Understanding You Questions and Answers
PMS and PMDD
- What is PMS?
- Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) is the combination of physical and emotional changes a woman may experience in the lead up to her period (after ovulation). The symptoms will normally end when the woman gets her period.
- What is PMDD?
- Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) is a combination of the physical and emotional changes a woman may experience in the lead up to her period however the symptoms are more severe than PMS and will significantly interfere with daily activities, school, work or relationships. Some women wrongly believe they have PMS, when it is actually PMDD.
- What is the difference between PMS and PMDD?
- Unlike PMS, a woman who suffers from PMDD will always experience some sort of emotional symptom, such as mood swings, anxiety, irritability or feelings of sadness or depression. The symptoms of PMDD are also more severe than those of PMS and will interfere with daily life such as work, school, relationships and social activities.
- What are the symptoms of PMS and PMDD?
- For a full list of the symptoms you may experience if you have PMS or PMDD see the Symptoms section of this site.
- What causes PMS and PMDD?
- No-one really knows what causes PMS or PMDD but many factors may be involved, including changes in the hormone levels within the body in the lead up to your period, changes to chemicals in the brain and even family history.
- How is PMS and PMDD diagnosed?
- There is no single test your doctor can run to diagnose PMS; however by tracking your symptoms using Your Body Diary your doctor can gain an accurate picture of your physical and emotional wellbeing throughout your menstrual cycle. However, PMDD is diagnosed using specific criteria. Your doctor will usually monitor the number of symptoms you have as well as their severity and the impact they are having on your life to determine whether you have PMS or PMDD. For a full list of the symptoms you may experience with PMS or PMDD, see the Symptoms section of the website.
- How is PMS and PMDD treated?
- There are a number of things women can do to help minimise the impact of their period on their daily life. Please see the What can you do section of this website for more information.
- Does the Pill increase feelings of depression?
- Some women find that their mood is improved while they are taking the Pill, especially if these low moods are related to the menstrual cycle, as in PMS (premenstrual syndrome). This is because the Pill gives a more constant level of hormones throughout the cycle. However, other women find that they are sensitive to the hormones in the Pill and this can make them feel moody or depressed when they take it. Often this will improve over time; however you should always discuss any concerns with your doctor. Even if you've been diagnosed with, or treated for depression in the past it doesn't necessarily mean the Pill will make things worse. If you are concerned, discuss your medical history with your doctor (as well as any medications you are taking) and they will be able to recommend the best Pill for you.
- Do you need to have a prescription to buy the Pill?
- In Australia you do need a prescription from a doctor to purchase the Pill. As with any medication it is important to be aware of both the effects and potential side effects of therapy, as well as any interactions with medications you are currently taking, so it is important to discuss these with your doctor prior to taking the Pill for the first time. Most doctors are very approachable and are a great source of information about contraception, STI’s and any other sexual health questions you may have. It is their job to help you when you are making these important decisions and provide you with all the information you need. If you don’t have a family doctor or feel uncomfortable asking your regular GP, ask a friend to recommend a doctor they have found helpful.
- Do you need a parent to sign a prescription for the Pill?
- In Australia, if you are over 14 years of age, you do not need your parent's signature to obtain a prescription for the Pill. Most doctors will encourage you to discuss your decision to become sexually active and the use of contraception with a trusted older person, however doctors are not allowed to discuss anything about your visit with anyone (including parents) without your permission. Although you do not need your parent’s signature to obtain a prescription of the Pill, you will almost always need your Medicare card number to visit the doctor – unless you visit a Family Planning Clinic (where you do not need a Medicare card number at most Clinics). Everyone over 15 years of age is entitled to a Medicare Card but you do need to apply for this and your parents will be sent a new card with your name no longer on it. If you are under 15 or do not have a Medicare card you may be listed on your parent/guardians card, so you will need the number from that card. You can either make a note of this or see the doctor during regular office hours and the receptionist can ring Medicare for the number.
- How old do I need to be before I can get the Pill?
- In Australia, you need to be 14 years of age in order to receive a prescription for the Pill. If you are under the age of 14, you will need your parent’s signature in order to obtain a script for the Pill.
- Where can I get the Pill from without visiting the doctor?
- The only person who can prescribe the Pill for you is a doctor. This is because a doctor will need to review your medical history and ensure the Pill is safe and appropriate for you to take. Anything you discuss with your doctor is entirely confidential, unless it is an extreme circumstance where you may be at risk, for example, if you were being sexually abused. If you do not feel comfortable visiting your regular GP, you can attend your local Family Planning Clinic (check the state based websites for your nearest clinic) and a doctor there will be able to assist.
- If I take the Pill correctly during my cycle, am I protected against pregnancy when I take the sugar pills?
- Yes. Although the ‘sugar’ pills contain none of the hormones that protect against pregnancy, during the hormone free days (whether no tablets or sugar tablets are consumed) there is not enough time for an egg to mature. It is safe to have sex when you are not taking any hormone pills, sugar pills are simply there to keep you in the routine of taking a tablet every day while you have your period. However it’s important to remember that if you haven’t taken the hormone pills properly i.e. you have missed a day or you haven’t taken it at the same time each day you may not be protected so you should use another form of contraception such as a condom.
- Can the Pill reduce a period to nothing?
- The Pill can help regulate periods, reduce pain associated with periods and lighten the flow for those with very heavy periods; however you should still have a period each month. A small percentage of women will stop getting periods or get very light periods whilst on the pill. Provided pregnancy is ruled out, this is nothing to worry about. It is safe to skip a period if you need to (for example if you are going on holidays or have a special occasion) by not taking the ‘sugar’ pills’ and starting straight back onto the hormone pills when you have finished a cycle of tablets.
- How do I skip my period when I am taking the Pill?
- It is very simple to skip your period when taking the Pill. When you have finished taking the hormone tablets, rather than starting the ‘sugar pills’ which contain no hormone and cause a ‘withdrawal bleed’ (your period), simply start the next packet of the Pill in the hormone tablet section. It is safe to skip your period when taking the Pill, particularly if you have a special occasion or holiday planned, however it is recommended that you have a period every three to four months, as the effects of taking the Pill continuously has not been studied.
- Are you allowed to take the Pill even if you haven’t had sex?
- Yes. You do not need to have had sex in order to get a prescription for the Pill. The Pill has a number of benefits beyond contraception. It can give you shorter, lighter, more regular and less painful periods, reduce premenstrual symptoms such as fatigue, bloating and mood swings and improve the appearance of your skin by reducing acne. It can also reduce the chance of some cancers. Your doctor may ask you questions about your sexual history to establish your reasons for starting the Pill, but you do not need to have had sex in order to receive a prescription for the Pill.
- Does the Pill have any side effects?
- Side effects for the Pill can be both positive and negative and most women using the Pill experience few, if any negative side effects. In fact, many women start taking the Pill for its positive side effects such as lighter periods, milder menstrual cramps, improved acne, reduced body hair, improvements to the symptoms of endometriosis and minimising the emotional and physical symptoms associated with their period. The Pill also decreases the risk of ovarian cysts, ovarian and uterine cancer, benign (non cancerous) breast lumps and anaemia On the other hand, some women do experience bleeding between periods, increased appetite, nausea, breast tenderness, headaches and mood changes. Most of these side effects will improve after three months on the Pill when the body has had time to adjust. If they do not improve, your doctor may consider changing your pill. Serious side effects such as blood clots are very uncommon. Heart attack and strokes are EXTREMELY rare, especially in non smokers who don’t have any risk factors for heart disease such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
- If I take the Pill, will it make it harder for me to fall pregnant in the future?
- No, the Pill is one of the most effective forms of reversible contraception. In a number of ways, the Pill can help maintain your fertility by protecting against conditions which can affect it such as ovarian cysts and ectopic pregnancy. The Pill takes very little time to leave your body (around two days) however it may take a short time for your body to readjust. On average, most women will be ovulating (producing an egg) again within three months but you can get pregnant within the first menstrual cycle of being off the Pill.
- Does the Pill cause pimples?
- Most Pills actually help with acne, especially if the breakouts happen around the time you get your period. The hormone levels in each Pill vary, which means some Pills are better in treating acne than others. It is best to speak with your doctor about which Pill is right for you
- If I forget to track symptoms in the body diary, can I go back and record them later?
- Yes. You have up to seven days to go back and track symptoms for missed days.
- How many days do I need to track symptoms so the results can be evaluated by my healthcare professional?
- It's best to track every day to get the most accurate results, but if you have an appointment or need to see your healthcare professional, print out and bring the most current results with you. Keep in mind that only your healthcare professional can decide if you've tracked enough days for a complete evaluation.
- What if I'm travelling and don't have access to my computer?
- You can use any computer to track your symptoms because your personal password is what gives you access to Your Body Diary.
- How is a missed day defined?
- A missed day is when you do not login and track symptoms in Your Body Diary for one full day.
- Can I make entries in the body diary days in advance?
- No, days cannot be tracked in advance.
Your Body Diary Curve
- How should I use my report to talk to my healthcare professional about my symptoms?
- Your Body Diary results could be an important tool for your healthcare professional to use in deciding how to treat your symptoms. Click on the "Talking to Your Healthcare Professional" tab near the top of the screen for ways to make the most of your visit.
- What do Your Body Diary curves mean?
- Each curve represents one of 14 emotional and physical symptoms which you'll keep track of, using different colors to indicate the intensity of your symptoms - from not-at-all to extreme. Over time, you'll start to see patterns which will show if and when severe symptoms are related to your menstrual cycle. The curves will also give you a better understanding of the ups and downs of your body and help you keep in tune with yourself. Of course, only your healthcare professional can interpret and evaluate the results in order to come up with a treatment that's best for you.
Your Body Diary Preferences
- What is the difference between viewing my symptoms with the All Dates option or Week View option?
- When you look at your curves with the All Dates option, you get a big picture view of your symptoms over a longer period of time and a broader indication of when and if severe symptoms are related to your menstrual cycle. The Week View is a valuable snapshot of symptoms that have recently occurred, and is more immediate.
- What if I forget my password?
- No problem. Just go to the "Forget your password?" section in the log-in area, click the "Get it via email" link, type in your e-mail address, click on the submit button and we'll e-mail your password to you.
- How do I change my password?
- To change your password click on "Your Preferences", type in a new password, type it again to confirm and then click on the "Save Settings" button.
- How can I set or change Your Body Diary e-mails reminding me to track my symptoms?
- You can't change these e-mails. The Body Diary e-mails are automatically set to remind you after you have missed either 7 or 21 days.