Many women experience physical and emotional changes seven to 10 days before their period starts. In fact, approximately 90% of women say they experience some symptoms before their cycle begins. Common symptoms include bloating, changes in eating and sleep habits, tiredness, and depression.

Mild symptoms that tend to appear then disappear around the same time each month are known as premenstrual syndrome, or PMS. Some women experience symptoms so severe that it affects their daily life. This is known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD. Unlike PMS, PMDD is uncommon, only affecting 3%-8% of women, and is classified as a depressive disorder.

PMS and PMDD involve a myriad of symptoms.  The differentiation is related to severity with certain criteria needing to be met for a diagnosis of PMDD.  However more importantly for women to know is that there are treatment options available regardless of the severity of her symptoms. 

If a women’s symptoms are mild I can often help alleviate her symptoms with lifestyle modification whereas more severe symptoms may respond better to medications such as birth control pills or antidepressants.  Treatment is individualized based on symptoms and severity so I highly encourage women suffering with PMS or possible PMDD  to speak with an OB/GYN provider.

Sheila Pieczonka, DO

Gynecologist, Mercy Hospital of Buffalo

How Do I Know My Symptoms Aren’t PMDD?

PMS and PMDD share similar symptoms, but PMDD affects women much more significantly. During your period, it’s common to have mood swings, food cravings, muscle pain, and trouble sleeping. Women with PMDD may experience anxiety, depression, thoughts of suicide, extreme irritability, feelings of detachment or social withdrawal from friends or work.

What causes PMDD isn’t yet fully understood. The hormonal changes that happen during your menstrual cycle may exacerbate existing conditions such as anxiety and depression. Genetics may also cause PMDD.

There is no formal testing for PMDD, your physician or gynecologist will be able to diagnose you based on your symptoms. Treatment plans vary based on how severe your condition is.

Relieving PMS and PMDD Symptoms

Some women are able to manage their PMS symptoms with diet, exercise, rest, and over-the-counter medicine. Nutritional supplements like calcium and Vitamin B6 have also shown to help relieve PMS symptoms.

If you suffer from PMDD, your doctor may prescribe an antidepressant or other medications. They may also recommend keeping a “monthly mood chart” which can help you anticipate when you may experience your most intense mood fluctuations.

If you are having difficulty managing your PMS symptoms on your own, or think you may be suffering from PMDD, be sure to discuss these concerns with your physician. They will be able to diagnose you and offer guidance on treatment options to help you better manage your symptoms.

Find an OB/GYN Near You
Call (716) 923-7152

Find an OB/GYN Near You
Call (716) 923-7152