Common Health Problems  »  Women’s Health

Self-Care / Prevention

  1. Get emotional support.

  2. Do aerobic exercises. Swim. Walk. Bicycle.

  3. Eat carbohydraterich foods. Examples are whole grain breads and cereals, fruits, and vegetables.

  4. Have good sources of calcium, such as skim milk, nonfat yogurt, collard greens, and kale. Choose cereals and juices that have addedcalcium. Get good sources of magnesium, too. These include spinach, other green, leafy vegetables, and whole grain cereals.

  5. The vitamin and minerals listed below seem to help some females with PMS. Ask your doctor if you should take any of them and in what amounts.

  6. -Calcium.

  7. -Magnesium.

  8. -Vitamin E.

  9. Learn to relax. Try deep breathing. Meditate. Do yoga. Take warm baths. Get a massage.

  10. Rest. Take naps if you need to.

  11. Limit or avoid caffeine, alcohol, and cigarettes 2 weeks before your period is due.

  12. Limit salt, fat, and sugar.

  13. If you need to satisfy a food craving, do so with a small amount. For example, if you crave chocolate, have a small chocolate bar or add chocolate syrup to skim milk. If you crave salt, eat a small bag of pretzels.

This information is brought to you by The Doctors Prescription for Health, sponsored by CVS/pharmacy.


National Women’s Health Information Center


Signs & Symptoms

As many as 150 symptoms are linked to PMS. The most common ones are:

  1. Abdominal bloating. Weight gain.

  2. Anxiety. Depression.

  3. Breast tenderness.

  4. Fatigue.

  5. Feelings of hostility and anger.

  6. Food cravings, especially for chocolate, sweet, and/or salty foods.

  7. Headache.

  8. Feeling cranky. Mood swings.

  9. Tension.

For some women, symptoms are slight and may last only a few days before a period starts. For others, they can be severe and last the entire 2 weeks before every period. Also, other problems, such as depression, may be worse with PMS. This is called “menstrual magnification.”

PMS can be confused with depression. See your doctor for a proper diagnosis.


The exact causes of PMS are not known. A female’s response to normal monthly changes inestrogen, progesterone, and testosterone appear to be involved. So do changes in the level of serotonin, a brain chemical.

With PMS, symptoms must occur within 2 weeks before the menstrual period and go away shortly after the period begins. A symptom-free period occurs between days 4 and 12 of the menstrual cycle. True PMS usually stops with menopause.

Questions to Ask

Do symptoms of PMS, such as anxiety, depression, or anger, cause you to want to harm yourself or someone else?

Do you still have PMS symptoms after your period starts? Or, has self-care not brought relief?


Do PMS symptoms cause you to feel out of control and unable to function?

  1. Self-care measures listed on this page.

  2. Medications. These include:

  3. -A water pill called spironolactone.

  4. -An SSRI antidepressant, such as fluoxentine or sertraline, to be taken 1 or 2 weeks before the menstrual period.

  5. -An anti-anxiety medicine.

  6. -Birth control pills.