A Few Thoughts on Hormones… (Or: How to Fight The Crazy)

How to Prevent Mood Swings | CorporetteThis is a bit of a ranty post, so I’ll start with the questions: do you feel that hormones affect you? What are your best tips for controlling or preventing the symptoms of PMS, pregnancy, or menopause?

I’ve already ranted about watches and cuffed pants, which kind of sets us up well for today’s rant: about hormones. You see, I’m weaning off breastfeeding, which means I’m kind of a psycho hose beast right now. And it’s gotten me thinking about how it’s really unfair for women, because throughout our lives we’re socked with major hormonal changes:
– Don’t get me started on my teenage years.
– Medications can affect hormones — I vividly remember talking with one girlfriend who was hesitant to start taking The Pill when we were studying for the bar because she knew she’d need a few months to adjust to it. Ditto for girls I knew who stayed on The Pill even if it had been many moons since their last boyfriend, just because they didn’t want to deal with withdrawal.
– Pregnancy can be crazy — I had a rough first trimester, and definitely felt like I hit a point around week 36 where I went off the rails. (My husband tells me that point was actually sometime around the 5 month mark.) Some women have fun with hormones right after they deliver the baby; some women have fun with hormones when they wean (and some women have fun both times!)…
– And then just when you think the pregnancy/Pill years are behind you — wham! we get to look forward to menopause. 

So: whine, whine; bitch, bitch. I think it’s a given that the hormones affect women differently, but I can’t help but think of that Laurie Anderson lyric about how they say women shouldn’t be the president “because we go crazy from time to time.” Sigh. So I thought today we could have an honest discussion about hormones and how they affect us — and more importantly, what you do to control them (beyond being aware)?

  • Exercise. I swear, if I ever have a teenager who is as moody as I was, I’m signing her (or him) up for the track team. In general, I find that it’s very hard to hold onto stress if you’re getting a good workout — your shoulders release, you take a nice deep breath, and somehow you see through the fog.
  • Calcium. I’ve long heard of calcium as a great way to help with general PMS symptoms, including cramps and mood swings. While I’ve usually heard calcium supplements touted as a benefit, in the past I’ve just tried to eat extra dairy when I’ve been suffering from PMS-related mood swings. A second glass of milk, another yogurt, perhaps even ice cream… call it the placebo effect, but I find it helps.
  • Water.  According to Hungry Girl, dehydration makes the crazy worse.
  • Avoid refined sugar sources like soda and candy to keep your blood sugar levels stable.
  • Certain foods have vitamins, minerals, or oils that may help boost your mood.  Hungry Girl has listed “happy foods” including avocado, banana, Brazil nuts, asparagus, salmon, sweet potatoes, and chocolate, as well as OJ, oatmeal, turkey, and low fat cheese.
  • Tea. Again, call it the placebo effect, but I’ve started getting into the benefits of different tea. My lactation consultant just recommended nettle tea for my current weaning hormones, and I’m going to give it a shot.
  • Other supplements. I’ve read a lot of articles about how vitamin B6 helps with PMS symptoms, as does magnesium. Dr. Oz touts holy basil for anxiety, lemon balm for crankiness, passionflower for nervousness, and L-theanine for stress.

Ladies, do you feel extra crazy from time to time?  What do you do to fight it, or prevent it altogether?

(Pictured: Originally uploaded to Flickr by emersonquinn.)


  1. Anon Analyst :

    PMS definitely makes me moody. I get overly sensitive and cranky and will cry over the smallest thing. And I want to eat everything in sight. I don’t have any tips, but I’m going to try the ones mentioned here to see if that helps next time!

    • I don’t have anything to add to the pregnancy discussion, but I can second the above. I become a crazy person and can’t possibly stuff enough chocolate and carbs in my mouth.

      I completely agree with Kat about exercise- both for teenagers and me PMSing.

      Other than that, the best remedy for me is to just acknowledge it. I have finally accepted that I truly am crazy during that week, and even though I can’t see it at the time, I try my best to remind myself (and people I’m in close personal relationships with) that I’m crazy even if my temper and tears seem completely rational at the time.

      In terms of hormones being yucky and completely sapping my energy the week of my period, all I can recommend is caffeine. I try really hard to not be addicted to it the rest of the month so that I can reap the benefits that week.

      Oh, and the firm belief that calories only count 1/2 their usual amount when I’m PMSing/on. I eat super healthy about two weeks a month and pretty much whatever I want to eat during the two bad weeks.

      Also, speaking of birth control, I like the ring. I love not having to stress about remembering to take a pill/ if I’ll be in a position to take the pill before I forget or before I get outside the one-hour window.

      I’m getting an IUD the moment I can. I hear they’re great, but my doctor discourages them for women who’ve never been pregnant since it’s more likely to poke a hole in a pre-baby uterus.

      • AnonInfinity :

        You should obviously do what you are comfortable with, but I wanted to let you know that not all doctors discourage women who haven’t been pregnant from using IUDs. My doctor said that the biggest difference is that the insertion can be more painful for women with no pregnancies, but that is not a contraindication for the device.

        He talked to me about the possibility of perforating my uterus (said he’d never done that before), and I joked that such an event would have the same result. He said that a perforation would probably actually heal relatively quickly and wouldn’t affect future fertility (after it heals of course). It might sound crazy, but I was willing to accept the possibility of that side effect, which is rare with experienced IUD inserters because of the effectiveness of an IUD and because I will not have to worry about getting another ring, putting it in at the right time, etc., for another 5 years.

        I just got mine last week. The insertion HURT. I had some cramping for the rest of that day, but haven’t had any cramping or spotting at all. It’s still very early, but I love it so far.

      • Merabella :

        Go to another Doctor. That one just sounds like he doesn’t want to put it in. I have never had children and I have had no issues with my IUD at all.

      • Thirding AnonInfinity and Merabella. Get a second opinion.

      • Fourth. A *hard* fourth. Three cheers for the IUD!

      • I’ve had two IUDs inserted. Both had to come out for complications (no perforation!), finally my current OB/GYN did an ultrasound and measured my uterus, as compared to the device (… duh, right?). Apparently, my uterus is too small (I’ve never been pregnant), and the device cannot sit “flat” across where it needs to be, thus the concern about it coming dislodged, or not being as effective. I now use Implanon (see my whining, below). She said that this is very common, so much so that the FDA is currently going through the approval process on a smaller version for women who’ve not been pregnant. However, it is not an absolute that if you’ve never been pregnant, it’s a bad idea. Get a second opinion, and ask them to measure :).

      • I am a banana. :

        Recently got my IUD. I’m a fan so far. No perforated uterus to report.

      • It’s actually more likely to perforate a postpartum uterus than one in a woman who has never had a child. The PP uterus is softer and easier to push the device through…that’s why you shouldn’t get one until at least 6 weeks pp (I have fished them out of the abdomen on women who were perforated; other than not offering good contraception, there are rarely serious complications, even though I would consider perforating a uterus a total bad idea). There’s the size issue as is described above, which leads to more problems, but it’s pretty unlikely to cause a perforation. I think your doctor is showing a bias that is not supported by the literature.

      • No perforation here either! I had a great ob/gyn who did mine and she has been using an IUD for 30 years herself! she also told me that the pain I felt going in (not having had kids) was similar to one big contraction from giving birth and it hurt like HELL. I wasn’t expecting it to feel like that at all! It was a surprise and i’ll probably be scared when it’s time to swap it out in 2016!

      • Another one for pre-pregnancy IUD. I am on my third; the first was before I’d been pregnant, and the second two afterward … two because it’s been more than five years and the second “expired.” Love Mirena!

      • One HOUR window??!! That’s ridiculously exact. What pill is that?
        I’ve been one a variety of birth control pills for 15+ years(all tri-phasics, though). And they all allowed for a full 24 hours without having to worry about a back up method, so no stress.

      • As an IUD baby myself (yes, conceived while the device was still in utero), I can’t testify to its effectiveness–good old two-types-of-protection rule–but I definitely don’t think it’s going to be a fertility problem!

  2. I am anxiously awaiting the responses because seriously since I had my daughter I have been on the Hormone Rollercoaster. (And my old go-to birth control isn’t covered by my current insurance, so I’ve been trying to find something else that works, so it’s been a rough little bit of time.)

  3. Cornellian :

    I hate to admit that women do seem to sometimes go a bit crazy for reasons more or less beyond their control, but I think men are driven off the rational course by their testosterone just as often. I think both sexes could benefit from owning up to our conditions and shortcomings and trying to adjust as much as possible. Exercise, keeping away from crap food, drinking lots of water, maintaining a healthy weight, and adjusting my expectations definitely makes those few days a month more bearable for me and everyone else.

    My ex-boyfriend gently pointed out that I seemed like a worse driver for a few days a month, which I resented, but I guess there’s no way for me to really disprove him. Maybe risk taking is affected by hormonal changes in women, as well.

    • I always contended that at least women KNOW when they’re going to be crazy/moody. More or less. Testosterone cycles are harder to track!

      • Cornellian :

        Very true! I am crazy in a similar way for a similar window of time each month.

    • I definitely am more sensitive and cranky at certain times, and could fly into a rage in no time when I was taking fertility drugs and then when I was pregnant, but I have worked with and been around men (particularly men in their 50s and 60s) who seem far more hormonal and moody than me. It’s exhausting.

  4. Tracking your cycle is useful here even if you are not trying to get pregnant or to avoid getting pregnant. I know when my worst days of the month will be and I’m prepared for the possibility of symptoms that will cause me to take the day off of work, so I don’t schedule meetings for those days. I never schedule a flight near the beginning of my cycle when my flow’s the heaviest. Admittedly, I’m lucky to have a lot of flexibility in my job, so this wouldn’t work for everyone. But it’s still useful to track so you know what’s going on with your body and you don’t get surprises.

    And yes, drink lots of water.

    • Always a NYer :

      That’s so true. I have the P-Tracker app and find it so helpful to track not only my cycle but my symptoms (flow, aches) and emotions. It $ucks but knowing what to expect really helps. Also exercising when I don’t want to makes a world of difference. And taking Advil every four hours on days one and two make me safe to be around. I also drink more coffee than usual, not sure if it’s the caffeine or the warmth or a combination of both but I’m sticking with it.

    • Diana Barry :

      Yes! I would get very emotional and then realize that I was due to get my P in 3 days….and would immediately feel better. :) Sometimes just knowing that it is your hormones making you feel that way helps!

      • This.

      • Agreed. Just knowing why I am so quick to snap or be emotional helps rein in the feelings.

        Also what works for me (though I don’t recommend it unless your Sig-O is on board with it) is bottling up everything I want to say during the day to clients and co-workers and then ranting/venting at my husband that night.

      • Yep. I forgot to mention – I make no important decisions during my luteal phase. None. Because if TV commercials can make me cry ( it’s so nice that he got life insurance because he loves his wife and kids so much * sob *), now is not the time to start looking for a new job.

        • Agreed with the “no new decisions” part – I am a mess during that time of the month. My crazy actually starts up to a week before my actual period – mood swings and food cravings. Proactively increasing calcium intake has helped here, which is why tracking my cycle is essential. I am a caffeine addict, and caffeine can actually increase cramping, so I try to cut back and switch to tea in the afternoons. The mood swings impact my work productivity as well as feelings about my job, which I normally truly enjoy. I tried using the pill to counteract symptoms, but that, as other readers have alluded to, actually made things worse! My husband has considered checking himself into a hotel for a week!

          So what helps? Listening to my body. Getting extra sleep, and proactively starting extra calcium and muscle relaxers while slowly drinking slightly less coffee. Yoga has also been very beneficial, as has been getting extra red meat in the first few days of my period for the iron. Communicating when I am crabby or cramping to my husband, who gives me a lot of space during this time.

          Does anyone have advice on: this time of the month I feel like a different person. Is there a proper way to bring this up at work, or is this off-limits? I work with both men and women, and am not sure if I would feel comfortable telling each of them. I could say I’m feeling under the weather, but then I would be saying that every month… Ideas?

    • See, I would love to do this, but I am *not* regular, and never have been. I’ve had 2 periods in 16 months, and I’m not on birth control. The 2 I’ve had, I’ve been extremely pissy, emotional, hungry and exhausted for up to THREE WEEKS before (sorry for the Ellen caps).

      Needless to say, I’m a little at a loss as to how to handle everything related to this. I’ve tried birth control, but even the one that my doctor said would have the smallest impact on my hormones (Nuva Ring), made me crazy.

      • Diana Barry :

        Have you gotten a workup for why you don’t get periods regularly? Putting aside any question of pregnancy/ttc/etc., I would try to figure out what else is going on with your hormones that makes your periods so irregular.

        • I have gone to various physicians over the years. The only thing they’ve found that could be causing it is a tumor on my pituitary gland that was secreting a certain hormone. I’ve been treated for that though. I’ve been off medication and tumor free for at least 2 years, and my period still has not come back regularly.

          ‘m not complaining about not having it for so long (it really can be a pain), but it’s just frustrating that I don’t know when I’ll start. I’ve just started having the PMS sympoms described above: I’ve never had any warning signs previously.

          • Microadenoma :

            Leigh, I have the same condition and in case you see this just wanted to suggest that you see another doc – the tumor can shrink to a size that is nearly impossible to see but not completely disappear and it sounds to me like you still have the same problem. I’m on Cabergolin, 1/2 a pill once a week and it does wonders. Let me know if you want more information. xx

          • Macroadenoma, I would love more information! I’m not very fond of the doctors on my new insurance plan. I feel like they blow off a lot of what I say. I’ve gotten so sick of it that I’ve not gone back to try to figure out what’s still wrong.

      • I’m not regular either, although not as irregular as you are, but you can still learn to note signs of ovulation or of fluctuating hormonal levels.

        I can’t handle hormonal birth control either. But you should try seeing an endocrinologist, not just your gyno. An endo will have a better understanding of what is causing your irregularity and may be able to prescribe meds that will help stimulate ovulation and regularize your cycle.

        • Cabergoline :

          Cabergoline is evil but it works- I have brutal side effects from the medication. I have the same problem as microadenoma. I was able to go off of it but the problem returned and now I am back on it again. Make sure your endo is following the protocol of doing heart monitoring with this medication as this medication can cause ortostatic hypotension and other issues!

  5. Cornellian :

    ALSO! Thanks to all for honest feedback on my open weekend threadjack about financial realities of being an orphan. I didn’t get back to my computer until Saturday night, and I assumed no one was around, but everything was very interesting to read.

  6. I don’t think I’ve heard the term psycho hose beast since about 9th grade — thank you for the flasback!

  7. anon for this :

    This is sort of on-topic, but I went off The Pill a few months ago and now I’m having acne for the first time in years. I think my regular make-up routine is making it worse. Does anyone have recommendations for a tinted moisturizer or foundation that won’t clog pores? It can be expensive or drug store variety… I’ll try anything at this point!

    • Always a NYer :

      The same thing happened to me when I went off The Pill after six years. Three years, numerous dermatologists, and every product you can think of later, I finally found something that works – Epiduo gel and doxycycline for 12 weeks. It’s been six weeks and my acne has cleared up so much. I asked my GP for the prescriptions and she had no hesitation giving them to me, so it may be an option for you.

      • If you can’t tolerate doxycycline (it made me nauseous, so I usually wouldn’t take it), and you don’t have drug allergies, Bactrim has worked great for me. It actually improved my acne more than The Pill did.

        • Doxycycline only makes me nauseous if I haven’t eaten enough before/after. Otherwise it continues to be a wonder drug!!

          • Always a NYer :

            The same with me, and I had to learn that the hard way =/ I now make sure I take it with breakfast and dinner, always a few bites in so my stomach isn’t empty. It really is a wonder drug!

    • I was anti-mineral makeup for, like, ever. But Jane Iredale makes some seriously good stuff.

    • Everyday Minerals is amazing for acne-prone skin. I used Bare Minerals forever before realizing that it has silicone in it, which can cause breakouts/exacerbate cystic acne in those who are prone to it. I switched to EM and I think it’s helped. It also has better colors for people without pink undertones (I have fair skin with yellowy undertones and it’s SO hard to find colors that match).

    • Chanticaille tinted moisturizer = awesomeness! Doesn’t clog my pores, and it’s a little thicker than your typical tinted moisturizer. Tis a tad expensive, but comes in a big tube that will last a long time. I wear just a teeny bit of pressed powder on top. Best thing to happen to my make-up routine. Honest.

      Also, I mixed up my skincare. I used Paula’s Choice for a long time (loved it) but recently changed to Sanitas (love it more). Between the Chanticaille and Sanitas, my skin looks amazing. Hasn’t looked this good in years.

  8. Blonde Lawyer :

    My mother had a horrible time with menopause and turned into a very nasty person, totally unlike her normal self, for a few years. At one point, I think my dad seriously considered trying to hospitalize her. I have an aunt that had to be hospitalized when each of her babies were infants due to severe post-partum depression. I also had a coworker leave her job after losing her mental health during menopause. It really sucks and I’m glad to see a post about it.

    While I agree that our hormones shouldn’t be a reason for men to discriminate against us, we also do ourselves a disservice by pretending our hormones have no effect on us or thinking we can just control them. People are less likely to seek help if they think they have some “freak issue” as opposed to common menopause, pms, post-partum, etc.

    • My grandmother, after a lifetime without mental health issues, developed such severe depression during menopause that she attempted suicide twice and had to receive ECT. Once she was through the change, it never recurred. I think that the stigma attached to this issue prevents women from getting help that they need because hormonal mental health issues are often dismissed in a way that denigrates women (the old, “are you PMS-ing?” question when one disagrees with a man).

      • I’m so sorry to hear your story. I have a somewhat similar story about my grandmother. After my uncle was born my grandma had to have an emergency hysterectomy. She was never put on any sort of hormones afterwards and developed major depression that lasted for a very long time (10 years maybe?) until they moved and a doctor was able to prescribe something that helped. I believe she also attempted suicide and was hospitalized. We do ourselves a disservice by pretending this isn’t real. One of the reasons I like this community so much is the ability for women to say that mental health issues are real and deserve to be treated like any other condition. Getting professional help, either for talk therapy or for prescriptions, can be tough but it is really important and I’m glad people are starting to come out with their experiences.

    • I went through early menopause at the age of 45. About that same time, all the stories came out about HRT leading to cancer, and I was afraid to take anything due to my family history. I became a raging nutcase, which manifested itself as dissatisfaction with my job, and I ended up leaving that job for another job. Some days I still regret that, and wonder if I would have changed jobs if I hadn’t been in the throes of hormone hell.

    • goirishkj :

      Amen to your second paragraph. I’ve got nothing else to add, you said what I was thinking.

  9. First a pregnant CEO now a pregnant Olympian! http://www.parenting.com/blogs/show-and-tell/leilah-parentingcom/malaysian-shooter-first-ever-pregnant-summer-olympic-athlete?src=syn&dom=cnnhealth&lnk=rss

  10. Yeesh, the whole perimenopause thing just sucks. Migraines, night sweats, weight gain. I am struggling just to figure it all out. I have two days a month when I have a headache and feel like Eeyore. The hormone patch helps a little but seriously. Yuck.

    • NOLA – I’m 48, and have found that the less dairy and meat in my diet, the less I have the perimenopause sweats and hot flashes. If I get meat/dairy down to nearly nothing, I have none of it and go back to my old cold-natured self who needs cardigans in the summer. YMMV, but I’m just throwing this out there, because if it works, it’s a no-med, cost-free solution.

      • You know, I haven’t had night sweats in awhile. Not sure what I can attribute it to. But the other symptoms drive me crazy.

      • Agree with this. I’ve been vegetarian for most of my life, but recently figured out that dairy (even organic dairy – I’m admittedly hooked on organics and have been for 10 years) makes my perimenopause worse. I’ll have it on occasion, but I can’t say that I really miss it!

  11. Evening Primrose Oil :

    I’ve had good experiences with taking Evening Primrose oil for PMS (I take it every day – has a cumulative effect).

  12. Anne Shirley :

    Really? Hungry Girl is your source? I find it frustrating that you rely on her instead of finding a real doctor to interview. I agree with the sentiment that we need to be able to talk about hormones honestly without getting to a women-are-crazy place, but I’m not sure relying on hunches and rumors is useful.

    • I was also confused when I read that part. Though I will admit I have a strong bias against HG.

    • I agree with this. Even if an interview was hard to swing, a quick Pubmed search would have yielded something more credible.

  13. SoCalAtty :

    Salary negotiation TJ! I am writing a proposal letter for my salary/benefits which are to be negotiated from my “probational” salary at the beginning of next month. (Whoo, I made it six months and I think I like it here!) I have the salary that I’m asking for nailed down by using all of the usual resources – NALP, the Robert Half Legal report, salary dot com, and a search that turned up interesting anecdotal information.

    I’m stuck on the vacation time. What would you ask for in a firm of 3-4 attorneys? I’ve seen some older employee guidlines from when they were a bit bigger that says 3 weeks, so I’ll ask for that, but no mention of “sick” time or any kind of maternity leave policy. I’m getting a very generous stipend to pay for my health insurance since I like mine and the firm only offers one very limited choice. I am asking for a later start time 2x a week so I can ride in the mornings (starting at 9 instead of 8) but other than that, I can’t think of anything. Help?

    • Do you have a billable hours requirement? I have worked for several firms that didn’t care how much PTO you took so long as you made your hours. For maternity leave or long sick leave, I would look into a short term disability policy and have the firm cover part/all of the premium.

      • SoCalAtty :

        No billable hours requirement. It is basically “get your work done, do a good job, and the billables will end up being whatever we give you.” I’m really good at asking for more work and more sophisticated work. It seems that they feel that way about PTO – as long as your work is done, they don’t seem to care what I do – but having no firm policy make me a little nervous. Good idea on the disability policy.

        • When I was on a tri-phasic pill, I would get So. Down. for a few days each month… and when I finally realized it happened every month, I switched to a monophasic pill. The difference was night and day. I really, really despise my lack of control over my hormones!

    • Definitely sounds like investigation of sick time / mat leave is in order….

  14. I am on the pill and often get terrible headache right on the eyebrows when I am on the sugar/dummy pill and get my periods. I already use a very low does hormone BC. I spoke to my doctor once and she said I could try migrane medicine, I wasn’t comfortable pumping more pills in the system. Wondering if anyone else has this issue? I didnot have such headaches before going on BC.

    • That’s the problem I’ve had but only in the past year and I attribute it to perimenopause. I get a terrible headache for two days right before my period starts. It’s a crushing headache that doesn’t respond to anything. I got on a hormone patch (Vivelle dot) when I start on the sugar pills. It hasn’t completely gotten rid of the symptoms but it’s better than it was.

    • lucy stone :

      Yes. I can usually abate it with ibuprofen, fish oil, and magnesium, but I haven’t taken any of those today and would like to gouge my eyebrow out with a spoon

      • Same problem :

        I always get a terrible headache during sugar pill days, and up to the second day of my period. I fight it with Excedrin, caffeine, bananas (potassium) and protein. And sleep. I can sometimes fight it off with one dose of headache meds if I am really good about sleeping and eating well, but if I am not – I am in trouble for days. I have heard that the period-skipping pills like Seasonale can help this, but havent talked to the doc about it yet.

    • Have you already tried just not taking the placebo pill? Maybe it’s something in there that you’re allergic to?

    • I’ve started getting that with BC pills (I usually get terrible headaches Thursday and/or Friday if I’m on a Sunday start). Motrin or Tylenol don’t really make a dent, and if I go to sleep with a headache, it’s there when I wake up, too. Last cycle I didn’t feel totally debilitated, just headache-y and a little nauseous, so I came into work a little late and got some extra caffeine and whatever pastry item appealed to me, and it helped a bit.

      I just started a new pill, because it didn’t use to be like this (I’ve been on BCP on and off for 8 years or so), so we’ll see if this new pill is better. Is your doctor willing to take the time to fine tune your BCP prescription? Even slight changes in what hormones are in the pill or amounts could help (or hurt–don’t be timid about telling your doctor that a new pill isn’t working and you want to switch back or try something else).

    • I had migraines before starting BC, but rarely. I was prescribed Imitrex (now generic sumatriptan) and it works very well once the headache starts. Lucy, I know exactly the “gouge your eyeball out with a spoon” feeling.

      I started Seasonique after college and it helped quite a bit since I only had sugar pills every three months – my doctor said the hormone fluctuations were the problem. I now only get migraines occasionally when I let myself get dehydrated. A few years ago, I switched to Portia, which is the same dose as Seasonique but is available as a monthly generic so I just take packs back-to-back. I highly recommend this!

    • first post :

      I was having this same problem a few years ago, and it took me several months to realize that my migraines, which I had never ever had before, were on my “off” weeks while I was on the Pill. I told my ob-gyn and she took me off the Pill immediately because it can lead to an ischemic stroke. I had been leery of pumping hormones into my body long before this episode, so I was glad for the excuse to kiss hormonal BC goodbye, once and for all. I now use a diaphragm + spermicide.

    • Obviously talk to your gyno, but how do you feel about skipping the sugar pills and just using more bc packs? I’m not on Seasonale or one of the other pills that are supposed to be taken for months at a time, but my gyno writes my Ocella (generic Yasmin) prescription to be taken without the placebos, so that my insurance pays for an extra pack, and I only get a period every three months. That would reduce the headaches. She also said to only stop the pills for four days, or until my period starts and then go back on them…apparently all you need to do is trigger the bleed, and starting the active pills earlier doesn’t really cause problems. I’m not sure it’s entirely healthy to spend 50 weeks/year on hormones, but I much prefer it to my normal (highly irregular) cycle.

  15. Just call me peri! Besides the night sweats & insomnia, I’ve been dragging all day long, never used to drink coffee before noon, now am boiling the water by 10., throughou the month. Still, i know i can b e worse around my period bc my 9 yr old son can see it coming I dont want him to turn into a jerk who says “you must be on the rag”, but he usually does nail it I agree that exercise helps, still need to get on a regular regimen. Does anybody else get cranky around ovulation?

  16. Fish Oil and B6 :

    The three supplements I recommend for most women:
    – fish oil omega 3s
    – magnesium
    – b vitamins and/or iron for anemias

    The majority of America is deprived of omega 3 and magnesium because we do not consume enough of either with our diets. Unrelated to any discussion about ‘the crazy’ or focus or any other PMS symptoms, an opthalmologist recommend fish oil for my dry eyes. The next day, I noticed a boost in my focus, and then over the course of the month, I noticed a decrease in ‘the crazy’. After reading everything about fish oil and all of its miraculous benefits, I am a huge fan now.

    The same cause of ‘the crazy’ also induces anemia for women, especially for women who also regularly work-out. For this, iron supplements should be taken. A physician can do a simple blood test to determine whether you are anemic, whether it’s pernicious anemia (B12) or the decreased amount of iron type.

    • Can you recommend a fish oil supplement that does not make one burp fish? I tried fish oil for a little but could not stand all that fishy-ness.

      • I’ve had good luck with Nordic Naturals DHA 500 mg. The burps still happen but they taste like strawberry (albeit fake strawberry) rather than fish.

        • Fish Oil and B6 :

          I take plain fish oil and don’t get the fish burps, so I can’t relate completely. However, there are also ‘enteric coated’ (or often shortened to ‘EC’) fish oil that seem to prevent the fish burps. Enteric coated means it’s digested in your intestines as opposed to your stomach. I purchase Nature Made “burpless” version from Target, but I don’t know whether that makes other people have the fish burps.

          • I also use the coated fish oil tablets, and have never experienced “fish burps”.

  17. I must be lucky because I don’t often get too hormonal.
    That is to say, I sometimes notice mood swings but I usually recognize them quickly as that and can control them pretty quickly as a result. I hope I am not jinxing myself here by saying that. . . I sometimes wonder about how different it must really be for others and, in total internet anonymity, I have to admit that it drives me bonkers when women blame things on their hormones. I’m sure some people really must’ve a problem, but I also thinks it’s sometimes just an excuse for some. I am also sure it must annoy men even more. Sometimes I really feel for men.

    • I’m with you, find this ‘blame the hormones game’ highly irritating. Probably because I’ve never been affected by it (apart from acne, even in my thirties, sigh). I guess this post is showing me maybe I need to change my atittude, and I’m just in the happy few category!

      • working mama :

        Count your blessings because this is one of those things that is so difficult to pinpoint a particular source and solution. I’m sure there are people who use it as an excuse but when it’s for real, it is horrible.

        • Agree, completely :

          Consider yourself lucky. And please try to have a little compassion for people who have trouble with their hormones. It is a real thing, and it sucks. Like you, I used to be pretty even-keeled during PMS. Having kids (or aging, I’m not sure which) altered my hormones in a big way. I’ve learned that I cannot take myself seriously during the week before my period because I’m a depressed, moody mess. Feeling like you don’t have control over your emotions is not a fun thing.

      • I think it’s unfair to blame something on hormones just because the person is a woman (or for a woman to say she can get away with whatever behavior she wants because she’s a woman and it’s hormones) but it’s also not fair to pretend they don’t exist. A day or two before my period I can get irrationally upset about things. A friend will cancel dinner plans and I’ll start sobbing and be convinced that I have no friends and I’m lonely and pathetic and it’s all so awful. I’ll wonder why I never realized that this was such a huge issue for me. Then I’ll look at the calendar and realize it’s 24 hrs to P-day and say “ohhh! So THAT’s why I was so upset!” It’s like you took a limp little balloon and filled it up with air. The balloon is the problem and the air is the hormones. The balloon itself is little but the air makes it look huge.

        • Cornellian :

          I get very sad about produce at the grocery store, becuase no one loves the bruised ones, so i cry and buy all the rotten bananas. That shit is real.

          But I agree that it’s hard to recognize in the moment, and that people love to use it as an excuse/insult.

          • Hahaha, your anecdote about the bananas reminds me of a song by the band The Blow. There’s a lyric that goes “If something in the deli aisle makes you cry, I’ll put my arm around you and walk you outside.” You should make your own song about the produce aisle :)

      • Praxidike :

        I’m with you. I definitely get mood swings due to hormones, but they’re easily controlled because I can identify them pretty readily. It REALLY bothers me when women blame things on their hormones because it feels like a cop-out.

        Yes, I understand that hormones affect us all (when my mother went through menopause … woah – the less said about that the better). But blaming your inappropriate behavior (yelling, screaming, cursing) on the fact that you’re about to get your period? Not cool. It’s like some women absolve themselves from the need for self control during that period of time.

        Moreover, I just feel like blaming stuff on your hormones has the effect of making it acceptable for men to discount your feelings/emotions as a byproduct of “that time of the month”.

        • Praxidike :

          I should add that I recently went on the pill because condoms weren’t working for us anymore. I’ve never been so emotional and miserable in my life. I lasted about three months (during which I had severe depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation) and then said, “Well, I guess I’d rather use condoms than be this unhappy.”

          So I am NOT saying that hormones don’t affect us, just that I find it bothersome when they’re blamed for unacceptable behavior.

          • You may want to see about a different type of pill if you’re sick of the condoms–the first one I ever tried (~10 years ago) made me feel just as you said–but after a few days of randomly envisioning myself driving my car off the road, I realized why I was suddenly feeling so crazy, and went off it. But I’ve tried two or three different pills since then and had nothing like that happen–it was just that particular pill’s hormone formulation.

    • goirishkj :

      I don’t like it when women blame bad behavior on hormones. I’ve been lucky in the past too, but I think there’s still room to acknowledge the very real effect of hormones without blaming them. I think we’d all be better served to acknowledge hormones are real and affect people in different ways.

    • Count your blessings. I don’t talk about my personal health issues at work, but believe me, hormones are a problem.

  18. I prevent moodiness through chocolate. Lots of chocolate.

    • And wine.

      • Sadly, a few sips of wine can set off a headache when I’m on the sugar pills in my BCP pack.

        • Why take the sugar pills then? I’ve been on BCP for 15 years and have never once taken the placebo pills.

          • Are you taking the BCP to prevent pregnancy? If so, do you worry about not having a sign that you’re not pregnant? That is my main issue, but I should try skipping the sugar pills more often (I will do it on occasion, and it feels like a big deal when I do, but I realize there’s no reason to think about it that way).

          • This. Wine > sugar pills.

          • Just don’t take any pill on the days you’re supposed to take placebo. You’ll still get your period.

          • Interesting…good idea to test whether it is something about the sugar pills themselves versus a week of not taking BCP.

          • Maddie Ross :

            I was on the Pill for 10+ years and never once took a sugar pill. I’d get my period 3 days after stopping the active pills like clockwork. The sugar pills are just there so you get it in your head you take a pill every.day. I personally am pretty OCD, so forgetting pills was never a problem. I think it happened once in all those years and it was because I woke up early to catch a flight and was totally off schedule.

          • Rosie, I wasn’t suggesting you take the new pack right away and skip your prd. altogether. Just that you don’t take those pills since they are completely pointless other than helping you remember to take the reg. pills.

  19. I was very pleased to see this post today. I only recently made the connection between my moodiness and my cycle. I brought it up with my fiance, saying I hated to blame it on hormones since society makes that seem a lazy answer, but he gently pointed out that he had noticed that my stressed/upset moods did seem cyclical. It makes me feel better knowing that it’s not necessarily something I can just overcome by sheer willpower (I have been beating myself up about it). For me, I will need to try some of the approaches commenters have mentioned including using vitamins/supplements.

    Thank you, Kat and company!

  20. So glad to see this post! I agree that awareness is half the battle, and posts like this help.

    I used to struggle with PMS for several days: cranky, weepy, and worst of all, brain fog trailing off in the middle of a sentence, going into another room and forgetting why I went there, etc). I’d tell DH “PMS Alert,” so he’d know to lay a little low and not push things, and I’d try to avoid scheduling brain-heavy events during those times.

    Then, perimenopause started in my early-mid 40s. I thought I was too young (my mom hit menopause in her mid 50s), until I learned that some women are in peri for 10+ years. Why does nobody warn us about this stuff! I started getting my period more often, with worse cramps, plus brain fog and pretty severe irritability occurring randomly throughout the month and occasional night sweats. I considered going on HRT but instead went on a very low-level pill, with breaks of only 4 days between pill packets. It’s not perfect, but it’s reduced the brain fog and irritability and has taken care of the period problems. I have friends that have had some relief from peri irritability and depression through antidepressants.

  21. After 6 years on the pill I sought out alternate methods of birth control, because I noticed my skin was significantly better. I couldn’t remember feeling PMS before or while on the pill, but I am definitely noticing it now. Mostly, I just get pretty grumpy or stressed out for a couple of days before and then have insane chocolate cravings for the first two days of my period. For me, just being aware of it is really important. The first couple of times it happened I had no idea why I was so grumpy and that spiraled, but now that I am aware of it its easier to be less grumpy because I know I am unjustified in my feelings. So I try to just remind myself to breathe and let things go when they upset me. I also alert my husband and apologize when I realize it happens cause the first few times it happened he had to bear the brunt of it.
    For the chocolate cravings it helps me immensely, if I just make sure I stay really disciplined for the rest of the month. That way I don’t feel fat on those two days and can allow myself to give in to a couple of craving. Especially during those times hormones affect you physically, I am a firm advocate of just being good to yourself and cutting yourself some slack.

  22. Consider the source, but this seemed timely.

  23. I got the Implanon (progestin-based, no estrogen) implanted a couple of months ago and have been… shall we say “challenging” ever since. For the first few weeks I was very tired, then the weight gain, which seems to have diminished a little, but now, I’m just cranky. A lot. My dear dear SO is wonderful and pretty much ignores errant behavior from me (but doesn’t ignore me), which reminds me how much of a keeper he is, but I feel so bad subjecting him to my moods! Add to that an “issue” at work lately, and it’s not been fun. Unfortunately, I don’t have a ton to add as to how to manage all of this, but I’m hoping the next couple months will bring some sort of adjustment, as it is still early. Anyone else with Implanon notice a leveling-out, or am I in this for the long haul?

    Also a huge second to the exercise suggestion — I have a trainer once or twice a week and it always lifts me out of my funks for a while.

    • I have Implanon, when I had the first (of three, so far) inserted, I noticed a calming down of my emotions, & that was it, no other side-effects.

      In the last four or so months before removal I get agitated more easily, which goes away when I have a new one inserted. What you’re experiencing is completely unlike my own positive experience – maybe Implanon just isn’t for you?

      • Oy, that is pretty much the opposite reaction than the one I’m having. Thanks for the input, though, I certainly hope I wind up with those results! Given cost concerns (I ended up paying $500 out of pocket due to deductible silliness), I’m going to try and tough it out for a couple more months and hope!

  24. Mousekeeper :

    Can anyone recommend something for severe cramps for my 17-year-old daughter? When she gets her period, for the first day or so, her cramps are very bad to the point where she doesn’t want to get out of bed in the morning. Advil (what we happen to have at home) doesn’t seem to make a dent in them. Not only do I not like seeing my girl in pain, but her taking a day off a month during the school year, particularly on an exam or oral presentation day, can be a problem.

    • You absolutely need to consult her PCP or find a gyno (there are even some gynos that specialize in care of teenagers). I know some moms might not be 100% comfortable with putting their child on birth control, but many BC pills ease PMS symptoms, and there are meds like Seasonale which are designed to have you avoid periods altogether. Periods aren’t a biological necessity, and if your daughter is in that much pain, I think it’s worth considering.

    • My doctor prescribed Aleve and Tylenol with Codeine, which was/is the only thing that helps with mine. The Codeine did not make me loopy at all, but it’s possible that it will with other people. If I don’t have that, I take 2 Aleve and a Tylenol and it works pretty well.

      Beyond that, get a great heating pad or two (or the peel and stick ones). I find that wearing one in the front on my lower stomach, and one on my lower back works wonders. If you get the peel and stick ones, they can be worn under clothes undetected, and they stay warm for 8ish hours.

      • I find an aromatherapy microwave herbal pack works wonders for cramps! I was worried about falling asleep with a heating pad on, so I got the microwave pack I can use that and fall asleep without worry!

    • In addition to taking her to the gyno, you should also talk with the gyno about how to manage the cramps with ibuprofen (it’s more than just taking it on occasion with OTC meds). I think she pretty much needs to take it as the cramps start coming (meaning: the day before when she feels achy) and then consistently (every 4 or 6 hours, depending on the dosage) for the first two days. I have used prescription strength ibuprofen for cramps for years (I have horrible, labor-like cramps thanks to endometriosis), and taking OTC advil (even in my prescription dosage) doesn’t help me.

    • Check with a doctor, but you can give her a higher dosage of advil. Mine told me to take 3 or 4. I used to have bad cramps like your daughter and I’d occasionally throw up, but going on the pill completely fixed it and made my periods light and easy. I highly recommend birth control.

    • i'm like this too :

      I bet you anything that she has a tilted uterus. They run in my family and I get terrible, terrible cramps. The best way to find out is to have her lie on her stomach, face-down. Now put at least one (maybe more) pillows under her pelvis so that her hips are elevated. Stay like this for an hour (I read, watch TV, work, whatever). You can put a heating pad on the pillow. I promise this sounds crazy but it helps (the gravity corrects the tilt in the uterus and makes the flow less painful.)

      • long-time lurker :

        I know this is late but I have the tilted uterus and was never told it was related to bad cramps…it all makes sense now. I am going to try your trick! In any event, I take Alleve upon the advice of my gyno at the very second I have a hint of cramp and sometimes just the day I know my period is coming (I am very regular). According to my dr taking it early allows it to “block” the pain sensations. I don’t know the science but it works for me. Also mild exercise like walking helps…more severe exercise seems to make me feel worse.

    • I agree that you should have her see a doctor. I had the same problem when I was 17 and was put on the pill and it was a lifesaver. I’ve recently gone off the pill for the first time since I was 17 and the cramps are back!

    • Second and third everything said here. I’ve been on hormonal BC since I was a freshman in high school due to ovarian cysts and severe dysmenorrhea (fancy word for “really bad cramps”) that would make me vomit and writhe around in pain like you wouldn’t believe. She should also be tested for endometriosis. My doc started me out on high levels of ibuprofen, then naproxin, which had no effect and we finally found out about 10 years ago that vicoprofen is the only thing that made me feel better (but this level of meds is truly a last resort if all else fails). Also recommend heating pads/bed buddies, massaging the abdomen, and hot baths. But have hope, my periods were pure misery for so many years but they really started getting better in the past few years (I’m 32 now). Now I only have episodes once every three or four periods which is incredible.

  25. Related TJ: I have pcos and apparently the only treatment is BC pills. After being on them for years, I decided to take a break this month. It’s been 3 weeks and I like the changes so far (s*x is fun again and, not sure if this is related, but I feel more confident). I’m hoping (!!) that my pcos symptoms don’t flare up now that I’m off the pill (more facial hair yay!). Does anyone have any experience with pcos? Am I doomed to BC pills forever?

    • PCOS Anon :

      I have PCOS and got off the pill for 1 year to TTC. Unfortunately, I did get more facial hair and acne when off the pill. It did not go away after I resumed hormonal birth control, either. I am using NuvaRing, though, which might not be as effective as birth control pills at controlling those symptoms (this is not something I thought to ask my doc). The hair doesn’t bother me as much as the pimples, which I’m now treating with skin medication rather than BCPs.

      I resumed hormonal birth control because the window of being a good time for a baby passed rather than because of my PCOS symptoms. I know everyone has different symptoms, and I don’t think mine are as bad as some others.

  26. Most embarrassing hormone-induced behavior? I sometimes cry over the Ghost Whisperer during the PMS week.

  27. Once, while walking from law school to the metro stop, I thought, “I hate everyone!” The rational side responded, “Everyone? You don’t even know everyone.” The following day, Aunt Flo arrived and the internal discussion made sense.

    • haha, I had the same thing (going to work one day, hating everyone). Took the day off when I realized I was PMSing. First time I noticed the mood swing and found the reason for my crankiness. A revelation!

  28. Am I the only the one that feels more “balanced” and even-tempered when on hormonal birth control? My weeks placebo pills are torture for me (thankfully not too often, as I am on a 13 week regimen) and I feel on edge and about to burst into tears/rage. I sigh with relief when I go back on the regular pills.

    Also, mucho exercise. At least 20 minutes of pushing myself to sweaty, endorphin high 3-4 times a week.

    • I feel much better, as do all the women in my family, but we all have PMDD.

      Sadly, I couldn’t find a BCP that didn’t give me raging migranes all month. So I’m off and self-medicating with a combo of 5-HTP, GABA, ground golden flaxseed, blackstrap molassess, and evening primrose oil/fish oil all month. I also make sure to run a minimum of 30 minutes on a 5 incline that week to wear myself out. It’s a hassle, but it really helps (keep me from killing all living things anywhere ever).

  29. I hate attributing my moods to hormones. I had an ex who would accuse me of PMSing whenever I got annoyed at him. At one point, after he had given me the silent treatment for an entire day on our vacation, I screamed at him, “I’m not mad because I’m having PMS! I’m mad because you’re acting like an asshole!” Our relationship ended soon after.

    I think I feel worst (emotionally and physically) at the midpoint of my cycle, maybe a few days around ovulation. The days before my period actually aren’t that bad.

    • Of Counsel :

      It makes me very uncomfortable as well. Not every woman has the same experience, and what about emotional, irrational behavior that is seemingly exclusive to men, such as road rage?

      I used to think that PMS was a Madison Avenue-manufactured concept create to sell products, until I met a woman who had it.

      Not every woman has PMS, nor does everyone have a terrible menopause.

  30. Depression :

    I’m late to this thread but I wanted to add for those who might have the same problem – I have been on anti-depression meds for moderate to severe depression for over 10 years. The day before my period, every month, I am convinced that the meds don’t work because I become literally nearly suicidal. Luckily it is only one day a month but it is seriously Not Fun.

  31. I agree.
    I usually get very tired, got headaches and back aches and my mood is on a roller-coaster.
    My boyfriend is always joking (the week after!!) about my inside “monster” and my increased appetite for cookies, chocolate and other unhealthy snacks and my tendency to cry for almost anything.
    I usually warn him ahead of time and try to accept my moody self and rationalize my weird behavior. I also try to go to yoga as much as I can during that week to find my zen and to toss a couple of easy runs/gym sessions in the mix to keep me sane. Actually, if I manage to go running the first day I notice my cramps are less terrible and my mood brighten up.
    I guess accepting our crazy self that week may help being less awful to live with.

  32. Ugh. I haven’t yet found my perfect fit BC after about 8 years of trying. I’ll find one that works and then my insurance changes coverage and they become crazy expensive ($70-80 per pack). Even the same hormone from a different manufacturer can vastly change how it effects my body so switching to generic can be as bad as switching hormones. I’ve had all of the really rare symptoms, including the oh so fun “can’t keep my contacts in bug eye” thing.

    In college, I got cramps in my back so terribly I couldn’t move, walk, bear to sit in class, despite being on birth control. Basically, lying in the fetal position was the only comfortable thing. I even passed out once when trying to stand up. It was ridiculous. It’s caused by endometriosis so if you experience really terrible cramps, I recommend talking to your gyno about it and asking family members if they have it. Taking BC ensures that it doesn’t get worse and regulates it and helps mitigate symptoms.

    When I told my gyno about the back pain after a few months, he scoffed and said that it wasn’t due to my period, despite that it happened every time the week before and during. His nurse then told me to pray to Jesus for my back to get better when he wrote it off as a strain. Never went back there!

    So really stick to your guns or find another gyno that listens to you and understands your issues. There is literature out there about how each birth control has widely different responses from women so it’s not crazy, despite what some drs might think. I know they get annoyed with having to change prescriptions after three months but I really have no pity for them on that. It’s their job so demand the respect from them about your problems.

    • I should also add that BC does really mess with libido, despite what your gyno may say. You’re not crazy, promise.

    • As far as your insurance, have you tried getting the specific pills that work for you covered as medically necessary? When I was younger, my doctor got brand-name Wellbutrin covered for me (the generic didn’t come in extended release) by sending in some form. It was a little more expensive than the generic ($25 vs $15/mo) but worlds better than paying the sticker price.

  33. Speaking of magnesium, let’s talk about epsom salt. My holistic doctor had me try baths with epsom salt and lavender (gosh, I sound so crunchy writing this), and they really helped with anxiety/depression.

    Epsom salt contains a large does of magnesium, and its nice and cheap and available practically everywhere where aspirin is sold: Rite Aid, Whole Foods, Walgreens, etc. It’s also phemonenal for aches and pains associated with joint issues, exercise strains and sprains, etc. So, go for a mile run and sip some tea while soaking in that magnesium – you’ll emerge a new, balanced woman.

    Also, fish oil made a huge difference for me. Since I started taking it daily (2400mg) my mood has been much more consistent.

    All of this could be a placebo or false correlation – who doesn’t love a bath? – but whatever it is, I’m happy it’s working!