What is Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) and How to Manage It?

Premenstrual syndrome is a combination of symptoms that many women experience about a week or two before menstruation. The severity of the symptoms can vary, ranging from mild, such as flatulence, headaches, to more severe symptoms, namely depression.

For some women, the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome can be very intense, making them unable to carry out their usual activities (not attending work or school). However, there are also women who do not feel disturbed because the symptoms are milder. Women in their 30s are most likely to experience this condition. So, what causes PMS and how to manage it?

Causes of PMS

The cause of premenstrual syndrome is not known for certain. However, there are factors that are thought to trigger PMS, including:

  1. Hormone Cycle Changes
    Premenstruation occurs in response to changes in the levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone in a woman's body. The menstrual cycle is a complex process involving various hormones that work together to prepare the body for pregnancy. At certain phases of the menstrual cycle, especially before menstruation, hormonal fluctuations occur which can affect mood and emotions. These hormonal fluctuations, especially decreased levels of estrogen and progesterone, can cause PMS symptoms such as irritability and anxiety.

  2. Chemical Changes in the Brain
    Neurotransmitters such as serotonin and norepinephrine have an important role in regulating mood, emotions and behavior. During the premenstrual period, hormonal changes can affect the production and regulation of these neurotransmitters in the brain. For example, a decrease in estrogen levels can trigger excessive release of norepinephrine , which in turn can cause a decrease in the production of other neurotransmitters such as dopamine , acetylcholine , and serotonin . An imbalance in these neurotransmitters can affect mood, sleep patterns, and mental well-being, causing PMS symptoms such as sleep problems, low mood, or feeling depressed.

  3. Mental Health Conditions
    Women living with mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety may have a higher risk of experiencing more severe PMS symptoms. Mental health conditions can mutually reinforce PMS symptoms, with the stress and emotional instability associated with these conditions can exacerbate PMS symptoms. In addition, a family history of PMS, bipolar disorder, or depression, including postpartum depression, can also increase the risk of more severe PMS symptoms.

How to Manage It?

Considering that the cause of PMS is not known with certainty, this condition is difficult to prevent. The best way to reduce the risk of PMS is to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Some efforts that can be made include:

  1. Consume Foods Rich in Complex Carbohydrates as well as Vitamins and Minerals
    Consuming foods rich in complex carbohydrates, such as whole wheat bread, brown rice, potatoes and nuts, can overcome increased appetite during PMS and regulate blood sugar levels to be more stable. To overcome these PMS symptoms, it is recommended to consume foods rich in complex carbohydrates in small portions, but more often. In addition, meeting your daily calcium intake can overcome PMS symptoms, such as flatulence, sore breasts and mood swings. Calcium intake can be obtained by consuming green vegetables, milk and processed products, and salmon. Taking vitamin B6 supplements is also believed to help reduce PMS symptoms, such as fatigue, irritability, sadness, mood swings , or anxiety.

  2. Limit consumption of alcohol and caffeine
    Premenstrual syndrome also often causes flatulence and difficulty sleeping. To prevent these symptoms from getting worse, limit consumption of alcoholic and caffeinated drinks, such as coffee and tea.

  3. Quit smoking
    A study shows that smoking habits can trigger PMS symptoms to become more severe. Other studies also show that smoking can cause irregular menstruation and trigger early menopause. Therefore, if you have a smoking habit, you should stop this habit from now on. Apart from being able to overcome PMS symptoms, it can also avoid the risk of premature menopause.

  4. Exercise regularly
    Another way to deal with PMS symptoms is to exercise regularly. When exercising, the body will release endorphins which can trigger feelings of pleasure, make the body more relaxed, and reduce pain due to PMS. Not only does it overcome PMS symptoms, regular exercise can also reduce stress, fatigue, insomnia and depression. The recommended time for light exercise by brisk walking, cycling or swimming is at least 30 minutes 5 times a week.

  5. Get enough rest
    Lack of sleep is known to cause PMS symptoms, such as fatigue, anxiety and mood swings . Therefore, it is recommended to always get enough rest time of at least 7-8 hours every night to prevent these complaints from appearing.

Apart from the methods above, it is also recommended to meet your body's fluid needs by drinking lots of water, consuming fruit, and avoiding fast food to overcome PMS symptoms.

By adopting a healthy lifestyle and following proper management measures, women can minimize the impact that premenstrual syndrome (PMS) has on their daily activities. With a better understanding of the factors that trigger PMS symptoms and the steps that can be taken to address them, women can achieve a better quality of life, even while facing the hormonal challenges associated with their menstrual cycle.

Article written by dr. Yohanes Satrya Wibawa, Sp.OG (Midwifery and Gynecology Specialist at EMC Pulomas Hospital).