How to prepare for the period before your period
Let’s face it, few women look forward to getting their period. Yet for many women, the period of time before menstruation begins can be even worse.
In the days leading up to your period, estrogen, progesterone, cortisol and serotonin levels rise or fall in harmony. These hormonal adjustments trigger other changes: mood fluctuations, abdominal bloating, irritability, lethargy, food cravings and headaches. Symptoms are especially severe – even disabling – for three to eight percent of women who suffer from premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).
Although the hormonal changes leading to PMS and PMDD occur each menstrual cycle, you can make the days before your period go more smoothly when you take these steps:
- Keep a calendar or download a period tracker app: Each day, track where you are in your cycle and how you’re feeling. Becoming more aware of your body’s monthly rhythms can help you plan ahead. You may find it’s best to avoid stressful situations two to three days before your period and schedule a massage instead.
- Let others know how you are feeling: Your family and friends will be more accepting when they know you’re having a bad day. If you know you’re more emotional than usual, ask your significant other if it’s okay to put off difficult discussions for a day or two.
- Address unresolved emotional issues: This window of time each month gives many women the strength to voice deeper feelings and seek help. Don’t be afraid to make an appointment with a therapist or find out about cognitive behavioral therapy.
- Get exercise: Taking a walk or working in the yard is a great way to increase a happiness molecule called serotonin. Getting outside in the sun and fresh air helps increase serotonin as well.
- Decrease stress: Yoga, especially the “warrior goddess” and “sun salutation” poses, has been found to lower cortisol (a stress hormone) levels. Other stress busters: meditation, alternate nostril breathing, progressive muscle relaxation and getting a good night’s sleep.
- Eat well: PMS can cause food cravings. High-protein foods such as eggs, chicken, fish, nuts and seeds can help decrease these urges. Craving carbohydrates? Reach for complex carbs: whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Chocolate obsession? Stick with at least 70% dark chocolate – it contains magnesium and is lower in fats and sugars than regular chocolate.
- Talk with your doctor: Some women find birth control or other hormone medications help them find balance. Anti-depressant medications – especially SSRIs (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors) – have been found to help stabilize mood during the PMS or PMDD time.
About the Author
Paula Carlton, NP is a Nurse Practitioner at Aurora Health Center in West Bend, WI.