There are many PMS myths floating around in the world. Perhaps you are someone who experiences premenstrual syndrome (PMS) during your menstrual cycle or you live with someone who does and you want to learn more. Perhaps you have never had PMS before and are wondering if it is even a real thing.
You might have other questions after hearing some myths, such as: “Does every person get it?”; “Do the same symptoms occur every month?”; “Are you allowed to exercise on your period?”; “Does PMS always cause a bad mood?”; and “Does everyone crave chocolate when they have premenstrual syndrome?”.
In this article, we explore various PMS myths and try to provide some clarity on any questions you may have.
Not only that, but we will also tell you how you can improve your premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms if it is something you experience during your menstrual cycle.
One of the most common myths is that PMS symptoms only strike during menstruation, but that is simply not true. As the prefix “pre” in premenstrual syndrome suggests, PMS actually refers to the time leading up to your period. While symptoms during menstruation are common and they can carry over from the premenstrual phase, many women actually experience the bulk of their PMS symptoms the week before their period starts, but symptoms can start up to two weeks before. (1)
Did you know that a woman’s menstrual cycle is divided into 4 phases? They are:
- The follicular phase (the period just after menstruation),
- The ovulation phase (when the egg is released and the woman ovulates),
- The luteal phase (the first or second week after ovulation and before menstruation when the body prepares the uterine lining), and
- The menstrual phase (the time of bleeding when the uterine lining sheds) (2, 3)
Not every person suffers from PMS during their menstrual cycle. There are the lucky ones who seem to flow through that time of the month without any PMS and their only true symptom is menstrual bleeding. Others, on the other hand, are not so lucky and experience premenstrual syndrome symptoms before and even during menstruation.
In fact, 47.8% of women get PMS and 20% get symptoms that are so severe that it disrupts their daily lives (4). Imagine being guaranteed not to feel like your best self for a few days or weeks every month and not being able to do everything the way you otherwise would because you feel utterly uncomfortable.
There are people who believe that PMS does not exist and that it is just something women use as an excuse for their bad moods once a month. Well, those who believe that PMS itself is a myth definitely have not experienced it themselves. For those who do experience PMS during their cycle, this myth can be quite frustrating. Premenstrual syndrome definitely is real and many studies have confirmed it. (5, 6)
It is one thing to experience negative side effects like pain, mood swings, hormonal breakouts, fatigue and digestive problems. But if on top of that, you have people claim that your PMS symptoms are made up, it can make you feel even worse than you already do.If you think PMS can be bad, there is also a condition known as Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) that you need to be aware of.
However, there is still some debate about whether PMDD is real, and it is one of the hardest myths to dispel. Many experts do not agree on whether or not it exists or if those who suspect they have PMDD just have PMS. Some scientists believe that those who claim to have PMDD actually have underlying issues like depression that are unrelated to their menstrual cycles. (8)
But even though there might be some debate about the existence of PMDD, it still has been included in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a psychiatric disorder and should not simply be dismissed. (9) (10)
And even though some doctors and scientists don't believe it is real, it does not change the fact that some women experience debilitating symptoms that need to be addressed.
- Feeling low and depressed
- Anger, irritability and mood swings
- Feeling tense and anxious
- Difficulty concentrating
- Food cravings and changes in appetite
- Libido changes
- Muscle and joint pain
- Fluid retention and weight gain
- Digestive problems like bloating, diarrhoea, and constipation
- Tender breasts
Each person who suffers from PMS can experience a different combination and number of PMS symptoms from the above list. Some might only experience one or two, while others can basically run through them all. It depends on the individual.
Myth #6 - You Can’t Exercise When You Have PMS
You can definitely exercise when you have premenstrual syndrome. In fact, it is advised that you exercise regularly during your cycle, including during menstruation, as it helps to improve blood flow and circulation. This, in turn, can help reduce symptoms like menstrual pain. (14)
Of course, you might not be up for intense exercise like going for a long run, doing a High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workout, or practising CrossFit. But if you feel like pushing your limits and do not have any pain or discomfort, why not do it? Yet, if you are not feeling like your best self, you can opt for gentle exercise like yoga, walking or swimming.
There are some experts that believe you should adapt your exercise regimen according to your cycle. While you can follow a strict exercise program throughout the month and stick to the required workouts regardless of where you are in your cycle, taking a cycle synching approach could be a better option.
Adjusting your exercise program based on where you are in your cycle can be more supportive for healthy hormones. The idea is that just after your period, during your follicular phase and ovulation phase, you should do your more intense workouts as the body can handle more stress (including physical stress). Then, during the luteal phase and menstrual phase, it is best to switch to less intense workouts that put less stress on the body. (15, 16, 17)
There are some, particularly those who do yoga and are part of that community, who believe that you can exercise and do yoga when you have PMS, but that you should just avoid doing inversions like headstands, forearm stands, handstands and plough poses.
The idea is that your body’s energy flows downward during menstruation and that doing inversions and putting the uterus in the air will disrupt the flow of energy in the body. However, there is no scientific evidence to support this claim. It is one of the myths that remains a myth. If you are on your period, you feel fine and you want to do inversions, you can go ahead.
PMS symptoms can differ from month to month for every woman (18). Some experience the same symptoms on a monthly basis while others have symptoms that are slightly less predictable.
One month, you may have strange and persistent food cravings, while the next you do not notice changes in your food desires at all. Some months might come with mood swings, while in other months, you do not notice any obvious mood changes.
The unpredictability of PMS symptoms could be part of the reason why so many women are surprised every month when they get their period. On the other hand, those with similar symptoms every month might find it easier to predict when they will get their period.
PMS does not always equal a bad mood. The truth is that many women do not experience bad moods while in their menstrual or premenstrual phases.
For some women, a bad mood during their period can show up when they experience food cravings, when they have physical discomfort, or when annoying coworkers or family members appear. Or it can just appear out of thin air. But women who experience PMS are not bound to be always in a bad mood—another one of the myths we are happy to dispel.
It is important to remember that if a bad mood does strike during the premenstrual phase, it does not always mean that PMS is to blame. Bad and upsetting things can happen at any time of the menstrual cycle. If it happens to occur during this time, do not simply blame your hormones but acknowledge what is really happening. If anything, PMS could just make the experience worse but that does not mean you would not have been upset or bothered if it had occurred at any other point in your cycle.
While PMS is often synonymous with chocolate cravings, not every person with PMS experiences this. Roughly 50% of women have reported craving chocolate during this time (19). While for some, eating chocolate can turn a bad day around and bring instant joy during times of PMS, this is not the case for all.
The idea that everyone craves chocolate when they have PMS is one of the biggest myths and seems to have been largely pushed by the media, and they have been rather successful seeing as many people automatically associate PMS with wanting chocolate.
PMS is not just something that you have to accept as a fact of life. Many women are fully aware of their PMS symptoms but do not try to do anything about it because they feel there is nothing they can do. It is not something you have to accept you’ll have to endure every month for the remainder of your reproductive years. There are various things you can do to get relief from PMS symptoms. They are:
- Applying heat to the pelvic area with a hot compress or taking a hot bath to get relief from any pain and discomfort.
- Exercising regularly. (20, 21)
- Doing things to help you relax and reduce stress, like doing yoga, reading, taking baths, watching shows you like, spending time in nature, and doing breathing exercises.
- Getting a lot of rest.
- Taking painkillers to help relieve any period pain.
- Using supplements with magnesium to relieve cramps (22). You can start taking them even before you get your period and the pain strikes.
- Eating a healthy, balanced diet to help with your PMS symptoms. You should avoid drinking alcohol, smoking, and eating a lot of junk food, as they can make PMS symptoms worse. (23, 24)
We also recommend taking a hormonal support supplement like our Hormone Harmony, which can help balance hormones like progesterone, prolactin, cortisol, and oestrogen and thereby help relieve PMS symptoms like mood swings and irritability, sugar cravings, fatigue, brain fog, weight gain, indigestion, bloating, and low desire.
Hormone Harmony is GMO-free and contains no artificial additives. It contains 9 special ingredients, including maca, fennel, chamomile, ashwagandha, and rhodiola. This special blend of ingredients can help turn a bad PMS experience into a more pleasant one.
Now that you know the truth about the various myths surrounding premenstrual syndrome, you can help clarify if any of the myths happen to pop up in future conversations and spread the truth. Plus, if you are experiencing any PMS problems yourself, follow the advice we recommend above to get some relief and help you manage your PMS symptoms in each future menstrual cycle. If you have a partner or friend who suffers from PMS, you can offer them some helpful guidance too.