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Symptoms and Signs of PMS


PMS, Premenstrual Syndrome, can be devastating for some women, having social and economic consequences in their lives. Women need to be able to recognize the signs and symptoms, so they can get treatment before PMS negatively affects their lives.

What Is PMS

PMS is a collection of physical and mental symptoms that affect menstruating girls and women, generally beginning a few days to two weeks prior to the onset of menstruation each month. These symptoms last until the onset of menstruation each month, and they can last as long as three to four days into the period. According to The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, at least 85% of women who menstruate experience at least one symptom of PMS. While the list of premenstrual symptoms is extensive, most women will experience only a small subset of the symptoms.

Physical Symptoms

The most common physical symptoms of PMS include tenderness in the breasts, fatigue, abdominal bloating, fluid retention and weight gain, insomnia, and headaches. Other physical symptoms are joint or muscle pain, gastrointestinal problems such as constipation or diarrhea, and acne flare-ups.

Mental Symptoms

Emotional and behavioral symptoms of PMS include mood related problems such as depression, sadness, irritability, anxiety, and unexplained anger. Mood swings are frequent, and moods can swing quickly and severely. Other mental symptoms can include decreased ability to concentrate, inability to make decisions, and social withdrawal.

Diagnostic Criteria

In order to be diagnosed with PMS, a woman must have at least one physical and one mental sign or symptom, which occurs in the five days prior to the start of menstruation each month. Additionally, the woman’s symptoms must be severe enough to have a social and economic impact on her life. Examples of social impact include a decrease in normal social activities, relationship issues, parenting problems, or contemplating suicide. Economic issues can stem from missing work or being late for work, relationships issues with coworkers, ineffectual work due to concentration problems, and other work related impact.

Keep a Diary

Most medical practitioners advise women who suffer from PMS to keep a diary of their symptoms. Women should track their menstrual cycle as well as the physical and mental changes that occur throughout the cycle. This helps their doctors evaluate their symptoms and helps the women cope with the monthly changes in their bodies.




Clayton, Deirdre. “Diagnosing Premenstrual Syndrome.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 July 2010.

“Premenstrual Syndrome << Frequently Asked Questions <<” | 800-994-9662. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 July 2010.

“ACOG Education Pamphlet AP057 — Premenstrual Syndrome.” American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 July 2010.

“Premenstrual syndrome (PMS): Symptoms –” Mayo Clinic medical information and tools for healthy living – N.p., n.d. Web. 23 July 2010.


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