Helping Your Daughter Manage PMS

PMS can be a shock to your daughter but don't fear, there are things you can do to help.

Your preteen or teenage daughter has most likely heard the term ‘PMS’, but she may not know what it is or how it could affect her once she gets her period. It’s a bit of a good news/bad news situation: on the one hand, PMS can bring pain and discomfort, but on the other hand, there are many things you can do to alleviate the symptoms.

Here’s a quick factsheet about premenstrual syndrome. Below you’ll find useful topics and practical information for talking to your daughter about PMS. You can use it as a loose ‘script’ or just as a conversation starter.

Well Known but not Popular: PMS
You’ve probably heard of PMS, or premenstrual syndrome—it’s the combination of symptoms that some girls suffer from a week or so before their period. Symptoms can peak just before your period starts but disappear during it. Some teenage girls can suffer badly from PMS, while others are hardly affected.

The Symptoms of PMS
What are the symptoms you can look out for? Teenage girls may suffer from some or all of them, including:

  • Cramps
  • Breast tenderness
  • Headaches
  • Backaches
  • Bloating
  • Mood swings
  • Mild depression
  • Changes in hair and skin

What Causes PMS?
Doctors and scientists are still trying to find the exact cause of PMS. What they do know is that it is related to the way a woman’s body’s hormones change through your monthly cycle.

How Can You Tell if You’ve Got PMS?
The best way to tell if she has PMS is to keep a daily diary of symptoms for two or three months. Tell her to write down when she feels symptoms (for example, getting acne, feeling irritable and/or clumsy) and how severe they are.

Her doctor may want to rule out other conditions first before confirming she has PMS, as many symptoms of PMS are similar to those of other underlying conditions. They may ask her to have a physical or pelvic exam to rule out any gynaecological problems. Both she and her doctor will get helpful information from an exam to determine whether she has PMS or not.

Another Possibility: PMDD
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is more extreme than PMS, with sufferers experiencing severe depression symptoms, irritability and tension. If during the week or so before her period she frequently finds herself feeling overwhelmed, tense, anxious and/or ‘on edge’—or if she cries frequently or constantly irritable and angry so that she causes conflict with other people—she may be suffering from PMDD.

The symptoms of PMDD are similar to those of PMS, but more exaggerated. They can include:

  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Persistent sadness or depression
  • Extreme anger and anxiety
  • Decreased interest in usual activities
  • Sleeping much more or less than usual
  • Very low self-esteem
  • Extreme tension and irritability

It’s believed that three to eight per cent of women suffer from PMDD, which must be treated by a doctor. However, PMDD can be handled fairly easily, typically with drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Consult a doctor if you think she could have PMDD.

Top 10 Ways to Treat PMS
If your daughter suffers from PMS, here are some tried and tested ways you can mention that beat those PMS blues:

  • Avoid salt, caffeine, sugary drinks and alcohol
  • Try to eat six small meals a day instead of three large ones
  • Get a full night’s sleep every night—even on weekends
  • Keep up with exercise—it’ll lift her mood and help her sleep. Light stretching is also known for helping period pains and menstrual cramps.
  • Reduce stress: Take time out for herself, listen to favourite tracks, go for a walk in the park, or chill out in the bath
  • If she’s suffering with cramps, try pain relief medicine
  • Remind her that you’re available to speak whenever she needs you. If things are really overwhelming her, tell her to not be afraid of reaching out to the school nurse or doctor for help.

Treating severe symptoms
If none of these remedies are helping, it’s time to go to the doctor. Tell her to take her cycle charts, food logs and tell them about any medications, over-the-counter drugs, vitamin or mineral supplements she’s taking.

The PMS-busting diet

  • Try to eat lots of protein (fish, meat, cheese, milk, eggs and beans)
  • You’ll also need complex carbohydrates (whole wheat breads, pasta and cereals)
  • Don’t forget whole grains (brown rice, wheat and oatmeal), fresh fruit and vegetables.

If your teen is looking for more information, send her to


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