Health & Wellness

Q&A: How early is too early to have PMS symptoms before your period? How early is normal?

What a great question! The answer depends on which PMS symptoms you are talking about. The symptoms that occur just a day or two before your period are cramps and fatigue. Other symptoms such as tearfulness, crankiness, and irritability can occur for several days before your period. Bloating and fluid retention can happen for about a week before your period comes. Breast tenderness can happen for up to 10 days or so before your period, and feelings of more significant depression can be around for up to two weeks before your period starts. Of course some women never have any PMS symptoms, so even though this list sounds pretty yucky, it sure doesn't mean you'll have PMS symptoms at all. Many women have some, but not all, of these in any given cycle. It may help to keep track of your symptoms on a calendar for a few cycles to get a better feel for your body and its premenstrual rhythm. Usually women who have had their period for a couple of years or more have pretty predictable symptoms each month, so keeping track can help you know what to expect.

According to what I’ve read, PMS symptoms usually start seven to 14 days before your period. So, any time within that period is average. 14 days before your period means you only have two weeks without symptoms each month, so if you’re having symptoms longer than 14 days, I would encourage you to see your healthcare professional. If you are having particularly intense symptoms, eating a good diet and exercising regularly can help.  There are also medications you can take to help control your symptoms. There’s no need to be uncomfortable.  Always ask for help if you need it.

As we like to say on this panel, when it comes to periods, nothing is ever “normal.” And that, of course, includes our good pal PMS. My PMS starts about five days prior to my period’s start and the symptoms that I experience include increased breast size, irritability, and ravenous cravings for turkey lunchmeat. However, I have friends who say their PMS can start as early as two weeks from their start. Like most things related to your body, it really is very individual.