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How to Chart

Charting your symptoms is a simple process. All you need is a notepad and a pen. If you know your menstrual cycle, you will be able to keep a combination menstrual diary and premenstrual symptom chart based on the number of days in your cycle. If you're not sure of the length of your cycle, you may have to keep a PMS chart that lists your symptoms and a separate menstrual cycle chart. Once you'resure of your regular menstrual pattern, you should be able to combine both charts. If you’re not sure of your menstrual cycle, organize your PMS chart based on the days of the month (between twenty-eight and thirty-one days). In other words, track your PMS symptoms according to the calendar. In contrast, your menstrual chart would only have as many days as your menstrual cycle, whether that’s twenty-one, twenty-nine, or thirty-two days. (See Chapter 13 for more information on how to keep a menstrual diary.)

Charts: A Step-by-Step Process

First, create separate entries for each day in your cycle. On average, this will be about twenty-eight days, but this number could vary dramatically—as short as twenty-one days or as long as thirty-five days (typically considered the top range of the normal menstrual cycle). If you’re keeping the information on one sheet, list the days vertically, along the left side of the page: 1, 2, 3, 4, … and so forth.

Next, list the mood symptoms used to diagnose PMDD across the top of the page: irritability/anger, depression, anxiety, tension, mood swings, panic attacks, feeling out of control. Then list the cognitive, emotional, and physical symptoms: difficulty concentrating, social withdrawal (a lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities), crying, fatigue, headaches, food cravings, achiness, breast tenderness, bloating/swelling, and cramps.

Following is an example:

Sample PMS Symptom Chart

Cycle Day

Irritability/anger

Depression

Bloating

Headaches

1

0

0

0

0

2

0

0

0

0

3

0

0

0

0

4

0

0

0

0

5

0

0

0

0

6

0

0

0

0

7

0

0

0

0

8

1

0

0

0

9

0

1

0

0

10

0

0

0

1

11

1

0

1

0

12

1

1

0

0

13

2

1

0

0

14

2

2

3

2

15

1

2

2

0

16

2

1

0

1

17

2

2

1

1

18

1

2

1

0

19

1

1

2

2

20

3

2

2

1

21

2

2

2

2

22

1

1

2

3

23

3

2

2

2

24

3

3

2

2

25

3

4

3

2

26

3

3

3

2

27

4

3

3

3

28

4

4

3

2

Once you get your period, start a new chart, beginning again with day 1.

Adjust the chart to accommodate the actual number of days your cycle and list all the potential symptoms. If you experience any new symptom, be sure to add them to your chart so you can track them as well, and consult your doctor. There are many conditions, allergies and asthma among them, that may worsen during your premenstrual phase.

This will allow you to draw a grid, with a space for each symptom on each day.

Next, assign yourself a severity scale, for example, 0 through or 0 through 5. Use this scale to rate your symptoms: 0 indicates you don’t have the symptom; 1 means you have the symptom, but it has minimal effect; 2 means the symptom is moderate, but doesn’t affect your routine; 3 indicates the symptom is bothersome enough to affect your routine; 4 means it is severe; and 5 means it is overwhelming.

You can also keep your symptom chart in a notebook rather than on a single piece of paper. In this case, you might use a separate page for each day and then simply write down your symptoms for that day and rate them according to severity. For example, page eighteen (for day eighteen) might read: crying 4, bloating 2, irritability 10!

When charting you have a choice: you can either use preprinted charts or homemade versions; both have their pros and cons. Preprinted charts, whether provided by your doctor or one of the many downloadable versions on the Internet, are convenient and easy use. However, they are not as customizable as a chart you make yourself. Preprinted charts can also be hard to read, especially if you have vision problems.

In contrast, a handwritten or handmade chart allows you a lot of flexibility. You can customize your symptoms and the severity scale and have lots of space for handwritten notes. However, make sure you are using the ratings consistently and in the same way. Write down the definitions of each rating to serve as a constant reference for yourself and to show your health-care providers exactly what you mean by those ratings.

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