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What Nobody Told Us About Midlife PMS

From puberty through my 20s, my impending period always meant a weepy day or two, an unearthly desire for chocolate, and cramps. It wasn't fun, but in retrospect, it was manageable and short-lived.

Since I turned 40, I've been sucked into a PMS riptide. As it turns out, I'm not alone—several of my friends are going through similar hormonal roller coasters.

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Here are the three things no one told us about PMS in midlife:

1. It gets worse. So much worse.

Having witnessed my mom's several years of straight bitchery, I guess I kind of knew something like this was coming.

For reasons that my Googling frenzy can't quite explain except for vague references to "shifting hormones," PMS for many women gets worse with age.

"No one ever told me it would get worse with age," says one friend. "But having witnessed my mom's several years of straight bitchery, I guess I kind of knew something like this was coming."

Perhaps it's all hormones, or maybe everything PMS is more intense because our lives are brimming with the responsibilities of our kids, work and other commitments in a way that's much different from the way life was in our 20s.

2. Rage against everything

Every month, for seven to 10 days before the Red Baron lands, I feel what can only be described as intense rage. During that time, it feels like my blood is full of angry snakes, pumping their irate venom through my body. I snap at my kids. My husband has banned me from having "relationship talks" during that time. As irritable as I get with the people around me, I feel even worse inside.

I'm not alone in this—rage is the one word my friends consistently used to describe the period before their periods.

"PMS used to be more like 'Boohoo, I want tacos,' for a week. Now it is EFFING HAIR ON FIRE EFF OFF EVERYONE," says Andrea.

Another agrees, "The emotional component—particularly the all out RAGE as opposed to depression and free flowing tears— is so much worse than in my younger years."

"Nobody told me it would be worse with age," says another friend, Carrie. "I am just much more of a raging bitch for a much longer time and for a few times each cycle instead of just the classic PMS right before my period."

Oh how I miss the classic PMS and not the Supersized version.

3. There are treatments

PMS hit me so hard that I literally had visions of smashing my husband's head in with a cast iron pan. Luckily for him, I eventually went to acupuncture.

While no one has found a definitive cure for PMS yet, there are a multitude of potential treatments, ranging from natural remedies to prescription drugs. If nothing else, trying different solutions at least gives us the sense that things might improve.

"About a year after giving birth, PMS hit me so hard that I literally had visions of smashing my husband's head in with a cast iron pan," admits Erin. "Luckily for him, I eventually went to acupuncture, which pretty much cured all the rages."

Others find that supplements help—Vitamin B6 is often cited as being effective in muting PMS symptoms.

"I've started mainlining evening primrose oil and fish oil, and both of those things make a big difference," Andrea shares.

Some women have found that a low dose of an SSRI antidepressant for two weeks each month provides significant relief from their PMS.

"My gynecologist prescribed me Prozac. It definitely helps. I am not ragey. I get upset about things when needed, but not to the level of 'Eff you, I want a divorce!'" says one friend.

For me, a recent experiment in lowering my sugar and caffeine intake, as well as getting regular exercise has proved helpful.

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If you've found that your PMS is impacting your life significantly these days, know that at the very least, you're in good company.

Photograph by: Twenty20

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