PMS or BS? A HealthCentral Explainer

ABush Editor
  • Is way too much made of premenstrual negative mood syndrome, better known as PMS?  Dr. Sarah Romans, lead researcher of the study published in Gender Magazine, thinks so. She believes that we, as a culture, have greatly exaggerated or make light of the mood-related symptoms of PMS to a point where it raises questions of gender equality, as well as becoming a disservice to those who suffer from strong symptoms of PMS and are not correctly treated.


    What is PMS?

    PMS is a group of symptoms that usually precede a woman’s menstrual cycle by about one to two weeks, and the symptoms usually go away once the woman’s period, or menstrual cycle, begins. Symptoms attributed to PMS include acne, swollen or tender breasts, tiredness, upset stomach, irritability, and food cravings.

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    What causes PMS?

    According to the NIH, the cause of PMS is unclear, but changes in hormone levels may most likely be responsible. Some women are affected more than others by these hormone changes, and some outside factors, such as caffeine, low levels of some vitamins and minerals, and too much salt may also exacerbate symptoms.


    How long has there been a link between negative mood and the menstrual cycle?

    The association between the colloquial “bad” mood and the menstrual cycle was first made in the teachings of Hippocrates, stating that mental illness was due to the uterus moving around the body like a “wild beast.” This idea was known as the wandering womb. The broader symptoms we correlate to PMS today were promoted in the UK after World War II by Katharina Dalton, who believed progesterone deficiency to be the cause. In the 1960s, the term PMS became the common interchangeable term used to describe both the physical and mental symptoms associated with the menstrual cycle.


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    Myth or fact?

    Dr. Roman and eight other researchers at the University of Toronto reviewed 47 studies that followed women’s moods across the menstrual cycle. The results showed that many of the larger studies suggest an association between mood and different phases of the menstrual cycle, but the phases varied, and some even showed no relationship between mood and cycle. It was also difficult to distinguish what was affecting the mood of the women. Was it the day of the week bringing her down, or maybe a stressful event? That said, Roman doesn’t negate the fact that there is definitely a cyclical nature to moods, but the menstrual cycle shouldn’t get most of the blame, nor should it be the first explanation offered when a woman gets upset or reacts strongly. 


    The bottom line

    While this study doesn’t provide a definitive answer as to what degree PMS is a cultural bias or medical condition, it does open the door for more research on the subject, especially around mood disorders and how they specifically affect women. And, if nothing else, this maybe will get the other sex to start questioning “years of false advertising.”


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    ADWEEK. (16 October 2012). “Maxipad Brand Goes for Blood in Brilliant Reply to Facebook Rant.” Retrieved from

  (16 October 2012). “PMS and the Wandering Womb.” Retrieved from


    NIH. (18 May 2010). “Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) Fact Sheet.” Retrieved from

  (22 October 2012). “Is PMS a Myth?” Retrieved from

Published On: November 26, 2012