10 Signs your period is coming

You may not like that you bleed every month. But, at least, the monthly flow often doesn't come without giving you signs.

Avatar illustration of a woman experiencing menstrual cramps

Key takeaways:

  • It is normal to experience a series of symptoms commonly called "period flu" or, clinically known as "premenstrual syndrome" as you approach your period.
  • Common signs your period is coming soon include unusual food cravings, tender breasts, and a dry vagina.
  • Some signs you experience during your period are similar to pregnancy signs or signs of certain health conditions. Therefore, if the signs persist even after your period or worsen, it is best to see your doctor.

Weeks or days before your period, you might experience flu-like symptoms. These symptoms, called "period flu," are part of a broader medical condition called premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

Period flu is unrelated to influenza. The name comes from the fact that it makes people feel like they have the flu, as it causes symptoms like tiredness, dizziness, and aching muscles.

People who menstruate often experience period flu before or during menstruation. These symptoms usually begin after ovulation, which often occurs in the last two weeks of the average menstrual cycle, which is typically 28 days.

Some people also get a low-grade fever in the days before their period and during their period, which is often caused by changes in hormones. Fortunately, these symptoms are temporary and, in most cases, resolve after menstruation.

In this article, we will go over signs that tell you when your period is coming and what to look out for. We will also discuss possible treatments and when to see a doctor for PMS.

10 signs that show your period is coming soon

Period symptoms vary, and people experience these symptoms differently. Signs you may get when your period is coming include:

1.Unusual food cravings

Some people tend to have weird cravings before and during menstruation. This is one of the common signs that your period is coming soon.

According to a 2018 study, strong cravings for sweet, fat, and carbohydrate-rich foods are commonly associated with the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle, i.e., the second half of the menstrual cycle that starts after ovulation and ends with the onset of your period.

This is not surprising, as menstruation comes with changes in hormones. The hormonal fluctuations across the menstrual cycle may cause some people to crave foods they wouldn't have eaten or craved on other days. For instance, some people may have an intense craving for spicy, salty, sweet, or bitter foods on such days.

These cravings may not be entirely bad for you. Sometimes, you may need to satisfy some cravings in order to get through such difficult days. But you should also remember that your body needs healthy foods to stay healthy. You are safe if your cravings are healthy, but you may be causing yourself more harm than good if you always give in to unhealthy cravings.

2.Tender breasts

Tender breasts that hurt and feel heavy are signs your period is about to come.

Your breasts might look bigger and firmer in the days before your period starts or when it starts. They may also be slightly painful. This is due to increased levels of progesterone and estrogen, as with other premenstrual symptoms.

Don't fret about it, as the tenderness and swelling will most likely stop once your period arrives or, in some cases, after your period.

While tender breasts are one of the common signs people get when their period is coming, there are other reasons your breasts may hurt. For instance, wearing an unsupportive bra, breast infection, or breast cancer, can cause painful breasts. This is why you must pay attention to changes in your body, noting when they started and ended.

Health experts say you should examine your breasts regularly, especially a few days after your period when they should be less sore.

3.Dry vagina

Another sign your period is coming soon is a dry vagina—your vaginal discharge changes in amount, texture, and consistency throughout your menstrual cycle. During your period, your vagina may get dry and less lubricated. This is largely due to reduced estrogen hormones.

Before menstruation, estrogen levels increase as the walls of the uterus thicken in readiness for implantation in case fertilization occurs. But, if fertilization does not occur after ovulation, the estrogen levels reduce, and the walls of the uterus shed in the form of menstrual flow. During the time before and during menstruation, when estrogen levels are low, some people may experience vaginal dryness.

This is in contrast to what most people experience before and during ovulation, when they may notice visible cervical mucus stains on their underwear or sufficient lubrication during sex.

4.Skin breakout

Interestingly, changes in the skin can also be linked to hormones. After ovulation and during the luteal phase, progesterone levels start going up.

High progesterone is responsible for making your skin oilier in the days leading up to your menstruation, and you might notice your hair is a little bit greasier too. Too oily or too dry skin could cause your skin to break out with pimples on your face, chest, and back. You might also notice a change in your complexion. These are signs that your period is coming.

Eating healthy and drinking water can help you deal with this phase. It would be best if you also stuck with a skincare routine to help reduce pimple breakouts. Bear in mind that everyone's skin is different and has different needs. So, it is best to listen to your body and build a routine that works for you.

5.Tiredness and fatigue

Feeling sluggish and tired a few weeks or days before your period shouldn't cause panic. It is usually normal and just another sign that your period is approaching.

You might be well-rested and still feel your energy levels drop more than at other points in your cycle. Some women experience insomnia, along with tiredness, as their period approaches. As with other PMS symptoms, this is caused by a change in hormones and should go away once your period ends.

Keeping a regular sleep routine can help when you deal with this symptom.

Note that most PMS symptoms, including fatigue and tiredness, can also be symptoms of early pregnancy. If you suspect you are pregnant, you can use an at-home pregnancy test kit or see your doctor for a diagnosis and test.

6.Mood swing

The main female sex hormone, estrogen, which is also responsible for making you feel pretty good around ovulation, tends to drop toward the end of your cycle, whereas increased progesterone levels cause bouts of feeling low or irritable. If you've been easily irritated or put off lately, it could be because your period is near.

Mood swings are a normal part of PMS, but if they start to get in the way of your daily life, it could be a sign of premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), which is a more severe form of PMS. Consult with a healthcare professional if you think you might be experiencing such intense symptoms.

7.Cramps

When your period is getting closer, you might start feeling cramps in your lower belly before and during your period. This is called primary dysmenorrhea. Cramps are the most common menstrual complaint. Unlike other PMS symptoms, which begin 1-2 weeks before your period and end when bleeding starts, cramps usually show up right before your period and last for 2-3 days.

8.Constipation and diarrhea

You may also experience digestive system symptoms when your period is drawing near. PMS digestive symptoms are extreme sometimes. Some people might get constipated or experience diarrhea days before their period.

9.Bloating and headache

Feeling bloated and gassy are also common signs that your period is coming soon. Days before your period, your body tends to retain more water than usual, which is also caused by hormones.

You can curb premenstrual bloating by cutting back on salt, eating more fruits and vegetables, and exercising regularly. You can stretch or try yoga.

10.Headache

A headache is another sign you can get when you are about to see your period. Changes in estrogen levels are the reason you get headaches before your period.

If you are prone to headaches, you will probably find that you experience them before your period. It's nothing out of the ordinary. However, if the headaches make you so sick that you cannot function on those days, please consult your healthcare provider. If it persists after your period, consult a healthcare professional.

Does everyone else experience premenstrual syndrome?

Only people with vaginas who menstruate experience premenstrual syndrome or period flu. However, each person's symptoms are different and can vary from month to month.

Many people experience PMS about a week or two before their period. For some, these symptoms may be so severe that they miss out on day-to-day activities, while for others, the symptoms are mild. On average, people with vaginas who are in their 30s are most likely to have PMS.

PMS symptoms may worsen as you approach your 40s toward menopause or in transition to menopause (a phase called perimenopause).

As your body slowly moves toward menopause, your hormone levels change in unpredictable ways in the years before menopause. This is especially true for people whose moods are sensitive to changing hormone levels during the menstrual cycle. PMS stops after menopause, when you no longer get a period.

When to see a doctor about PMS

You should see a doctor if you have tried many treatments but still experience severe PMS. If your symptoms are disrupting your personal or professional life, or getting in the way of your daily activities, get immediate help from a doctor. Your doctor may refer you to a gynecologist to get treatments tailored to your health needs.

Your doctor would be able to differentiate and diagnose PMS by finding out if the symptoms in question are present throughout the month and if they get worse before or during your period. If the symptoms go away after the menstrual flow, they may be diagnosed as PMS. On the other hand, PMS may not be the cause if the symptoms last the whole month.

Whatever the case, your doctor can help you find ways to relieve your symptoms.

Girls typically start their first periods at about 12 years, but it can be earlier than that, say 9 or 8. At the onset, they might not experience PMS, or they may experience only mild symptoms. They must be taught about the menstrual cycle and what to expect.

Learn about foods you can eat during periods to reduce menstrual cramps.

References

  1. Beverly, G. Reed, and Bruce R Carr. (2018). The Normal Menstrual Cycle and the Control of Ovulation
  2. Michael, R., G. (2014.) Were there evolutionary advantages to premenstrual syndrome?
  3. Patricia, C. (2018). Explaining Changing Hormones During Periods: The Science of PMS
  4. National Health Service, UK. (2022). Periods and fertility in the menstrual cycle.
  5. National Health Service, UK (2022). Starting your periods.