Cramps. Acne. Insomnia. Tears. Ice cream. Sound familiar? If you currently or have ever identified as a woman, that list may well strike fear into your heart. And that’s probably because, like around 90 percent of the women on this planet, you’ve experienced PMS. Or Pre-Menstrual Syndrome, to give the thing its full name. Not that the name really in any way covers the hormone-fueled collection of symptoms that make up what happens every 28 days or so. Nor does it indicate that each of us experiences PMS differently. And it most definitely doesn’t acknowledge that there’s no cure for this particular female-centric syndrome. So what can you do if you’re suffering? We’re glad you asked.
Let’s start with the how, although, no one has any idea about the why, so it’s not like we have a choice. Anyhoops, PMS is a direct result of the constant rise and fall of your reproductive hormones. There are several at work during your menstrual cycle, but it’s really the behaviour of just two of them that causes all of the emotional mess. Regular Hormonas will be all too familiar with the havoc estrogen and progesterone can wreak on your physical and mental wellbeing. But here’s how it breaks down with regard to your periods.
Estrogen, Progesterone, and your period
During the first two weeks of your cycle, estrogen is on the rise. And as a result of the higher levels in your bloodstream, the lining of your uterus begins to thicken, ready to receive egg-shaped guests. As the levels reach their peak, an egg is released, ready to be fertilized.
Around the same time, progesterone joins the party. Its role at the hormonal soiree is to halt the thickening of your uterus. At that point, if no fertilization takes place, both levels drop and the uterus lining starts to shed. And so begins the bleeding.
PMS and the rest
Of course, about a week before you start bleeding, there’s a good chance you’ll experience some of the symptoms we mentioned earlier. It’s in no way an exhaustive list, and also includes headaches, fatigue, temperature fluctuations, irritability, and anxiety. There’s also a better than good chance that your symptoms will carry on into your period and end up including cramps and acne as well.
Once that’s done, you’ve got a couple of weeks of respite before it starts all over again.
PMS is as individual as you
Depending on how severe your symptoms are, that cycle in and of itself can be draining. But add in any combination of symptoms that you can think of, and it’s no wonder that so many women look for a way off of that hormonal rollercoaster.
As we mentioned, though, there is no real ‘cure’ to speak of. And that’s partly because no one thing works for all women. Where some of us will swear by long baths or a run to ease our symptoms, the woman standing next to us will think that’s insane because only chocolate and cheese work for her. As we’re heard to decry on a fairly regular basis, hormones are as individual as the body containing them.
What are my options?
Anyone regular here will know that we advocate for synthetic free and natural hormonal health and keeping your hormones in check with holistic methods and diet. But at the end of the day all we want is for women to feel their best so we also ensure we give you the full low down on alternatives.
That said, there might be a PMS-alleviating saving grace. And while it’s not suitable for every woman, lots of us have found unexpected mental health benefits from one particular therapy. Believe it or not, it’s birth control. Or more specifically, the pill. Many of us see the pill and its equivalents as an excellent form of birth control. But it seems that stopping the monthly hormonal fluctuations also has a positive effect on PMS which may not be that surprising when you think about it.
Let’s put a pin in the fact that well-balanced hormones are always preferable and instead look at how the pill can help alleviate those hellish days. For a start, hormonal birth control delivers a steady dose of estrogen, removing the peaks and troughs that can cause so many of our symptoms. It also contributes to a steady level of progesterone. In turn, that slows down the thickening of the uterus lining, which can lead to lighter periods as there’s less material to shed.
Fewer symptoms, more happy
As well as helping balance estrogen and progesterone levels, the pill and its cohorts also have one very specific added benefit: Predictability. If, like so many of us, your cycle is best described as a law unto itself, taking the pill removes all of that anxiety.
No guesswork, no scrabbling around for dates, and no surprises. You’ll always know when your period is due. And that one small change can make a massive difference to how you feel.
Then there’s the likelihood that the severity of your cramps will drop, or if you’re lucky, disappear altogether. Those agonizing contractions are caused by high prostaglandin levels – a hormone linked with going into labor. We know, right? Anyhoops, the steady levels of progesterone that come with the pill can help keep prostaglandin more reasonable. And that can lessen the pain and frequency of your cramps.
As good as all this news is, what you really want to know is if birth control can help with the depression, anxiety, irritability, and general levels of crying at the drop of an Amazon ad.
The short answer: Maybe.
As with everything we’ve discussed today, your reaction will be just that. You may well benefit mentally and physically from the steady dose of hormones that the pill provides. Problem is, we can’t tell you why. No one’s quite sure what occurs to help quell those overwhelming emotional changes. But we’ll put money on it having something to do with the removal of the estrogen peaks and troughs.
Birth control pill precautions
Now, we’re not peddling the pill as a miracle cure. And not just because you may feel only minimal benefits. As with all medications, there can be side effects, starting with a few months of extra PMS while your body adjusts to the new hormonal regime. That can mean even more of the things you’re trying to avoid. Once you’ve adjusted though, that should calm down.
There’s a small increased risk of breast or cervical cancer, blood clots, and stroke. But they’re all much lower with the modern pills.
It is also important to note that many women experience side effects of the pill and in some women their PMS can even be worsened on the pill. This is because it’s actually the body’s reaction to a lack of hormones being given which happens during the week you take your placebo pills if you use combined oral contraception and have your withdrawal bleed.
Birth control cons
But one of the main reasons we’re not claiming the pill a miracle cure is that not every woman can safely take it. If you’re over 35 and a smoker or overweight, don’t even attempt it. Likewise, if you’re related to anyone who has had a blood clot and was under 35 at the time. Migraine sufferers, anyone with heart, liver, or gallbladder disease are also at greater risk. And if you’ve got or had breast cancer, you probably already know to stay well away.
Not just pills
Of course, hormonal birth control comes in all sorts of forms these days, from implants to IUDs and patches. And while each comes with their own period of adjustments, they basically all do the same job.
It’s really about finding what works for you and holding onto it for dear life. You get it.
But whatever choice you eventually make, do it safely and with open eyes. Some forms might suit you more than others – don’t be afraid to say when something isn’t working and try another delivery system.
You don’t have to live at the mercy of your hormones. Wouldn’t that be amazing?
Disclaimer: This website does not provide medical advice
The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.