PMS Survival Guide

Angela J. Krum

"It's that time of the month again, isn't it?"

Statements like this one from even the most sensitive of significant others only make dealing with PMS (premenstrual syndrome) more difficult than it already is. The bloating, the headaches, the moodiness you just can't control -- each of these changes can disrupt your daily routine and drive you -- and those around you -- crazy. PMS affect the minds and bodies of 40 percent of the menstruating population every month -- yet despite its prevalence, there's no known scientific cause.

"We're conditioned to think PMS is in our mind or that we're neurotic," says Donnica L. Moore, M.D., an obstetrician-gynecologist in Neshanic Station, N.J., and medical correspondent for NBC's Later Today. "But the fact is, women's hormones (estrogen and progesterone) fluctuate in a cyclical fashion -- and we do react to those changes." Even so, many women either don't believe that they have PMS or aren't sure if what they're going through once a month is actually PMS. What follows is Moore's three-step plan to help you figure out if what's bothering you is PMS -- and to help you get some relief.

Is It PMS?
Step 1: Keep a symptom diary.

Making note of your mood swings, aches, and pains over a period of three months will help you judge whether or not you really have PMS. For example, if you notice that you're especially quick to snap at your parents or your boyfriend, write it down. If your breasts are sore one week, but not the next, or your face is breaking out in an abnormal manner, write that down, too. There are as many as 150 symptoms attributed to PMS, both emotional and physical, but you're likely to experience only a few. Among the most common are the following:

Physical

  • Bloating, breast tenderness, acne, increase in appetite, food cravings, headache, upset stomach, constipation, swelling of hands and feet, clumsiness, and fatigue.

Emotional

  • Irritability, mood swings, depression, being overly sensitive, crying spells, social withdrawal, forgetfulness, lack of concentration, and decrease in sex drive.
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