Advice on coping with premenstrual tension if you are trying to conceive, with typical symptoms, treatments and natural remedies explained.
PMT isn't fun at the best of times but it can be even worse when you are trying for a baby. The "am I - aren't I" time between ovulation and the end of your cycle can be incredibly stressful especially when it's fraught with "does this symptom mean that I'm pregnant or is it just PMT?" debates. So, to make your life a little easier here's our guide to coping with PMT when you're trying to conceive (and otherwise!)......
What is PMT?
PMT (or premenstrual tension) is the all encompassing term used to describe the range of physical and emotional symptoms experienced by the vast majority of women over the days and weeks leading up to their period. Typical symptoms include bloating, water retention, headaches, irritability, tender breasts, cravings, extreme tiredness and anxiety to name just a few! Generally, PMT is down to the shift in hormones that occurs after ovulation which is why its symptoms can be so similar to those experienced during the early stages of pregnancy.
It's not really known why some women suffer terribly and others not at all because the interaction of hormones at this time in the menstrual cycle is so complex and the symptoms so wide ranging. However, some have speculated that PMT is a result of an oversensitivity to progesterone which goes on to effect levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, a chemical that plays a large role in controlling our mood and sleep patterns.
Treating the symptoms of PMT
Medically little can be done to control or relieve the symptoms of PMT (unless you suffer from a particularly severe manifestation that has a significant impact on your life in which case your doctor may be able to prescribe something to help), however, it is possible to reduce their impact a little. Much of the following advice is ok to practice if you are trying to conceive and is generally beneficial in bettering you overall health which will help with fertility too.
- Drink lots of water - Getting at least your recommended 8 glasses a day will flush your system and actually help to reduce water retention and bloating. Staying properly hydrated will also help you to stay alert, minimising tiredness and headaches.
- Reduce salt intake - This includes salty meats, processed foods and ready meals too as the sodium present in salt makes your body retain fluid rather than excreting it, contributing to fluid retention and bloating.
- Reduce alcohol intake - As alcohol dehydrates the body it has a similar effect to salt and also contributes to a general feeling of being tired and run down. However, if you are trying for a baby it is generally best to refrain from alcohol anyway.
- Complex carbs - There has been some research to show that a diet including plenty of starchy foods such as brown rice, oats, fruit and vegetables that release sugar into the blood slowly can help reduce PMT symptoms although a diet of this nature should be followed throughout the month to be beneficial.
- Happy food - Its not all bad (or healthy) though as some research has suggested that full fat dairy products like ice cream may actually enhance your chances of conceiving (definitely an good excuse to stock up on Ben and Jerry's!). Plus, chocolate releases happy hormones into your body, so technically in moderation its good for you too, although its best to go for good quality, cocoa rich chocolate as this tends to contain less sugar and 'nasties' than other chocolate.
- Exercise - Taking some moderate exercise such as jogging, swimming or yoga for at least 30 minutes, 2 or 3 times a week helps to significantly reduce almost all PMT related symptoms as it produces plenty of endorphins, gets blood and oxygen circulating around the body and helps to clear your digestive system too, just generally improving your overall health in the meantime.
- Supplements - Some women find that by supplementing their diet with B vitamins, evening primrose oil, magnesium and calcium, PMT is reduced, there is however little evidence to back this up. Rather than taking specific vitamin supplements you may be better to go for a combined prenatal vitamin to ensure that you're getting everything you need.
- Agnus Castus - This is believed by many to be an effective treatment for almost all possible symptoms of PMT as well as a fertility enhancer. It is often used for this purpose as it is said to stimulate the hormone controlling pituitary gland, balancing the fragile levels of progesterone and oestrogen and as such regulating ovulation and the menstrual cycle. However it shouldn't be taken with any other hormone controlling medicine or if you are pregnant.
Well, that deals with the physical side of things - improving your diet and exercising is definitely a way to boost the way your body feels, but here are our tips for looking after your mind too.....
- Don't stress - This is much easier said than done but by taking a few simple 'precautions' it should actually be easier than you think. Simply, try to avoid stressful situations at this sensitive time of the month - avoid spending time with people who put you on edge (may not be a great time for dinner with the mother in law or to spend time seeing friends with babies if you find it hard to deal with) or those who continually ask you when you're going to start a family!
- Positive thinking - After ovulation there is no real way of knowing whether any physical or emotional symptoms you are experiencing are down to PMT or pregnancy until a couple of days before your period is due at the earliest, so it's best to try and stay positive. Even if aunt flow does arrive there is always next cycle and staying calm and positive, looking after your body and relaxing with your partner will really boost your chances of conceiving next time around - you will have a baby soon, it may just take a little time!
- Time out - PMT can be incredibly draining especially if you're on edge so taking some time out to relax is so important and will make you feel much better. Flop on the sofa with a bar of chocolate and a girlie film, take a long bubble bath, go for a massage or meet friends for coffee; anything that cheers you up and takes your mind of the waiting will do you no end of good.
The end of your cycle can be a really difficult time if you are trying for a baby but try to resist the urge to test too early as you may get a negative result even if you are expecting. Holding on until the end of your cycle will mean you get the most accurate result possible and looking after your body and mind in the meantime will help you better cope with PMT or pregnancy whatever the outcome.