The existence of PMS is doubtful, according to a review by of U of T
researchers that found little or no evidence for it in the scientific literature.
PMS, or premenstrual syndrome, is a collection of symptoms related to a woman’s menstrual cycle, including mood swings and emotional irritability. It is widely used to explain the symptoms that some women experience before menstruation.
The study, published last week in the journal Gender Medicine, was intended to find out whether PMS is a social construction of mainstream culture and media, or a genuine part of female biology. The team of female psychologists and psychiatrists, including Gillian Einstein, the director of U of T’s collaborative graduate program in women’s health, aimed to debunk what they see as “cultural baggage”. They believe their findings will empower women who can’t express themselves freely because of the stigma attached to being hyper-sensitive for a week every month. The researchers concluded that our culture’s media and popular perception likely over-attribute women’s moodiness to their menstrual cycles.
Of the hundreds of studies the researchers reviewed, they narrowed it down to 41 that they considered proper studies. Of these, only around 14%—some of which Einstein called “biased”—found a connection between negative moods and pre-menstruation. Several of the studies found no evidence of unusually negative mood at any time of the month.
The study did not dismiss the physical symptoms of menstruation, such as bloating, breast tenderness, aching and cramps. They also did not look into premenstrual dysphoric disorder, a controversial and uncommon extreme form of PMS.
“PMS is real, because it has to do with the chemical reaction to the changes in levels of hormones during pre-menstruation,” says Harsimer Singh, a fifth-year women and gender studies major. “Though it’s been blown out of proportion by the media that contrives ideas about how girls are during this time. PMS exists, but the hype about crazy women on their periods needs to be eliminated.”
“I do think it’s real, because if it’s not then I become a horrible person two days a month for no reason. And I am not okay with that,” said Cathy Terefenko, a fourth-year English specialist.
According to some critics, including Elissa Stein, the author of Flow: The Cultural Story of Menstruation, it remains unclear to what degree mood swings are a result of biology and to what degree they are only social constructs.