What is PMS? Is it still a mystery?

The topic on PMS has been taboo for many years. It is time for PMS to be a topic that is accepted in every society, and that anyone can talk about without restrictions, but with openness.

Menstruation is a natural cycle women experience most of their life. Women who menstruate are able to fertilize and become mothers, and this determines how different women are from men. Both men and women question controversies surrounding menstruation, such as traditions, notions, and practices. In this article, we will go into further detail on what PMS is and why menstruation is taboo in various religions.

Lets begin with the question: what does PMS stand for? PMS is a short term used for premenstrual syndrome. Premenstrual syndrome is a variety of discomforting symptoms females, who have a period, get a week or two before their period. Premenstrual syndrome sounds like a great thing to have because it lets you know that your period is coming, but when we look deeper into the kind of symptoms premenstrual syndrome produces you will think about it again. 

The symptoms of premenstrual syndrome are different for every female. With time these symptoms in the female body can change. Even though females have different symptoms, premenstrual syndrome could be noticed by all the following symptoms. The three main groups of symptoms are: physical, emotional and behavioral. Physical signs of PMS are: bloating, headaches, cramps, tender breasts, back pain, acne, weight gain, constipation, changes in appetite (cravings), and joint pain. Emotional signs of PMS are: feeling tense or anxious, fatigue, depressed, irritability, anger, oversensibility, and mood swings. Behavioral signs of PMS are: loss of concentration, memory, mental focus and energy.


According to research, about 90 percent of women who have a period experience premenstrual signs from any of the three main symptom groups. Women who take part in this group will experience common signs of PMS, such as breast tenderness, bloating, food cravings, irritability, and mood swings. These signs of PMS are known to determine women have a healthy body and menstrual cycle. Now, 35 to 40 percent of women who also have the same signs as the 90 percent group experience the signs at an extreme level. For example, women who experience extreme bloating can gain about five pounds during the premenstrual period. Lastly, there is about 3 to 10 percent of women who endure being deprived of functioning normally. These women have to deal with disruptive symptoms that interfere with their quality of life; to name a few PMS symptoms that incapicitate these women there’s: depression, sudden or unexplainable anger, bloating and much more. 


Now, you may be wondering around what age PMS happens or how do women know they have PMS? A female of any age can have PMS as long as they get a period, but PMS is more common if women are in the age range between late 20s to early 40s, if depression runs in their family, or if they’ve had a child. How women know they have PMS is by going to their doctor, and keeping track of the symptoms from the three main groups, each month. If these symptoms are similar each month, then they may be diagnosed with PMS. In fact, there is a PMS calendar that is an accurate tool used for self-diagnosing. PMS can be difficult to understand with the taboo behind menstruation, but this PMS calendar gets right to monitoring physical and emotional discomforts women feel that are not from other mental illnesses or life issues. This easy-to-use calendar helps to record three months of premenstrual symptoms to determine PMS, and it makes it easier for doctors to know as well. The PMS calendar supports a menstruating woman’s well-being, calmness, and self-control. With the PMS calendar, open communication on PMS is created as a woman’s emotional and physical needs are monitored to reduce tensions caused by PMS benefiting her and her loved ones. The PMS calendar can be accessed through an app. 


 PMS is known to be a natural change in a female’s body, but there has been little research as to what causes PMS. According to the article, “Why do we still not know what causes PMS?” there has been a search for titles and abstracts concerning erectile dysfunction and PMS on ResearchGate. In this search, the findings show there are over five times more studies on erectile dysfunction than on PMS. Women aren’t given enough information on why they deal with PMS every month, and statistics show that “approximately 19 percent of men experience erectile dysfunction over the course of their lifetime, while over 90 percent of women report some symptoms of PMS.” This information proves that menstruation has become taboo in many cases because of the lack of research being done on what causes it, meanwhile there are much more studies being done on men’s health than women’s.  


PMS is not an easy thing to deal with. Many women face hard times when these symptoms take control of their daily lives. PMS should be a normalized topic everyone should talk about because it is something women deal with every month, and it has led to oppression in various societies. With millions of women around the world, it is possible that at least one woman you unawaringly pass by is dealing with symptoms of PMS. Most of these women try their best to hide the pain and aches they feel on a regular basis during this time of the month. In addition, there are some women who have had their reproductive organs (ovaries) removed, and even these women experience symptoms of PMS. Women just never get a break.

Now, let’s talk about how women deal with all these PMS symptoms. Women, just like men, go to work, go to school, go out, go on vacation, but when it is that time of the month these symptoms get in the way of their daily lives. To improve menstrual discomforts women: take pain reliever pills, adjust their diet, add one or two more of the dietary or herbal supplements, increase physical activity, take antidepressants, or natural remedies. Even though there are numerous ways in which women can improve their menstrual discomforts, emotional and behavioral signs of PMS still linger on. Usually, men notice these emotional and behavioral signs, and they think women use PMS as an excuse to make an argument or have unnecessary aggression. This judgement transpired long before the twenty-first century. 


In the nineteenth century, women demanded for social change especially to get a higher education, but there was always a question of what kind of character or behavior does a woman have? Even before the nineteenth century, men who were philosophers, novelists, poets, and authors have seen women to be different compared to their own gender. To be specific, men have thought women to be psychologically different; women have been discerned to be unstable and to be in a state of madness. Men have always been seen to be in a higher position than women, and this has grown the idea that women are ruled by their bodies and not their minds. For instance, women’s ovaries were seen as a dominant organ that influenced the mind and behaviour of women. Therefore, when women have PMS or are menstruating there is a stigma behind these natural experiences that are seen to make women unstable and mad. The taboo on menstruation doesn’t end here; there are several religious books and religious societies that continue to be premodern on this topic. To this day, these religious societies believe the natural female experience is impure.


Most of the menstrual taboos we know come from religious practices and holy books. The main reason menstruation is portrayed in a negative notion is because ‘period blood’ interferes with the relations between men and women. From then on, ‘period blood’ has been perceived negatively. Taboos were established to prevent contact with menstruating women. 


For example, menstruating women in the Judaism religion are called “niddah.” The Jewish Torah forbids any kind of physical or sexual intimacy with a women who is menstruating. “Niddah” continues to be a name for menstruating women until she washes herself clean in a ritual bath- mikvah. In some instances, Judaism prohibits interaction between men and women that are minor such as passing things to each other. Similarly to Judaism, Christianity follows the rules written in the Holiness Code section of Leviticus. In the Bible, which numerous amounts of people follow, further unfolds in detail the impurity that is placed onto menstruation as it states: “…in her menstrual impurity; she is unclean…whoever touches…shall be unclean and shall wash his clothes and bathe in water and be unclean until evening’ Leviticus 15.”


In Islam, menstruating women are not allowed to pray until after their period is over and they bathe (ghusl) before prayer, which is also required to do after sex. In the Quran there is a verse that clearly states women are seen as unclean while on their menstruation: “‘go apart from women during the monthly course, do not approach them until they are clean’ Quran 2:222.” During this time of the month, Muslim women are forbidden to fast, to participate in the five daily prayers, to read from the Quran, and to go to a mosque while menstruating. 


Even though in Buddhism menstruation is perceived as a natural experience, menstruating women are prohibited from going to temples. On the contrary, Nichiren Buddhism (Japan) does not see menstruation as an interference with religious practice. There are many rules women need to follow in Hinduism. Traditionally women are instructed not to cook, enter a temple, touch others, wear flowers, have intimacy, or “come into contact with any creative energies to ensure free flow of Apana. These rules are given to women for them to only focus on their physical health. Menstruation is considered to be “a natural God-given holiday to women once in a month.”


Since 1991 there has been a restricted entry to the Kerala High Court to Sabarimala Shrine women between the ages of 10-50 because they were likely to menstruate. As of September 2018, the restriction was lifted by the Supreme Court of India because discriminating against women on any basis is unconstitutional. 


The reason why religion holds an important role in this article is because of the mass amount of people who are part of a religion. Statistics show that in 2010 there were 2.17 billion Christians, 1.6 billion Muslims, and 1.03 billion Hindus. It makes up 69% of the world’s population. The taboos that originate from these religions impact many women, and it is unfortunate that women are viewed less than men when they are on their period (natural cycle) When women carry around their menstruation products they turn to hide them because they feel ashamed, and it isn’t a normalized topic. It is destructive to women when societies still believe in ancient rulings, and premodern beliefs of PMS or menstruation. 


To conclude the wrongful ideas from premodern times, here is part of the first Latin encyclopedia (73 AD). It states if a woman is menstruating, it is best to keep away from them because their blood is seen as a poison: “contact with [menstrual blood] turns new wine sour, crops touched by it become barren…even bronze and iron are at once sized by rust, and a horrible smell fills the air; to taste it drives dogs mad and infects their bites with an incurable poison.”


The reason why menstruating women have always been avoided is because of the lack of science back then.The faith of religion has decreased as science has proven that some religious practices are based on ancient rulings. It should be understood that it is wrong to have women feel ashamed of what is natural. Menstruation is not something a woman has a choice to have, but a natural thing. There is enough science that proves that the blood coming out of a woman’s body is how it gets rid of the unfertilized eggs in the ovaries. If women aren’t able to get rid of these eggs naturally in the process of menstruation, then that means their health is in danger. It is actually an exceptional thing for women to have their period because it helps get rid of: disintegrated endometrial tissue, vaginal secretions, cervical mucus, and unfertilized eggs with the blood. In other words, women who have signs of PMS are healthy, and science proves menstruation is a natural thing that allows women to bring a new life into the world. 


Women are blessed to experience a tough cycle that results in creating another being, but with traditions, notions, and practices it’s difficult for women to view the changes of their bodies in a positive way. Women feel ashamed, embarrassed and secluded in societies where rules are placed around menstruation. Women need to be given the most attention when it comes to menstruation, and I don’t just mean at home or in public, but in research too. If men were the ones to be blessed with menstruation, would it be different for them? 


The truth is vital information regarding women is concealed from the public or there isn’t much attention put upon it.The world is apparently ruled by men. Traditions, notions and practices are in favor of the male population. If women were given the chance to have the same opportunities as men imagine how far we could’ve been in science, art, technology, and so on. Maybe we could’ve reached great lengths throughout history if women were not prohibited from being in social environments when menstruating. In current global issues, countries led by women leaders surpass countries led by men with lower infection and death rates of the coronavirus. The countries of Germany, New Zealand, and Taiwan are run by women, and it shows the success they have in power during a global pandemic. Women should not be robbed of the opportunities they are well prepared for; if women are allowed to take up the space they have been deprived of imagine how different the world would be. We could have reached the stars and been more advanced.

His & Hers PMS Calendar on The Doctors TV show.