Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit, the AAFP patient education website.

Information from Your Family Doctor

Premenstrual Disorders


Am Fam Physician. 2016 Aug 1;94(3):online.

  See related article on premenstrual syndrome and premenstrual dysphoric disorder

What is premenstrual syndrome?

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) causes symptoms in the week before your period. You may have physical symptoms (like cramps, bloating, or headache) or mood symptoms (like feeling more tense than usual, having trouble concentrating, or being irritable). You may crave certain foods, have trouble sleeping, or lose interest in things you usually enjoy. These symptoms get better soon after your period starts.

Many women have a few of these symptoms each month, but they are usually mild. Women with PMS have symptoms almost every month that affect what they do or how they feel.

What is premenstrual dysphoric disorder?

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) has many of the same symptoms as PMS, but they are more severe. If you have PMDD, you may have trouble doing your job or getting along with family and friends the week before your period. You may feel depressed during this time.

How do I know if I have PMS or PMDD?

Talk to your doctor if you have symptoms that happen most months in the week before your period. He or she will ask about your periods and how you feel at different times during the month. Your doctor may have you keep a record of your symptoms. You may need to have blood tests to look for other causes of your symptoms.

How are PMS and PMDD treated?

Medicines for depression are one of the most effective ways to help PMS and PMDD symptoms. Some types of birth control pills can help PMS. These pills are sometimes used to make the time between periods longer, which may help with symptoms. Taking a calcium pill (up to 1,500 mg each day) may also help PMS.

Your doctor also may talk with you about other treatments, such as cognitive behavior therapy.

What if my symptoms get worse?

Call your doctor right away if you start feeling more depressed or have thoughts of suicide.

Where can I get more information?

Your doctor

AAFP's Patient Information Resource

This handout was adapted with permission from Biggs WS, Demuth RH. PMS: what it is and what you can do about it [patient handout]. Am Fam Physician. 2011;84(8):929. Accessed April 18, 2016.

This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.


Copyright © 2016 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP. Contact for copyright questions and/or permission requests.

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