Pre-menstrual tension

Pre Menstrual Tension (PMT) is a condition, occurring before and during a menstrual period, which is characterised by a multitude of physical and psychological complaints (common symptoms include moodiness, depression, abdominal cramps and bloating, headaches, breast tenderness, muscular aches and fatigue), which usually peak in the 3-7 days before a period and may resolve with the onset of the period.

Treatments need to be tailored to each individual and include calcium, good nutrition, avoiding caffeine, exercising, relaxation techniques, medications (painkillers and antidepressants are often used), vitamin and iron supplements, as well as diuretics (water pills). Cure is uncommon but most women can enjoy significant symptom relief with good treatment.

Alternative Names

  • PMT
  • Pre Menstrual Syndrome
  • PMS

What is it?

PMT is a condition, occurring before and during a menstrual period, which is characterised by a multitude of physical and psychological complaints. It is extremely variable with symptoms ranging from mild to incapacitating. It is likely that three out of four women get some degree of PMT, but approximately one third suffer sufficiently to seek medical help.

Causes

PMT is thought to be caused by all the hormonal changes that women go through during the menstrual cycle, but the exact cause is not known. It is recognised that psychological conditions such as depression and anxiety will worsen, and be worsened by, PMT.
 
Risk factors include:
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Eating salty foods
  • Poor diet and eating habits
  • Drinking caffeine and alcohol

Treatment

Treatment tends to be different for each person. Some of the main treatments used include:
 
  • Calcium, which has been shown to be beneficial in many cases, reducing moodiness, depression, food cravings and pain. Take twice a day to a total of 1500mg
  • A good diet with plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, and fibre will help. Cut down on salt, and avoid alcohol and coffee
  • Stress relief in the form of exercise, yoga and relaxation techniques like meditation and biofeedback can definitely help
  • Oral contraceptives are used to regulate hormone levels and are often very helpful in treating PMT
  • Medication such as painkillers (e.g. paracetamol/Panadol) and anti-depressants (e.g. fluoexitine/Prozac) are necessary for some women with severe symptoms
  • Other options include progesterone, iron and magnesium supplements, diuretics, as well as vitamin E, although these treatments are controversial and largely unproven

Outcome

PMT is not often cured, but symptoms can be relieved in the vast majority of women and no woman should feel that she couldn’t be helped.
 

Frequently Asked Questions

Who should I consult about PMT: my doctor, gynaecologist, an alternative healer?
 
Probably any, or all, of those would be able to help you. Your doctor/GP or gynaecologist may be best because they will be able to exclude any other physical illness and will be able to advise you on medications. It is essential to consult with somebody you feel comfortable with and can talk to freely. Many women feel most comfortable with female doctors. Others are used to seeing male doctors and prefer this. Most importantly, you should make sure you see somebody because effective treatments can make a significant difference.
 
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