How to Prepare For the Period Before Your Period

Let’s face it, few women look forward to getting their period.  Yet for many women, the period of time before menstruation begins can be even worse. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) triggers undeniable emotional and physical changes in four out of five women who get periods. Nearly one in five suffers symptoms serious enough to interfere with work, school or relationships.

In the days leading up to your period, estrogen, progesterone, cortisol, and serotonin levels rise or fall in harmony.  These hormonal adjustments trigger other changes:  mood fluctuations, abdominal bloating, irritability, lethargy, food cravings, and headaches.  Symptoms are especially severe – even disabling – for three to eight percent of women who suffer from premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).

Prepare for PMS by Planning Ahead

Although the hormonal changes leading to PMS and PMDD occur each menstrual cycle, you can make the days before your period go more smoothly when you take these steps:

pms-tracker Keep a calendar or download a period tracker app: Each day track where you are in your cycle and how you’re feeling.  Becoming more aware of your body’s monthly rhythms can help you plan ahead. You may find it’s best to avoid stressful situations two to three days before your period and schedule a massage instead.

pms-mood-swings Let others know how you are feeling: Your family and friends will be more accepting when they know you’re having a bad day. If you know you’re more emotional than usual, ask your significant other if it’s okay to put off difficult discussions for a day or two.

pms-help Address unresolved emotional issues:  This window of time each month gives many women the strength to voice deeper feelings and seek help. Don’t be afraid to make an appointment with a therapist or find out about cognitive behavioral therapy.

pms-exercise-1 Get exercise: Taking a walk or working in the yard is a great way to increase a happiness molecule called serotonin. Getting outside in the sun and fresh air helps increase serotonin as well.

pms-exercise Decrease stress:  Yoga, especially the “warrior goddess” and “sun salutation” poses, has been found to lower cortisol (a stress hormone) levels. Other stress busters:  meditation, alternate nostril breathing, progressive muscle relaxation and getting a good night’s sleep.

pms-foods Eat well: PMS can cause food cravings.  High protein foods such as eggs, chicken, fish, nuts, and seeds can help decrease these urges. Craving carbohydrates?  Reach for complex carbs: whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Chocolate obsession? Stick with at least 70 percent dark chocolate – it contains magnesium and is lower in fats and sugars than regular chocolate.

pms-doctor Talk with your doctor: Some women find birth control or other hormone medications help them find balance.  Anti-depressant medications – especially SSRIs (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors) – have been found to help stabilize mood during the PMS or PMDD time.

When you pay attention to your monthly rhythm and make the most of each day, premenstrual syndrome does not have to be unbearable … for you or those you love.

Meet the Author

Paula Carlton, NP is a Nurse Practitioner at Aurora Health Center in West Bend, WI.

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The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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