If I forget to open up my Flo app, I can always count on my bloating and temporary weight gain to remind me that my period is about to arrive. I've been dealing with these physical symptoms for years, but it wasn't until recently that I learned what's likely behind their presence: water retention.
According to Alyssa Dweck, MS, MD, FACOG, a board-certified ob-gyn and sexual and reproductive health expert for Intimina, a company that makes intimate health products, water retention is a very common PMS symptom, but one that is short lived and usually resolves when your period starts. And like other period symptoms, changes in your hormones — specifically progesterone — may be responsible.
Dr. Dweck also added that increased salt intake and sedentary habits during the week of PMS can also contribute toward this symptom.
In addition to temporary weight gain and uncomfortable bloating, water retention, also commonly referred to as fluid retention, can also contribute toward edema (or swelling) of the body. During PMS, this is said to usually appear in the hands or feet. (As I type this, I'm literally taking off my engagement ring because it's feeling a tad tighter than usual, and I'm expecting my period any day now.)
According to an article published by Flo and Andrei Marhol, MD, PhD, a primary care physician, this water retention during PMS may also cause bags to appear under the eyes.
So what can you do to curb the discomfort?
While water retention tends to resolve itself when your period starts, Dr. Dweck said that avoiding excess salt in your diet, exercising, and increasing your water consumption may be helpful.
Taraneh Shirazian, MD, a gynecologist at NYU Langone Health, said certain hormonal birth control methods, like the pill and IUDs, may also assist in soothing or minimizing monthly PMS symptoms. "A lot of the hormonal methods help you skip that natural process of your hormones increasing and then dropping all of the sudden and creating the body's response of bloating, PMS, and fluid retention," she said.
As with any PMS symptom, it's important to speak with your doctor if your water retention is impacting your daily life or if you have any concerns. "Any water retention that is severe, persistent, or worsening, or associated with shortness of breath, should be looked into," Dr. Dweck added.