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PMS, Cramps, and Irregular Periods

A girl's periods can cause some uncomfortable symptoms. Most of the time, there's no reason for concern. But some problems need care from your daughter's doctor.

Here's how to help your daughter cope with most period problems.

What Is Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)?

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is when a girl has mood and body changes before or during her period. It's usually at its worst during the 4 days before a period. PMS usually goes away 2 to 3 days after the period begins.

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of PMS?

A girl with PMS might have:

What Can Help if My Daughter Has PMS?

Your daughter can try these things if she has PMS symptoms:

  • To help with food cravings: Eat a balanced diet with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables.
  • To ease bloating: Lower salt in her diet.
  • To ease crankiness or anxiety: Avoid caffeine and get plenty of exercise.
  • To help with backache, headache, or sore breasts: Try a warm heating pad or acetaminophen (Tylenol or store brand), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, or store brand), or naproxen (Aleve or store brand).
  • To relax: Try yoga or meditation.
  • To prevent and treat pimples: Work with a dermatologist (skin doctor).

When Should We Call the Doctor?

If your daughter's PMS is severe, her doctor can help with other treatments, including medicine. Call the doctor if your daughter:

  • does not feel better after trying home treatments
  • seems very sad or hopeless
  • ever talks about hurting or killing herself
  • can't do her usual activities because of her PMS symptoms
  • has PMS symptoms that don't go away after the first few days of her period

What Are Period Cramps?

Period cramps are pain in the lower belly during a girl's period. Many girls have cramps during the first few days of their periods. Period cramps are caused by prostaglandin, a chemical in the body that makes the muscle in the uterus contract.

What Can Help if My Daughter Has Cramps?

If cramps bother your daughter, she can try:

  • a warm heating pad on her belly
  • taking ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, or store brand) or naproxen (Aleve or store brand); this works best if the medicine is started at the first sign of cramps

When Should We Call the Doctor?

Call your daughter's doctor if:

  • severe cramps keep your daughter home from school or doing her usual activities
  • the cramps that do not get better with ibuprofen or naproxen

What Are Irregular Periods?

Irregular periods are when a girl or woman does not get her period about every 4–5 weeks. In the first 2 years after a girl starts getting her period, it is normal for the cycles to be irregular. But by about 2 years after periods start, they should be on a regular cycle.

How Can I Help My Daughter?

Help your daughter track her periods so she knows if they are regular. She should record when her period comes, how long it lasts, and any problems she has during it. She can use a calendar, app, or write it down in a notebook.

When Should We Call the Doctor?

Call the doctor if your daughter:

  • has had her period for 2 years and still does not get it about every 4–5 weeks
  • gets her period regularly, but then doesn't get it for 3 months
  • gets her period regularly, but then it becomes irregular
  • has periods that are very heavy (she goes through more than one pad or tampon an hour)
  • has periods that last longer than about a week

Looking Ahead

Most girls settle into a regular period schedule and can manage any bothersome symptoms with home treatment. But talk to the doctor if you think there could be a problem with your daughter's periods.

Reviewed by: Krishna Wood White, MD, MPH
Date Reviewed: Oct 1, 2018

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