Symptoms during the premenstrual and menstrual phases of the female reproductive cycle were assessed in 827 pairs of female same-sex twins from a population-based registry. By conventional factor analysis, premenstrual and menstrual symptoms were relatively independent of one another and of baseline ‘neurotic’ symptoms (i.e. anxiety, depression and somatization). Familial resemblance for menstrual and premenstrual symptoms was due solely to genetic factors with heritability estimates of 39·2 % and 35·1 %, respectively. Multivariate genetic analysis revealed distinct genetic and environmental factors for menstrual, premenstrual and neurotic symptoms. The genes and individual-specific experiences that predispose to premenstrual symptoms appear to be largely distinct from those which predispose either to menstrual or to neurotic symptoms. The generalizability of these results may be limited because only a modest number of premenstrual and menstrual symptoms were assessed, all by retrospective self-report.