Most women and girls experience a set of symptoms (often referred to as premenstrual syndrome or PMS) that let them know they're about to get their period. These symptoms can actually be helpful if you experience irregular periods, as they're your body's way of giving you a 'heads up.' However, some of these signs can also wreak mild havoc in your life, so recognizing them as symptoms of PMS can help you manage them.
So what are some of the signs?
Bloating/water retention/weight gain
One of the more annoying symptoms of an approaching period is bloating due to water retention. Not only does this make your body feel heavier and swollen, it actually causes you to gain weight. The good news is that this weight isn't from fat, but water that's being retained in your cells. To mitigate the effects of bloating, try to cut down on your salt intake in the days leading up to your period.
Even women who don't normally experience headaches may find themselves reaching for the Tylenol bottle as their period gets closer. Scientists believe that a drop in estrogen levels in the days before a woman's period can be directly linked to headaches. If your premenstrual headaches are consistent and severe, your doctor may wish to prescribe you prescription strength pain killers for use before and during your period.
One way your body prepares for menstruation is by releasing prostaglandins. These fatty acid compounds work to help your uterus shed its lining, and they do this by causing cramps. But they're not very specific about where they cause them, so in addition to regular uterine cramping, you'll often get contracting muscles throughout your back and legs too. If you start to feel flu-like symptoms when the flu is nowhere around, you're period is probably lurking right around the corner.
One of the most noticeable signs that your period is coming is breast tenderness. While bloating and headaches can occur any time of the month, breast tenderness is usually only a result of the hormonal fluctuations that happen during PMS or pregnancy.
If you find yourself becoming irritable, losing your temper more quickly, or crying at sad movies more easily, it may mean your period is on its way. These variations are thought to be due to the hormonal changes taking place in your body as it prepares for your period.
If you experience a combination of any of these symptoms, it's usually a sign that your period is only a few days away. If your periods are irregular, it's a good practice to mark down premenstrual symptoms on a calender or in a planner to help you keep track of it. If your cycle is more predictable, you can at least take comfort in the fact that these unpleasant heralds of your period will be gone in a few days.