and sleep. Sleep deprivation may worsen your emotional signs, so it’s a good idea to get enough rest and sleep.
    • Don’t smoke. Some studies report that women who smoke have worse signs of premenstrual syndrome than those who don’t.
    • Perform breathing exercises. Deep-breathing exercises may help in managing symptoms like headache and anxiety.
    • Take OTC medications for pain. If the pain brings too much discomfort, you may resort to mild over-the-counter pain relievers.

    How to Manage Severe Menstrual Pain and Heavy Bleeding

    When to See a Doctor

    Since there are a lot of signs of premenstrual syndrome, how will you know when you already need to consult a doctor?

    As a general rule, go to your physician when none of the home remedies are helping you. Do the same thing if the signs of PMS negatively affect your daily living and your health.

    Additionally, there is a severe form of PMS called premenstrual dysphoric disorder or PMDD. You can say that PMDD is the debilitating version of PMS, as the symptoms often render the woman unable to function. The severe symptoms include:

    • Severe depression; some even experience suicidal tendencies
    • Panic attacks
    • Apathy or lack of interest even in relationships and daily activities
    • Lasting irritability and anger that might affect other people
    • Feeling overwhelmed
    • Difficulty in concentrating
    • Extreme mood swings
    • Binge eating

    Some of the physical symptoms of PMS are still experienced in PMDD. Because PMDD is debilitating, it’s important to go to your doctor to seek help. In this event, the doctor may prescribe not just pain killers, but also antidepressants.

    Factors that Contribute to the Signs of Premenstrual Syndrome

    While the exact cause of PMS is still unknown, it can be affected by several factors. Some of those factors are:

    • Stress
    • Poor physical health
    • Psychological state
    • Unhealthy weight – Women who are overweight are more likely to experience PMS symptoms that those who are at a normal weight.
    • Smoking

    The signs of premenstrual syndrome vary from woman to woman. PMS is defined by both emotional and physical symptoms. Home remedies are often effective in managing most of the signs of PMS. However, if the symptoms are severe to the point that they negatively affect your activities of daily living and health, you must consult your doctor.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Mary Rani Cadiz, MD

    Obstetrics and Gynecology

    Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Jun 03, 2021

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