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Cycle A-Z

Tracking your period can help you understand PMS symptoms. Here’s how

by Erica Avey, Writer; and Jen Bell, Writer Reviewed by Maegan Boutot, Science Writer for Clue
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Tracking symptoms throughout your menstrual cycle can help you understand your experience of PMS, what to expect, and when to see a healthcare provider. Here’s how to get started. 

What is premenstrual syndrome (PMS)? 

PMS is a recurring pattern of emotional, physical and behavioral changes in the days before your period that impact your daily life. These include headaches, bloating, irritability, back pain, joint or muscle aches, and sleeping and digestive issues.

PMS is common, but still not fully understood

About 8 in 10 people say they experience one or more premenstrual symptoms, and about 1 in 10 people experience symptoms significant enough to warrant a clinical diagnosis of PMS (1), though estimates vary. 

Despite being common, scientists still aren’t sure exactly why PMS happens — or why some people have symptoms while others don’t.

People may experience different premenstrual symptoms from cycle to cycle, as the presence of symptoms may be affected by diet, exercise, and stress (2). 

Common symptoms of PMS

Many symptoms have been attributed to PMS. Some common symptoms are:

  • Headaches and migraines

  • Breast pain, fullness and tenderness

  • Bloating, water retention and weight gain

  • Nausea, food cravings, constipation

  • Anxiety, tearfulness, agitation or emotional sensitivity

  • Trouble sleeping (2,3)

Social constructs of PMS typically emphasize the bad, but many people experience positive PMS symptoms such as increased energy, motivation, or libido.

Why track PMS? 

Using Clue to track your premenstrual symptoms can help you define what PMS looks like for you. Tracking will also help you recognize the environmental factors that may amplify PMS (i.e. lack of sleep, increased intake of sugar, etc).

A hand holding a phone with the Clue app opened

Track your period, PMS, cravings, and more in the Clue app.

Everyone’s premenstrual experience is different. Some people only experience physical symptoms, while others experience emotional symptoms. If you’d like to track a wider variety of premenstrual symptoms (rather than just general PMS), we recommend creating and tracking custom tags.

How to track PMS in Clue

1. Add the categories you want to track

Track PMS by going to the tracking screen in Clue, and swiping left until you get to “Emotions” — there you will see the tornado icon for PMS. When you track PMS here, you will be able to see PMS predictions in the app.  

Everyone’s premenstrual experience is different. Some people only experience physical symptoms, while others experience emotional symptoms.  

If you’d like to track a wider variety of premenstrual symptoms (rather than just general PMS), we recommend adding additional tracking categories (like bloating, energy levels, cravings, or skin). 

How to add more tracking options in Clue: 

  • Go to the Menu and tap “Tracking options”

  • Or tap the grey circle with a + inside at the end of the tracking screen

For anything you want to track that is not covered by Clue’s existing tracking categories, you can use Custom Tags.

2. See your PMS predictions

PMS is shown as little fluffy clouds in Clue.

The PMS clouds will show up in your predictions if you have entered PMS in the past. So if you never get PMS you won’t see it predicted, and vice versa.

I tracked PMS symptoms but I don’t see any clouds. What’s up?

You can track various PMS symptoms in Clue — like sore breasts or cravings, but the clouds will only appear when you track using the PMS option in the “Emotions” tab.

If the PMS clouds are not showing right now, but you'd like them to, you just need to add some PMS data into your past cycles:

  1. Go to the calendar.

  2. Select the day you had PMS in a past cycle and add PMS data (under 'Emotions').

  3. Repeat this for as many days as you had PMS.

  4. You should now see the PMS clouds when you return to the calendar.

If you selected a duration for PMS during Clue's setup, the PMS clouds will automatically display the first time you use Clue.

Clue creates its predictions based on the data you enter, so the PMS predictions will only continue to appear if you continue to enter PMS data.

If the duration or timing of your PMS changes, Clue will analyze those changes and update your predictions to be in tune with that.

3. Get a reminder when your PMS is coming up 

Here’s how to make sure you’ll always know when PMS is coming:

  1. Open Clue and go to the menu, then tap “Reminders”

  2. Select “Before PMS”

  3. Tap the switch to turn the reminder on

  4. Edit the sound settings and delivery time

  5. Bonus tip: you can customize the reminder text —and add emojis 💪⏰

4. Have your PMS history ready for your healthcare provider

If your healthcare provider asks about your PMS symptoms, you can show them your history in Clue. Here’s how:

  1. Tap the icon at the bottom of the screen that looks like a graph to open Clue’s Analysis screen 

  2. You will see a list of your past menstrual cycles

  3. Period days for each cycle are shown in red, the estimated ovulation day is in blue, and if you’ve tracked PMS those days are shown in green.

  4. The number inside the green section shows the number of days in which you tracked PMS.

To see when you’ve tracked a specific symptom:

  1. Go to the Clue analysis screen

  2. Tap the three dots next to “pick a selection” choose the symptom

  3. Tap to select a symptom (e.g. Tender breasts)

  4. You will see all the times you tracked that particular symptom, displayed as colored dots above each menstrual cycle in your Clue history

Not everybody experiences PMS

Culture and media play their part in shaping our perceptions and sometimes harsh presumptions of PMS.

Dealing with premenstrual symptoms does not necessarily equate to PMS. Premenstrual syndrome is a medical diagnosis that can severely affect a person’s life (2), while premenstrual symptoms can feel uncomfortable but mild.

It’s important to understand the difference and know your body. Tracking your symptoms will help you learn more about your own unique experience — rather than the generalized behaviors of all menstruating people.

Article was originally published Oct. 12, 2016.