Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) made me not want to be a mum

Last modified on Monday 25 September 2023

woman on holiday

Writer Charlie Bond reached breaking point before she was diagnosed with PMDD – a disorder which had made her hate her life

There were days where my mood was so low, I didn't want to exist any more and truly believed my baby and husband would be better off without me.

I couldn't even explain to my husband why I felt like I did, I just felt so sad and believed I was a terrible parent.

It wasn't until I reached breaking point that I was diagnosed with Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) – a health problem that is similar to premenstrual syndrome (PMS) but is more serious.

I'd been suffering for 5 years and after having my son was told I likely had postnatal depression – but in fact it wasn't.

I'm sharing my PMDD diagnosis story in the hope of raising awareness of PMDD, and to help other women push for a diagnosis.

'A struggle to function normally'

I first noticed that I was having more severe mood swings during certain times of my hormonal cycle not long before I turned 30.

At the time I was on the contraceptive pill, so I decided to stop taking it to see if this helped me to feel better, but then things went from bad to worse.

I started to experience real lows in my mood, to the point where some days it was a struggle to function normally.

I went to my GP to seek their advice but was told ‘you don’t seem depressed enough for antidepressants. I’m sure it will pass.’ Unfortunately, it didn’t pass, but it put me off asking for help again.

Pregnancy with PMDD

In 2021 I fell pregnant, and almost overnight my symptoms stopped.

So, while I was now dealing with morning sickness, aching legs and swollen feet, my mood seemed to have stabilised and for the first time in a long time, I almost felt ‘normal’ (well, if you exclude the baby bump and sudden distaste for Mexican food, that is.)

My son was born 6 weeks early, so his arrival into the world and the first few weeks of parenting were more stressful and worrying than I’d anticipated.

So, when a midwife picked up on my ‘low mood’ and referred me to the GP, everyone assumed that I was suffering from Postnatal Depression (PND).

The doctor (a different GP to the one who had previously dismissed me) sent me home with some antidepressants and told me that in a few months I’d start to feel better.

'Still in a bad place'

Although I knew my hormones would be all over the place after having a baby, by the time my son was 6 months old I was still in a bad place and if anything, was feeling lower than I ever had before.

I wanted to enjoy being a mum and meeting friends for brunches with their babies, but I just felt incredibly sad.

I started to cancel on meeting up with friends and cried most days about how much I hated my life and being a mum.

Was I just frustrated at being a mum?

At first, I thought the trigger was ‘being a mum’.

Before having my son I’d been quite independent, but all of a sudden there was a little human who needed me.

Instead of planning holidays and weekend activities I was planning feeding times and whether to wash whites or darks. It was a big adjustment, and I put my mood swings down to this.

Was I just frustrated at being a mum?

But, then at 7 months postpartum my periods returned, and not long after, so did all the old feelings I’d experienced long before being pregnant.

I started to wonder if perhaps this wasn’t postnatal depression, and if something else was going on.

'I didn't want to exist any more'

Things came to a head when I started to get so low that on some days of the month I honestly didn’t want to exist any more.

I truly believed my family would be better off without me, and I felt that I should never have become a mum.

I even told my husband on more than one occasion that I just didn’t want to live any more.

Eventually, on the way to a swimming lesson with my son I had a complete breakdown in the car and couldn’t stop crying.

My husband asked me why I felt the way I did, and I realised I couldn’t explain it.

'Constantly felt like a terrible parent'

The trouble was, I couldn’t shake these low moods, and I constantly felt like a terrible parent.

I cried all the time, had a short fuse with my son and my husband and just felt like I couldn’t cope with even the smallest of everyday tasks.

If my son refused to eat his dinner it would send me into a spiral, and if he had a tantrum (which at 18 months old was fairly frequent), I’d have a tantrum too. Then, once he was in bed I’d cry about how guilty I felt and what an awful mum I was.

Mood monitoring

As I started to think about it more, I began to notice that there were at least 2 weeks of every month when I didn’t feel as low, and then for the next 2 weeks I felt helpless.

I started to note down the days when I was feeling especially low to see if I could work out what was triggering me.

Although I didn't know it at the time, this was the start of my self-diagnosis.

Logging my symptoms and keeping track

Over the next few months I logged my symptoms in a period tracker app, and I also used the app to know when I was at different stages of my cycle, such as the follicular phase (before release of the egg) ovulatory phase (egg release) and luteal phase (after egg release).

I noticed that my moods were especially low in the second 2 weeks of my cycle – the luteal phase – leading up to menstruation.

Then, once I felt sure that my low moods were linked to my cycle and not just postnatal depression, I made an appointment to see my GP.

GP talking to depressed woman

Getting a diagnosis 

Despite having experienced symptoms for the best part of 5 years, I hadn’t heard of PMDD until I stumbled across an article on it a couple of days before my doctor’s appointment.

So, when the GP said that’s what I likely had too, I had a lot of questions.

He explained that PMDD was an extreme form of PMS and that it was caused by a hormonal imbalance.

And that’s when he told me that he was going to up the antidepressant dosage I’d been taking for my PND – and that I’d likely be on medication until I hit the menopause.

‘It’s likely you’ll just have to live with this now until you reach the menopause,’ my doctor said.

I was only 34.

Moving forwards

It’s been 6 months now since my diagnosis, and while things aren’t 100% better, I’m no longer in the low place I was before.

The increase in medication has definitely helped, but also I’m able to manage my symptoms better because I know what to expect.

I know to be honest with friends and family if I’m having a low day, and I also know that sometimes I need a bit of time out to retreat from ‘mum me’ in order to restore some balance and help me get back on track.

I only wish I’d pushed harder when I first went to my GP back in 2018, because I could have been receiving help much earlier, rather than letting PMDD affect my life and my feelings about being a mum.

What is PMDD?

According to mental health charity Mind, PMDD is ‘a very severe form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

It causes a range of emotional and physical symptoms every month during the week or 2 before your period. It is sometimes referred to as 'severe PMS'.

‘PMDD occurs during the luteal phase of your menstrual cycle. This is the time between when you ovulate and when your period starts. The luteal phase lasts approximately two weeks for most people but can be longer or shorter.

'During this time you may experience PMDD symptoms every day, or for a few days within the phase.

‘Many of us may experience symptoms of PMS. But if you have PMDD, these symptoms are much worse and can have a serious impact on your life.

Experiencing PMDD can make it difficult to work, socialise and have healthy relationships. In some cases, it can also lead to suicidal thoughts.’

What should I do if I think I have PMDD?

If you think you might be suffering with PMDD, Mind suggests the following steps:

‘To get a diagnosis of PMDD the best place to start is visiting your doctor. To help them understand your symptoms your doctor may:

  • Ask you to keep a detailed record of your symptoms for at least two months, to see if your symptoms have a pattern over time. This may be in your diary or they may give you some daily questionnaires to fill out.
  • Ask you about your medical history, such as any history of mental health problems.
  • Ask about your lifestyle, such as if you smoke, drink alcohol or are overweight.
  • Give you a physical examination along with some blood tests, so that they can rule out other medical problems.

When you're asked to keep a record of your symptoms over several months, getting a diagnosis can feel like a very slow process. This can be frustrating if you're having to wait a long time to get treatment.

Netmums Newsletters

Yes, please! I want the best parenting news around

*By signing up you accept Netmums' Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions.