How to respond when people suggest that PMS is a myth.

Harmony Balance
Thanks to our brand partner, Harmony Balance

If you’re a woman, you probably already know the answer…

While my ovaries and uterus may beg to disagree, there’s been some chatter in reproductive circles lately about the legitimacy of PMS. As in, whether or not it’s an actual ‘thing’.

“Are you mad, woman?” I hear you shouting. “I’m not wearing elasticised trousers to gently cradle my bloated belly for fun.” And I hear you. On all counts, though I will jump to the defense of elasticised pants for comfort’s sake. But being the sometimes rational, always interested in science-y stuff kinda gal that I am, I thought we should check out exactly where this bold statement has arisen from before we shout it down with flaming pitchforks in hand.

But first, a short hormonal history lesson. Premenstrual Syndrome, or PMS as everyone bar your GP refers to it as, was a term coined back in the 1950s by Brit doctor Katharina Dalton.

“I’m not wearing elasticised trousers to gently cradle my bloated belly for fun.”

Dr Dalton, hero to any woman who’s ever kicked over an embarrassingly full rubbish bin in the throes of hormone-induced rage at a partner who’s neglected the job yet again (surely I’m not the only one?), observed a pattern in the behaviours of the women presenting to her clinic that synced up against their monthly cycle. And so our modern definition of PMS was born to describe the physical and psychological symptoms experienced by some women prior to the arrival of their period.

The advent of feminism in the 1970s cast a shadow over the concept of hormonal influences on women’s behaviour as women fought for gender equality and to be defined by more than their biology.

Today, however, we’ve reached a point where (hopefully) biology, psychology, personality and behaviour can all co-exist merrily together. Still, some stigma surrounding the validity of PMS remains, largely thanks to a recent study in Canada that concluded that there was a lack of clear evidence in support of a “specific premenstrual negative mood syndrome in the general population.” Tell that to the boil-sized pimple erupting on my chin and the half-eaten block of Cadbury Dairy Milk, I say.

“Tell that to the boil-sized pimple erupting on my chin and the half-eaten block of Cadbury Dairy Milk, I say.”

Reading further into the study shows that while premenstrual issues may be slightly inflated, the ‘perimenstrual’ period (i.e. the days directly preceding the arrival of your period plus the first few days of it arriving) is an ‘actual thing’ and this makes a lot of sense.

Research has shown just what a powerful influence hormones like estrogen, progesterone and testosterone have on our brains. With these levels peaking right before and in the early days of your period, it’s not hard to rationalise that this can impact our mood in a variety of different ways. It’s well documented that migraines and epilepsy can become worse directly before or at the onset of our period, so why not our moods?

Yes, it can be very tempting to blame PMS for everything from stomach crushing cramps (valid) to smudging your DIY pedi (not so valid) and this doesn’t do us any favours. But by combining our understanding of our own emotional well-being above and beyond our hormones with the knowledge of how our hormones can impact various parts of our physical and mental health, we create a bigger picture which can help us feel our absolute best all month long.

Except when you realise after a heinously long and difficult day at work that the last half of the Cadbury has mysteriously disappeared and you’re left with raw mixed nuts for dessert…

Nothing can really temper that blow.

Do you ever have PMS? How do you manage it?

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