As if periods weren’t bad enough when they arrive, the few days leading up to your period can be worse than the period itself.
It’s incredibly common for women to experience a range of unpleasant symptoms before they start menstruating each month, likely due to hormonal changes that happen in advance of menstruation. This set of symptoms is aptly named PMS, or premenstrual syndrome.
Symptoms are more severe in some women than others; sometimes, women don’t experience symptoms at all. If you get severely uncomfortable or intense PMS symptoms every month, you might not have PMS at all — you might have PMDD, or premenstrual dysphoric disorder.
Take a moment to learn about the differences between PMS and PMDD, and when to see a doctor about either.
PMS vs. PMDD
PMS is the more common premenstrual syndrome, estimated to affect up to 80% of women of menstruating age. PMDD, on the other hand, is less common, and the diagnostic criteria are more stringent.
PMS symptoms include:
- Breast tenderness
- Weight gain (usually due to fluid retention)
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Joint pain or muscle aches
- Lowered or intensified libido
- Heightened anxiety and stress
- Crying spells and bouts of sadness
- Mood swings and irritability
- Insomnia or disturbed sleep
- Food cravings
- Lack of focus
PMDD symptoms can include all of the above, but the important difference is that PMDD is characterized by intense mood changes that impact your daily life. If you have PMDD, you may experience depression, anxiety, and sadness that result in social withdrawal or prevent you from fulfilling your obligations.
PMDD can sideline you for days, making you feel completely unlike yourself.
When to see your doctor
Both PMS and PMDD warrant a trip to the doctor if symptoms are affecting your ability to carry out day-to-day obligations. For instance, if either condition keeps you home from school or work — whether from abdominal cramps or mood problems — our team can help you figure out the best course of action.
Both conditions may require lifelong management (or, at least, up until menopause), but once you nail down your routines — including medication, exercise, nutrition, sleep, stress-management, and more — you have an arsenal of tools to get you through each month.
If you think you might have PMDD or severe PMS, get in touch with New England Women’s Healthcare. Call 781-787-3003 to schedule a consultation at our Woburn, Massachusetts, clinic or request your appointment online. You can also send a message to the team here on our website.