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Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

Published on August 29, 2013 at 8:00 / Updated on April 16, 2020 at 14:50

Most women can tell when their period is about to start. Prior to the onset of their menstruation, they experience a variety of symptoms including breast tenderness, mild weight gain or a bloating sensation, headaches, and an increased sensitivity. But for many women, the preamble to their period is much more than that, because they also experience mood swings and behavioural changes serious enough to really disturb their daily life. This collection of symptoms is referred to as premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, and it affects about 75 percent of women of childbearing age. It is reported to be severe in 2 to 10 percent of women.


Premenstrual syndrome and dysmenorrhea (menstrual cramps) are sometimes confused. PMS precedes your period, dysmenorrhea occurs during your period. Typical symptoms of PMS include:

  • irritability;
  • depression
  • preference for certain foods
  • fatigue
  • anxiety
  • insomnia
  • headaches
  • trouble concentrating.

Women who suffer from PMS are mostly bothered by the unpredictable mood swings. They become frustrated at not being able to control their emotions and reactions when confronted with ordinary daily activities. Some feel more distracted or clumsy or miss work, others feel more productive. Many feel that their symptoms negatively affect their relationship with their spouse, children, or colleagues.


The symptoms associated with PMS occur when a woman ovulates, usually about 1 week before the onset of menstruation. Thus they disappear during pregnancy. The symptoms are generally more severe if they coincide with stressful familial or work situations. In rare cases, PMS lasts several weeks each month.


PMS is not easy to diagnose. Mood swings have to be conclusively linked to the menstrual cycle. If you think you have PMS, consult your physician who will likely suggest you keep a diary of all symptoms, including when they appear and disappear during the month and how serious they are.


Medical treatment of PMS is in constant evolution. Research has established that regular physical exercise and a healthy diet can diminish the symptoms of PMS. In particular, avoiding alcohol, and caffeine has been shown to reduce symptoms. Oral contraceptives, as well, are commonly used to treat PMS. Vitamin B6, once frequently recommended, isn't any longer because studies have failed to establish any positive effects.

Several studies have demonstrated that the use of calcium supplements (1000 to 1600 mg per day) helps in the relief of some symptoms. In addition, physicians sometime prescribe certain medications that eliminate various problems linked to menstruation, or antidepressants because they act on brain neurotransmitters.

In any case, sound PMS therapy begins with a better understanding of its symptoms. Women who know themselves well can better plan their life during this period, minimizing stress in their life, exercising, and eating a healthy diet. In addition, education about PMS and support from family and friends will help demystify the effects of this unpleasant syndrome.

For more information :

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada

Sexuality and U

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