Feeling out of sorts before your period is pretty common. But we have the lowdown on PMS – whether you’re looking for how long it lasts or how you can help ease premenstrual symptoms.

Knowing what it is and how to deal with it will make a big difference to how hormonal changes impact your life.

So what does PMS mean?

Well, premenstrual syndrome – also known as premenstrual tension (PMT) – is caused by the hormonal changes that take place during your menstrual cycle. PMS covers a whole range of symptoms and feelings that you may get. And they can be mild or, in some cases, pretty major. These include sore breasts, bloating, and fatigue. Some women also get headaches, an upset stomach and trouble sleeping. Your emotions can be affected too, so you may feel more moody, sad, irritable or even tearful.

Did you know?

of women seek medical help for PMS [1]
number of days PMS can last after a period starts
of women experience premenstrual symptoms [2]

How can you ease premenstrual symptoms?

Sounds grim, doesn’t it? But fear not. Keep a diary of how you’re feeling in the run-up to your period. Spotting your recurring symptoms and nailing their patterns means being prepared and getting support. Regular exercise and healthy meals will also make a big difference, especially if you include whole grain carbohydrates like wholemeal bread and porridge. Some experts recommend reducing salt and caffeine in your diet, while over-the-counter painkillers will take care of aches and pains. And if your symptoms are making everyday life too difficult, see your doctor.

This is a great way to tackle PMS-related mood swings. Massages, tai chi and meditation are really helpful too, as they help you relax and feel less stressed.


If you smoke, try your best to stop. Apart from the health risks, studies show that women who smoke are more than twice as likely to develop moderate or severe PMS symptoms.


Aerobic exercise such as brisk walking or swimming has been found to help ease the anxiety, depression and blue moods that come with PMS.


You can be less vulnerable to your emotions by eating more of the good stuff like whole grains, fruit and vegetables – and less of the bad like sugar, fat and salt.


You may crave caffeine when you’re premenstrual, but you’re better off cutting right down on coffee, tea and chocolate, as these can make your symptoms worse.

Did you know?

number of days PMS can last after a period begins
of menstruating women meet the definition of PMDD [2]
minutes: amount of daily exercise recommended to combat PMS [3]
Myth 1: all women suffer from PMS every month

Not true. Some women only get it some months. Some get it really mildly. Some don’t get it at all.

Myth 2: you can’t get pregnant when you’re premenstrual

You most certainly can conceive when you’re premenstrual.

Myth 3: there’s nothing you can do about it

Good news, there is! From taking evening primrose oil to ease mild symptoms to seeing your doctor in extreme cases, there’s no need to suffer.

Myth 4: chocolate can help

You may crave chocolate when you’re premenstrual but it will actually cause larger fluctuations in your blood sugar levels, meaning bigger mood swings. Try and avoid.