The human body is a mystery—and the female body is particularly enigmatic, if I do say so myself. I always joke that women’s bodies can tell the weather (and while that’s only somewhat corroborated by science—it has to do with barometric pressure), here are some bizarre premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms that are very, very real, but rarely talked about.
- Joint Pain
Remember growing pains? I used to get them a lot as a kid, and by the time I’d stopped growing and started getting my period, they came back—specifically in my left knee. I was extra-confused during an extremely stormy day recently when my knee was hurting so badly it felt like it was going to give birth to a tiny baby knee.
I wondered why I was having knee pain at all, but especially around the time of my period. I learned the pain was due to a change in barometric pressure, which is the same reason people get more migraines right before thunderstorms—but the atmosphere wasn’t entirely to blame here. My pain that day was exacerbated both by the weather and the time of the month, aka the drop in estrogen—which protects against pain—experienced while PMSing.
- Sore Throat
I experienced this symptom for the first time while spotting recently. And I realized it has to do with a change in your progesterone levels: Like estrogen, your progesterone drops around the time of your period, but unlike estrogen, this hormone is an “upper airway dilator”. This means around the time of your period, your throat doesn’t open up during sleep as much as it usually does, which ultimately can cause a sore throat by the time the morning comes around.
Word to the wise: This symptom might be worse for you if you have acid reflux, GERD, or TMJ. Or, you might be one of the lucky few who experience period colds.
- Nose Bleeds
It’s a common theme: During your period, your hormones are out-of-whack, which causes strange, annoying side effects.
Nose bleeds are commonly affected by estrogen levels (which likely has to do with the regulation of platelets). It’s a phenomenon that’s been studied in women for a long time, but almost no one talks about this symptom. Nosebleeds aren’t the end of the world, and they might actually be a helpful tip-off for when your period’s on its way.
This one’s a little more concerning—no one likes vomiting, and it’s usually not a very good sign. While premenstrual nausea is relatively common, vomiting is rarer.
People sometimes experience cramping that's so painful it leads to nausea and vomiting. Our bodies have strange reactions to pain. This could also happen if your period causes you to have migraines, which is also a common cause of vomiting.
If this is something that happens to you every period, you should see a doctor to find out if you have cyclic vomiting syndrome (or something else that I don’t know about because I am not a doctor).
- High Anxiety
Allegedly this is a “hallmark symptom” of PMS. Like most other PMS symptoms, this increase in anxiety is probably a result of a change in hormones impacting our neurotransmitters.
Learning how to manage your anxiety is an important skill, no matter what time of the month it is. This isn’t a one-size-fits-all kind of skill either. Learn what makes you feel safe and secure, and use that to ground you when you start to feel an increase in anxiety during your period.
- Meat Cravings
This is one of the few symptoms I think make some sense. Red meat = iron; iron is in your blood; a lot of women are anemic. Your body wants you to get as much iron-rich food into your stomach as fast as possible when you’re bleeding.
A little more surprising is that people who have the worst PMS symptoms are those with the least iron in their systems. If your symptoms are pretty intense and you find yourself craving meat every cycle, it might be time to see a doctor (and consider supplements) to be on the safe side.
- Temporary Blindness
With a decrease in estrogen comes a higher chance of migraines, which come with a whole host of terrible symptoms—and one of the scariest is temporary blindness.
If this symptom happens to you every time you get your period, it’s probably time to talk to a doctor about how you can manage your hormones so you don’t have to experience so much pain and discomfort every month. We definitely don’t talk about this one enough, so don’t let it scare you—it’s only temporary and not too common.