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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 doctor.

Here's how to 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 I Have PMS?

You can try these things if you have PMS symptoms:

  • To help with food cravings: Eat a balanced diet with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables.
  • To ease bloating: Lower salt in your 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 I Call the Doctor?

If your PMS is severe, your doctor can help with treatments, including medicine. Call the doctor if you:

  • don't feel better after trying home treatments
  • feel very sad or hopeless
  • ever think about hurting or killing yourself
  • can't do your usual activities because of your PMS symptoms
  • have PMS symptoms that don't go away after the first few days of your 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 I Have Cramps?

If cramps bother you, try:

  • a warm heating pad on your 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 I Call the Doctor?

Call your doctor if:

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

What Are Irregular Periods?

Irregular periods are when a girl or woman does not get a 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.

What Can Help?

Track your periods so you know if they are regular. Record when your period comes, how long it lasts, and any problems you have during it. You can use a calendar or an app, or write it down in a notebook.

When Should I Call the Doctor?

Call the doctor if you:

  • have had your period for 2 years and still don't get it about every 4–5 weeks
  • get your period regularly, but then don't get it for 3 months
  • get your period regularly, but then it becomes irregular
  • have periods that are very heavy (you go through more than one pad or tampon an hour)
  • have 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 periods.

Reviewed by: Krishna Wood White, MD, MPH
Date Reviewed: 12-10-2018

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