When my period comes, I feel ill and depressed. I don't want to do anything. My period is heavy and I don't go to school because of the cramps. It rules my life and I can't go out at all. Please help.
Vicki*

It's normal to have the blues or feel sick before and during a period. As hormone levels rise and fall during a girl's menstrual cycle, it can affect the way she feels, both physically and emotionally. This is known as premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and it can make a girl feel like hiding in bed with the covers over her head.

Luckily, you can do a few things to ease PMS symptoms. Try eating a balanced diet with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and cutting back on processed foods like chips and crackers. Reduce the amount of salt you eat and drink more water. Say no to caffeine and yes to foods with calcium and whole grains. And get plenty of sleep at night.

Occasionally, PMS symptoms might include feelings of extreme depression and hopelessness. If this is the case, speak with your doctor — it may be a sign something else is going on.

Heavy bleeding every so often, especially at the beginning of your period, is probably nothing to worry about. But if you soak through a pad or a tampon in an hour or less, call your health care provider, who can check you out to make sure everything's OK.

Unfortunately, cramps are a fact of life for many girls. Over-the-counter pain relievers can be helpful. Try taking them as soon as you notice cramps starting instead of waiting for the pain to get bad. Regular exercise can make cramps less painful and help with PMS symptoms. Plus, exercise is a good mood lifter. Some girls find that heating pads or warm baths can also help with cramps. If your periods are still painful, talk to your doctor for other suggestions.

PMS, occasional heavy bleeding, and cramps can all be part of normal periods. But when your period keeps you home from school or prevents you from doing stuff with your friends, talk to your doctor. He or she can suggest ways to help you feel better.

*Names have been changed to protect user privacy.

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