The myth of PMS: Your period isn’t making you moody

New research shows there’s little (to no) correlation between our cycle and moodiness…sorry guys!

9
Hot water bottle, sore stomach

Getty Images

What’s wrong with you? Are you getting your period?

Oh, for a world in which a woman can lose it on the bus driver for missing her stop, or spontaneously burst into tears while making spaghetti without having someone raise their eyebrow and privately wonder whether or not she’s getting her period.

The association between a woman’s mood and her reproductive cycle is firmly embedded in popular culture. So much, that PMS could be considered a polite euphemism for a raging cuckoo. But a recent review, by researchers in Toronto and New Zealand, throws some doubt into that association.

Co-author Dr. Gillian Einstein, director of the new collaborative program in women’s health at the University of Toronto, explains that after sifting through hundreds of papers to find a relation between cycle and mood, “Only 47 met scientific criteria. And of those 47, only 41 had enough people in the study that you could count on their results. From those 41, only 13 percent of those showed that women reported negative mood prior to menses.”

What the review makes clear is that “the literature isn’t very good” at the moment and better, more rigorous studies are needed to link what we call ‘PMS’ to any data.

Sarah Romans, another co-author, recently completed such a necessary study in which randomly recruited healthy women were asked to record their mood using smart phones. The women were unaware of the study’s focus on menstruation and instead were told that the study was called “Mood in Daily Life”. They were asked about their menstrual cycle as part of a series of personal questions however.

In the end, the study found no correlation between hormones and mood. In fact, Einstein says the study indicated that a woman’s life — her stresses — wield the greatest influence over her mood and not her period. “Negative and positive mood were much more tightly correlated with perceived stress, perceived sense of health and social support.”

One of the reasons why so many studies are so flawed could be cultural, says Einstein.

“I’m not a cultural theorist and I’m not a social scientist but I think it gets noticed that women bleed and I think that has a lot of power,” explains Einstein. “So, wherever you have a powerful happening, so to speak, you have stories around it to explain it.”

It’s convenient to think that women are somehow moodier or more emotional and therefore unreliable than men by their very nature. But the scientific evidence doesn’t support that idea, suggests the neuroscientist.

“I don’t think women have any more moods than men do as a group,” says Einstein. “I just think there’s a different expression. We may not be given as much permission to express our feelings and so it comes across as moodiness because we’re dampening it all down. But those are bigger questions.”

But the effects of the association can make women unduly suffer when they do speak up or indicate unhappiness — even to a family physician.

“If a random woman off the street goes into a doctor’s office and says she’s very upset three to five days before her period it would really be worthwhile not treating her as if it’s all in her mind but saying ‘what else is going on in your life?’ And not assuming that ‘she’s a woman, she has raging hormones’ and she needs to be treated bio-medically.”

Ultimately, Einstein hopes the review will encourage the scientific community to pay closer attention to the physiological affects of a woman’s reproductive cycle rather than its emotional nature.

“Women deserve that kind of evidence,” she says.

Moreover, she feels that a fresh exploration of the topic would go a long way toward promoting a more positive image of women’s reproductive cycles.

“Women’s bodies are very complex and I think beautifully so,” says Einstein. “The idea that we can go through such dramatic changes every month and be as stable as we are and carry on with the rest of life — I think it’s quite remarkable.”

Do you think PMS is a real thing?

9 comments on “The myth of PMS: Your period isn’t making you moody

  1. Pingback: Eating a burger may cure your PMS - Chatelaine

  2. This is the most poorly written article I have read. First, it does not even properly explain said research. It also states men go through same mood phases as women? That in itself is flawed. Do you know how many phases women go through during a menstrual cycle?!! There will be many high and lows. For that not to have affect on many women is ludicrous. Many women might have their hormones stable, but there are women who have irregular and abnormal period. One of the reasons behind this, is hormonal imbalances. What do hormonal imbalances lead to? Mood swings depression anxiety. A womens period plays a big role her mood. Tho media exaggerates a bit, the fact still remains that menstrual cycle, is a big factor in a woman’s mood. Also, Take a look at birth control and it’s part in women’s hormones and health, and you will see how flawed your reasoning is.

    Reply

  3. “Sorry guys”? What planet do women like this live on? It’s women who have sterotyped themselves as emotional cyclones in thrall to biology, as a convenient excuse for irrational emotional outbursts. Whether their given to these outbursts more than men is of no interest to me. What is of interest to me is the fact that the “I’m suffering from PMS” defense is no longer valid. I think that’s great.

    Reply

  4. This article is HORRIBLE. women definitely go through different emotions when their hormones fluctuate. Have you ever met a pregnant woman on a bad day? She will rip your head off. Pregnant women, like women who are PMSing, deal with fluctuating hormones constantly… both women are often much more temperamental… than those women whose hormones are NOT fluctuating. Hormones definitely cause women to be moody. It depends on the woman whether she rises above those feelings and let it bother her, or uses it as an excuse not to be nice or pick a fight. I agree with the other comment this article is very poorly written, and it does not explain the research one bit. A 7th grader could write a better article than this.!!

    Reply

  5. This is such BS. I’ve never had to track my period because I KNOW when its coming just by my mood. Since I was young. Through times of carefree living to stressful want-to-tear my hair out times. A few days prior I get super moody and want to cry at the drop of a hat, for something like spilling some soup on my shirt. Any other time I’d just laugh at myself for that.

    The rest of the month (including my actual period) I’m pretty much passive, the type that “freaks out” others with how calm I can be when faced with horrible situations.

    Reply

    • I am very prone to mood changes prior to my period. I try to not feel so edgy and sensitive at this time, but it’s difficult. I am quick to anger and and easily annoyed. I have to keep my emotions in check. I try to relax, and if i can’t i just call it an early night and go to sleep earlier. I purposefully isolate myself more as i know i am too crazy to act rationally in situations. I hate being affected by hormones. I wish there was a chill pill to take during the few days before.

      Reply

  6. Wow,what a load of crap.women definitely have mood swings

    Reply

  7. Seriously? I suffer for about two weeks before my period starts. And its definitely that. I get really angry and really upset at the drop of a hat and flip out on my poor boyfriend. The second my period comes, all the weird nagging paranoid thoughts in the back of my mind just evaporate and i’m confident and happy again. Not even kidding, its like I wake up the morning of my period and all is sunshine and daisies (except for the fact I’m bleeding out of my vagina and can’t have sex for five days… that sucks). Its almost like i’m on some sort of happy pill. Before that though, if something happens which would upset me just a little bit normally, I turn into a crazy, irrational, raging pile of awfulness.

    This article can go fuck itself with a bowie knife.

    Reply

  8. “…the study indicated that a woman’s life — her stresses — wield the greatest influence over her mood and not her period.”
    Isn’t that much obvious? Of COURSE a woman’s life and stresses have a greater influence on her mood than her period does. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean her period has nothing to do with it.

    If I’m going through a hard time, it’s going to be hard regardless of whether or not I’m on my period. But let’s say I’m not going through a hard time. I’m living normal day-to-day life. I do something small like drop something. It’s not a big deal, either it doesn’t affect me or I just laugh it off. Now I’m on my period (some people get these mood swings (or hormonal imbalances) when they’re on their period, rather than the week before, myself included): I do the same thing, drop something. It is enough to make me burst into tears. That is not normal!

    We know that the menstrual cycle affects hormones. We know that hormones affect mood. Therefore, wouldn’t it make sense that your menstrual cycle has the power to affect your mood?

    Reply

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *