Chances are, you're regrettably familiar with those unpleasant pre-period symptoms known as premenstrual syndrome, or PMS. PMS is a sign of a healthy, functioning body, but it's still frustrating to deal with every month—especially during long Nationals rehearsals or summer intensive classes. Dance Spirit turned to Dr. Lauren Streicher, a gynecologist and clinical professor at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, for advice on all things PMS.
What It Is
"PMS occurs just before your period, and goes away as soon as you get it," says Streicher. There are a bevy of symptoms, including bloating, mood swings, breast tenderness, and cramping, all of which are caused by the shifting hormones in your body.
How to Get Relief
While a simple Google search yields tons of remedies for PMS symptoms, Streicher emphasizes that the majority of them don't make a difference. "There are lots of myths and quick fixes, from certain vitamins to special diets, but medically, they do nothing," she says. If you're in a pinch before rehearsal and need to ease your cramps and bloating, a cup of peppermint tea, some ibuprofen, and 15 minutes with a heating pad can help. But at the end of the day, Streicher says that one of the best ways to alleviate PMS symptoms is simply moving your body. "Take class—don't take the day off. Any form of exercise or movement will greatly help," she says.
When It's More Than Just a Few Cramps
Most girls experience mild to moderate PMS symptoms, but sometimes they can be more severe. "If you're experiencing debilitating bouts of PMS, ask your gynecologist about birth control pills. They can help regulate hormones and decrease symptoms, or eliminate them altogether," Streicher says. If you're battling crazy bloat, Streicher suggests asking your doctor about a diuretic to combat water retention—especially if you have a big performance coming up.
A version of this story appeared in the May/June 2019 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "Don't Stress About PMS."