Mothers And PMS

By: Rick Hanson, Ph.D. and Jan Hanson, L.Ac.

Since becoming a mom, I've begun experiencing more intense PMS. Is this normal? And what can I do?

Yes, studies have shown that having children increases the chance of having more intense PMS. While it's not going to put you in the hospital - though the prospect of that kind of rest may sometimes sound pretty good! - PMS can have a significant impact on your mood, sense of worth, irritability, and relationships many days a month. But happily, there's a lot you can do about it:

General Well-Being

This is the foundation of hormonal health. Make the basics a priority: protein with every meal, regular vitamin/mineral/essential-fatty-acid supplements, sleep over housework, cultivating personal practices that feed your innermost being, and a relentless focus on lowering stress.


One study showed that women who participate in sports experience less PMS than those who don’t. Regular massages can help as well.


Consume less (or no) sugar, salt, refined carbohydrates, caffeine, alcohol, and dairy products. Increase your intake of fruits, vegetables, and other fiber-rich complex carbohydrates. Additionally, there are two kinds of foods with natural chemicals that can help with PMS: the cruciferous vegetables (e.g., broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage) and soy products.


On top of a generally healthy diet—and consistent supplementation of essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals (especially calcium)—adding intensive daily doses of one or more of the nutrients below could bring greater balance to your menstrual cycle, particularly if that nutrient is lacking in your body:

Additionally, some women benefit from the essential fatty acid GLA found in evening primrose oil, especially for breast tenderness.


Natural Hormones

The research evidence is mixed for using progesterone to reduce PMS, perhaps because this hormone is a factor for a subgroup of women. If you explore this option, we recommend you do so under the care of a licensed health care provider.

Western medicine

If you try some of the suggestions above and your PMS remains moderate to severe, consider asking your physician about:

We wish you the best!

Rick Hanson, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, Jan Hanson, M.S., L.Ac., is an acupuncturist/nutritionist, and they are raising a daughter and son, ages 14 and 17. With Ricki Pollycove, M.D., they are the first and second authors of Mother Nurture: A Mother’s Guide to Health in Body, Mind, and Intimate Relationships, published by Penguin. You can see their website at or email them with questions or comments at; unfortunately, a personal reply may not always be possible.

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