The PMS Mess…Fooled You!

Every woman I know claims to have had PMS – Premenstrual Syndrome – at some point in time. It was a convenient way to explain mood swings and irritability at “that time” of the month. How did we know we were suffering from PMS? Well, we didn’t. It’s not something that we went to the doctor about, although it may have come up in conversation when we requested birth control.

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The marketing world was right on top of PMS, though, offering us a cornucopia of solutions that might help. Everyone joked about it, worried about it, dreaded it and endured it. We were easy targets, because we believed that we were hapless victims of PMS every month, at which point we became raving, ranting, moody bitches that no one wanted to be around. There are even thousands of books written on the subject, to help mothers explain it to their teenage daughters. We all thought it was inevitable. Just a part of being a woman.

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It’s all a myth… are you surprised? 

As it turns out, though, very few women suffer from PMS. Probably less than 5% of us qualify as PMS sufferers here in North America, according to the criteria set out by health guidelines. The rest of us may experience mild cramps and some grumpiness (wouldn’t you be grumpy if you had to deal with bleeding for one week out of every month?) but nothing severe or debilitating.

Of course, that didn’t matter to the makers of Midol, widely advertised for decades as a solution for PMS, and even as something that we should take daily during our entire reproductive lives. Midol is a simple diuretic, analegesic and caffeine pill. Whether or not it relieves the symptoms of PMS is debatable, and possibly very subjective. Yet the manufacturers of Midol raked in a cool $48 million in 2013 alone. They’ve convinced women for the past three decades that we should be taking this “cure” every day for decades, based on zero science. And now they’re targeting teenagers, with a video game called the MIghty Midols. The characters help young girls battle with the perils of menstruation, including cramps, fatigue and bloating, by destroying them in the video game and providing advice.

Bleeding us dry…

Parents, it’s time to talk to your daughters. Explain to them that being bloated and crampy is definitely real, but that there is no real need for medication just because you’re menstruating. There’s no need to spend your hard-earned money on pills that may or may not help… and it really is time to put our foot down when it comes to perpetuating a myth that works against us in many, many ways.

If you want to know more, watch this excellent TED.COM talk by Robyn Stein DeLuca. She nails it with common sense and statistics.

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