Pms Myths

Despite the fact that premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, is now generally attributed to hormonal changes, many people still challenge women who complain. Who hasn’t heard the comment, “Oh, she must be PMSing,” when a female cries or loses her temper? Snide remarks about aggressive women, whether they’re in the boardroom or behind the wheel of a car, always elicit a few laughs.

Indeed, the debate rages on about whether PMS is just a psychosomatic condition or is a genuine product of the female reproductive system. Many experts support the fact that PMS does cause very real symptoms; however, even in our modern times, reports continue to surface that it may just be “all in your head.”

What is PMS – Really?

Since the 1930s, mention of PMS has brought to light the many emotional and physical challenges women face in the days leading up to a period. Discussion, debate and research have led professionals down different paths in trying to tag symptoms and understand the entire menstrual cycle.

What they do know is that in an ideal environment, the ovaries produce eggs that travel through the fallopian tubes. In that time, hormones are released; in particular estrogen and progesterone. As an egg makes its way to the uterus in preparation for fertilization or sloughing off, these hormones perform a host of functions.

In conjunction with these events, chemicals in the body also respond and lend their support throughout the central nervous system. In the brain, neurotransmitters send signals that estrogen is rising or falling, for instance. This activity, scientists suggest, is responsible for a portion of PMS.

On the other hand, it seems that some doctors continue to dismiss women’s claims that they may feel more tired or irritable at a certain time of the month. A few may even suggest that it is your “choice” to have PMS or not. This line of thinking leads to the many myths – and jokes – that surround premenstrual syndrome.

PMS – It’s All In the Head

You sense a mild depression developing a few days before a period. You become a little clumsy, feel like bursting into tears or suddenly fight back waves of anger. As your period nears, you feel crampy, cranky and tired.

For each individual, the symptoms vary from minor to life altering for a few days. Physically, you may be dealing with tender breasts, bloating and strange cravings for food that often lead to weight gain. This is what some doctors say are mental fabrications.

Since early times, PMS myths have given women negative labels, including hysterical and weak. Add to these the supposition that the female system is faulty when it produces the many symptoms of PMS. Mentally, they say, a woman should be able to handle and suppress such things. Or, of course, there is the suggestion that these symptoms are purely brought on by the imagination. This is one of the biggest myths of PMS. Men in particular, it seems, fail to understand the impact hormones can have, although some female physicians also fall into the “it’s all in your head” camp.

Other PMS Misconceptions (and Some Facts)

Odd misconceptions regarding PMS continue make the rounds. Some are clearly outrageous, while others are based in a bit of fact. Clearly, the entire range of symptoms may truly be a combination of physical, emotional, genetic and outside influences. These, many experts believe, act as triggers that can create a wide array of PMS distress.

  • PMS is contagious. Some people believe that a woman suffering from PMS exudes a negative force. This suggested aura is what leads some to claim they must “walk on eggshells” when a female displays overt personality changes.
  • PMS is a result of outside influences. Research continues into how lifestyle and outside conflicts impact PMS. While most agree that stress or negative habits are not the main cause of PMS, they do believe that women who “try to do it all” experience higher levels of distress. Diet, smoking and lack of exercise may also play a role.
  • PMS is hereditary. Scientific research does not support this theory. However, some studies do reflect that a family history could possible mean a higher incidence of symptoms, although the type of complaints may vary.
  • PMS is curable. As long as the ovaries produce eggs, PMS symptoms can occur. When this cycle is interrupted, during pregnancy and at menopause, women generally report that the condition goes away. Those who undergo a total hysterectomy, in which both ovaries are removed, also experience a cessation of symptoms. Research into vitamin deficiencies, chemical imbalances and stress reduction continues.
  • PMS makes a woman mentally unstable. This long-held belief is what feminists began fighting against decades ago. As the “weaker sex,” females were not fit to head corporations or act in any leadership roles. It is true, however, that a rare condition known as PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder) can lead to extreme mental and physical limitations in the days prior to menstruation.

The Final Word on PMS

Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer for what causes PMS. That means many fallacies will continue to surround women and their monthly cycles. Even in our technologically advanced times, there are still the lingering PMS myths of suppressed rage, mental incapacity and physical imbalances.

Resources

Lichten, Edward, M.D., P.C. (n.d.). PMS Information. Retrieved July 30, 2007, from the Lichten Wellness Center Web site: http://www.usdoctor.com/pms.htm.

Medicalnewstoday.com (2007). Most US Men Believe PMS Is a Normal Part of a Woman’s Cycle. Retrieved July 30, 2007, from the Medical News Today Web site: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/19302.php.

Medicinenet.com (1996-2007). Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS). Retrieved July 30, 2007, from the MedicineNet, Inc. Web site: http://www.medicinenet.com/premenstrual_syndrome/article.htm.