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Understanding Pre-Period Symptoms and Irregularities

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Periods or menstruation is a natural process that occurs every month in women or Assigned Females at Birth (AFAB) along with hormonal fluctuations. In the days leading up to periods, women experience a number of physical and emotional changes that are termed pre-period symptoms, or PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome). 

These pre-period symptoms can be experienced 7-14 days before your period. Abdominal cramps, mood swings, Insomnia, and breast tenderness are some of the PMS symptoms

This article takes you through these symptoms and the dos and don’ts to follow to manage them.

Common Pre-Period Symptoms

Most women experience pre-period symptoms, and these symptoms generally last till the end of their periods. Some of the common symptoms include:



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  • Reasons for Pre-Period Symptoms

    The symptoms before your periods are a result of changes in the levels of hormones, namely Estrogen and Progesterone. As these hormones fluctuate, they trigger various changes in your body, leading to pre-menstrual symptoms.

    Abdominal Cramps and Backache

    Woman suffering from back painSource: sitthiphong
    Woman suffering from backache

    In the days before your period, there is a decrease in Estrogen levels. This decrease leads to the production of Prostaglandins, which are responsible for muscle contractions in the uterus that help in the shedding of the uterine lining. This is responsible for abdomen cramps and pain radiating to the lower back.


    The drop in Estrogen increases the production of Androgens, which are hormones that stimulate sebaceous glands in the skin. The increase in Androgens leads to excess oil and the clogging of pores, which causes acne.

    Did You Know?
    Your period keeps on changing throughout your life. Teens may have longer cycles (21-45 days) that shorten (21-35 days) in adulthood. Perimenopause disrupts things again, bringing irregular timing and flow.


    The initial increase and then fall in Estrogen levels cause blood vessels to expand and contract, leading to headaches.

    Breast Tenderness

    The increased levels of Progesterone cause the mammary glands to expand in the days leading up to the period. These changes in the size of the breasts can cause them to feel sore or tender.


    The uterine contractions because of Prostaglandins cause the muscles in the bowel to also contract, leading to frequent bowel movements and diarrhea-like conditions.


    Estrogen and Progesterone are responsible for fluid regulation in the body. When these hormones decrease, the body retains more water than usual, making you feel puffy or bloated.

    Mood swings, lack of concentration, fatigue.

    The fall in Estrogen levels causes a decline in the levels of Serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a chemical neurotransmitter or messenger responsible for your mood and is known as the feel-good hormone. The decrease in feel-good hormones is responsible for your mood swings.

    It also plays a role in functions like learning and memory, so you might find it difficult to concentrate. This might also result in feelings of fatigue or tiredness.

    Fluctuations in Estrogen and Progesterone also influence the production of Neurotransmitters, the chemical compounds in your brain that act as messengers. This can affect mood, energy levels, and even pain perception.


    The decreased levels of Estrogen are also responsible for a decrease in Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA), another neurotransmitter responsible for sleep regulation. A decrease in GABA makes it difficult to fall asleep, leading to Insomnia.

    Not-so-common Scenarios

    Apart from the common symptoms listed above, some people might experience some uncommon symptoms listed below:

    Flu-like Symptoms

    woman suffering from fluSource: Elnur
    Woman suffering from flu

    Many people experience flu-like symptoms before their period starts or even during their period. This is known as period flu. The production of Prostaglandins that cause muscle contractions in the uterus can sometimes lead to nausea and low-grade fever.

    Pre-Period Symptoms but No Periods

    Sometimes, you may experience pre-period symptoms but don’t get your period. This is known as the Ghost period. This can be because of reasons like pregnancy, stress, or birth control pills. 

    Ghost periods are usually attributed to hormonal changes or stress and are not a cause for worry. However, it is advised that you visit your doctor if the frequency increases.

    Dos and Don’ts To Manage Symptoms

    While there is no proven way to eliminate PMS symptoms, certain lifestyle changes can help manage them.


    • Eat a nutritious, well-balanced diet containing fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts
    • Stay hydrated throughout your period to combat bloating
    • Try to exercise regularly, as it helps improve mood and regulate pain
    • Try to get plenty of sleep- at least 7-8 hours


    • Don’t give in to your cravings and indulge in those sugary treats or junk food
    • Don’t consume alcohol, as it can disrupt hormonal balance
    • Don’t smoke
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    Pre-period symptoms are a normal part of life for most women. Variations in the levels of the hormones- Estrogen and Progesterone lead to these symptoms. 

    Abdominal cramps, mood swings, Insomnia, and breast tenderness are some symptoms that are experienced in the days leading up to periods. 

    Lifestyle changes like eating right, exercising, and staying hydrated can help manage these symptoms. 

    It is best to track your monthly cycle and consult a doctor if you experience anything unusual or concerning.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Are pre-period symptoms the same as pregnancy symptoms?

    Some symptoms like breast tenderness and mood swings can overlap with pregnancy, but pregnancy symptoms are often accompanied by nausea, missed periods, and frequent urination.

    Do pre-period symptoms include discharge?

    Yes, vaginal discharge is a normal symptom before your period. It might be white or off-white and can have a mild odor.

    Are cold-like pre-period symptoms normal?

    Yes, certain hormonal changes can make you feel tired and feverish. Although uncommon, cold-like symptoms are normal before the period.

    How early can pre-period symptoms start?

    Pre-menstrual symptoms can start almost 1-2 weeks before your period is due. The timing can vary from individual to individual and cycle to cycle.

    Is Depression a pre-period symptom?

    Some women experience severe mood swings and even feelings of Depression before their period. This is a more severe form of PMS and is known as Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD).

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    Photo of author Janet Fudge
    Janet Fudge is a highly skilled and experienced pharmacologist who serves as a contributing writer for With a strong academic background from a premier US University and a passion for helping others, Janet has become a trusted voice in the pharmaceutical world. After completing her Doctor of Pharmacy degree, Janet embarked on a successful career in the pharmaceutical industry, working with various clients, including hospitals, retail pharmacies, and drug manufacturers. Her in-depth knowledge of pharmacology and dedication to patient-centered care has led her to excel in her field. As a writer for, Janet uses her wealth of expertise to provide readers with accurate, reliable, and up-to-date information on various topics related to medicine and healthcare. Her engaging writing style and ability to break down complex topics into easily digestible content make her a valuable resource for healthcare professionals and the general public.
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