10 signs your period is coming - plus, tips on how to ease PMS

  • Common period symptoms include cramping, bloating, fatigue, and headaches.
  • Period symptoms appear a week or two before you start menstruating and can last through your cycle.
  • You can ease period symptoms by taking an OTC pain reliever or using hormonal birth control.

Bloating, cramping, and headaches are just a few of the common symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). The most common cause for PMS is a drop in hormones.

Typically these symptoms last about a week and can strike anywhere from one to two weeks before you get your period.

Here are some more symptoms that signal it's about to be that time of the month.

1. Cramps

About half of menstruating people have cramps for at least a day or two each month.

During your period, your uterus sheds its lining. Cramping occurs when the uterus contracts and pushes the lining out. These abdominal cramps generally occur a day or two before your period begins and can continue until a few days after you start your period.

2. Fatigue

In a 2019 review, researchers found about 90% of menstruating people feel fatigued before or during their period. You may feel tired during your period as you are more likely to experience a:

3. Bloating

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Bloating is when the stomach expands, creating a tight feeling of fullness. It is a common sign your period is coming and usually starts one to two weeks before your period begins, says Sherry Ross MD, an OB-GYN at Providence Saint John's Health Center.

4. Sore breasts

You may notice your breasts become sore before your period begins. This sensation should only last a few days if you're menstruating, but applying ice or heat may ease any pain.

5. Breakouts

In a 2014 study, which included those on oral contraceptives, 65% of participants experienced an increase in acne around their period. However, the likelihood of breakouts varied widely across ethnicities. In the study, 50% of white people, 20% of African Americans, 19% of Latinos, and 5% of Asians reported breakouts around their period.

6. Depressed or anxious

It's normal to have symptoms of anxiety, sadness, or even crying spells due to PMS. However, between 5% and 10% of menstruating people experience clinical anxiety and depression the week or two before their period. This is known as Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD).

7. Irritable

You may also become moody and more easily irritated before or during your period doing to changes in hormone levels. This is another common sign your period is coming and can appear a week or two beforehand, says Ross.

8. Headaches

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If you get headaches around your period, you're not alone. "One of the most common effects of falling levels of estrogen, in particular, is the phenomenon of menstrual migraines," says Felice Gersh, MD, an OB-GYN at the Integrative Medical Group of Irvine. About 60% to 70% of menstruating people report experiencing headaches in connection with their periods.

9. Diarrhea or constipation

In the 14 days or so before your period, you may experience constipation or diarrhea. Constipation typically occurs closer to ovulation, when hormone levels are higher. As menstruation begins and hormones drop, you may experience diarrhea.

10. Trouble sleeping

All of these symptoms can cause sleep disturbances like insomnia or difficulty staying asleep. This can last for a week or two before your period begins, says Ross.

How to treat PMS

  • Take ibuprofen or aleve for pain
  • Start an oral contraceptive to regulate your period
  • Speak with a mental health professional about anti-depressants

Note: Because a drop in hormones causes premenstrual symptoms, some providers encourage patients to take birth control pills continuously and skip the "sugar" or placebo pills. However, talk to your doctor before doing this.

Insider's takeaway

The above symptoms are common signs your period is coming and should resolve within a week. However, you should see a doctor if symptoms regularly persist for more than a week or interfere with your work, relationships, and well-being. Regular, intense discomfort during your period may be a sign of endometriosis, an ovarian cyst, or another condition.

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