PMS is common medical complaint that is estimated to affect up to 80% of women. There is no one definitive cause of PMS, but it is thought that the conditionarises due to the hormonal changes at a specific point in the menstrual cycle. In this page, our PMS expert Emma Ross examines the causes and symptoms of PMS and discusses how a diagnosis can be achieved.
Pre-menstrual Syndrome (PMS), or Pre-menstrual Tension (PMT) as it was formerly known, is a common condition which is said to affect up to 80% of women.
It is a chronic problem which gives rise to both physical and psychological symptoms regularly each month, between the time of ovulation to the first few days of menstruation. This part of a woman’s menstrual cycle, known scientifically as the luteal phase, is associated with big changes in the levels of the two main female hormones oestrogen and progesterone.
The precise cause of PMS is still not clear but current scientific thinking strongly suggests that hormonal changes during specific points of the menstrual cycle play a significant role.
Evidence in support of this include:
Most women suffering PMS experience symptoms at the same point of their monthly cycle
PMS is not experienced by women who are not menstruating (eg. during pregnancy)
Symptoms tend to be worse when big hormonal changes occur, such as during puberty (before periods start), just before the menopause, or after coming off hormonal treatment such as the oral contraceptive pill.
It is not clear why some women experience PMS whilst others don’t. One theory is that it is not so much the fluctuations of hormones which occur naturally with the menstrual cycle that causes PMS, but the relative ‘balance’ of oestrogen and progesterone that is important.
Although they vary from one woman to another, what is consistent is that PMS symptoms arise in the week (or sometimes two weeks) before your menstrual period begins. Most women experience the same consistent handful of symptoms each month.
Genetics – doctors have long observed that a woman is more likely to experience symptoms if a close relative has PMS, but no clear genetic reason has been found to explain this. However, as our genes influence practically every part of our emotional and physical health, it seems unlikely that it does not play a role in PMS
Chemical changes - changes in the levels of female hormones can influence the amount of chemicals produced in your brain. These, particularly serotonin, have a significant influence over your mood and sleep and help us understand why these emotional symptoms occur
Depression – research suggests that women who experience low mood as part of PMS are more prone to developing some forms of depression, particularly post-natal depression, and vice-versa
Stress – feeling under pressure at work or home can make any situation appear worse. This won’t help emotional symptoms of PMS such as irritability, anxiety or mood swings, or the ability to cope with physical symptoms such as period pain or bloating.
Hello my name is Emma and I am a qualified nutritionist. My areas of interest include female health and weight management.
I have a passion for healthy living and a holistic approach to health. I enjoy writing for the A. Vogel website, translating my knowledge into informative pages.
Like what you read? Sign up to receive emails from me full of advice and tips to help ease your PMS symptoms.
Join today for lots of simple energy-boosting tips and advice from our nutritionist Emma and her team of experts sent to you over 6 days to help revitalise your energy levels, as well as a sample of our Balance Mineral Drink which is packed with energy-boosting minerals.