Be Informed: Know the Difference! PMS and Period/Menstruation

Hi Everyone,

Today, I’d like to take this opportunity to demystify the difference between PMS and menstruation. Often, both males and females use these two terms interchangeably, but not knowing that they mean a completely different thing. Rather than throw medical terminology or a dictionary definition to you, let me convey to you my understanding of PMS and menstruation, from a lay-person’s perspective. PMS is said to affect approx. 30% of menstruating women.

PMS 24/7!

PMS, or Pre-Menstrual Syndrome covers a large scope of physical or emotional disturbances in a female before the arrival of menses. Symptoms of PMS include, but aren’t limited to, depression, irritability, crying, oversensitivity, and mood swings.Insomnia, fatigue, aches, breast tenderness, bloating, cramps, constipation and headaches are common physical conditions which PMS-affected females may undergo. It should be known that not all women are affected by PMS. I should highlight that the “P” in “PMS” being pre means that these symptoms happen before menstruation, so therefore, the terms PMS and menstruation should not be used interchangeably.

PMS generally occurs after a female ovulates and ends either shortly before or when menstrual flow begins. More specifically, PMS symptoms are attributed to large fluctuations of hormones, most notably, progesterone released during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle. As this phase comes to end, progesterone drops-off and the menstrual cycle comes to an end, resulting in menstruation (us flow-lover’s favourite time!!!) where endometrial blood is expelled from the body via the vagina. There is a more severe form of PMS called Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder or PMDD, affecting approx. 3-8% of women. In general, both PMS and PMDD affect a woman’s quality-of-life, however, certain nutrition consumptions, stress-levels and predisposed factors may make PMS/PMDD more severe from one woman to another.

Menstruation is used to describe the beginning of a new menstrual cycle and usually lasts from 3 to 5 days. Menstruation is considered to fall under the “normal” range anywhere from 2 to 7 days. The uterine lining is formed upon every menstrual cycle and needs to be expelled from the body when conception has not occurred. At the start of every menstrual cycle, the uterine lining and decomposed egg exits the cervix, into the vagina and out of the female body. The flow which comes out of the body is often in the visible form of blood and/or clots (may or may not indicate health-issues). The amount of menstrual flow throughout actively menstruating days vary from woman-to-woman although the average loss of blood per period is only 3 tablespoons with an average fluid loss of 6-9 tablespoons since tissue and mucus from the endometrium also comes out with menstrual blood.

This is 9 tbsp or ~133mL of liquid looks like - the "upper end" of what the average menstrual flow of one period consists

Let’s do some quick math! According to the FDA, tampons fall under 5 classifications based on absorbency. “Ultra” tampons are rated for 15-18 grams of menstrual flow. (Note: Mind you, these are VERY rough calculations since conversions between volume/weight is always a nasty thing to do, but it will give you a light concept.) 5 grams is approximately 1 teaspoon. 3 teaspoons is equivalent to 1 tablespoon. Assuming we use the “lowest end” of an Ultra-absorbency tampon absorbing 15 grams of flow, that is 3 teaspoons which is equivalent to 1 tablespoon. If the average menstrual fluid loss per period on the highest end is 9 tablespoons, 9 Ultra-absorbency tampons are enough to absorb all of your period. Please take due caution as I am not recommending this as tampons should be used according to the instructions in the leaflet as well as hygienic practices. Unfortunately, I don’t have an Ultra O.B. tampon so I can’t display the size of it, so the box will have to suffice (as shown below). Maybe I can borrow one from my ex next time I see her… HAH… hope it make her happy that I didn’t post another brand instead 😛

O.B. Tampons Ultra

Menstrual flow is not only expelled by force of gravity, but also the contraction of the uterus which helps force decomposed waste/menstrual flow out the body and thus, may results in abdominal discomfort in menstruating women commonly referred to as cramps. The menstrual cycle may not be very accurate for women who have recently reached sexual maturation, the age of menarche. Usually it takes 1-3 years before a woman reaches the stage where the menstrual cycle becomes regular. It is not unusual even for women who have had their menstrual cycle for many years who are not regular or may fall outside of their regular schedule.

I certainly hope in the future this is not the way I find out my wife is pregnant. There are much better ways of congratulations... LOL.

Most notably, sexually-active women may fear pregnancy (unless they want a child) when their period is late or perhaps may signal underlying health issues. Nevertheless, periods are rarely 100% accurate and flow will vary even from one menstrual cycle to another.

As you can see guys (and girls I suppose), PMS and menstruation are two different things and although both are “related” since PMS happens prior to menstruation, menstruation CAN exist without PMS-related symptopms. So the next time, when someone talks to you about PMS and menstruation, make sure they are using the right term to describe the right thing! Don’t you think you’d impress your significant other more when you use the right word to describe what she’s going through? I think so 😀 Hopefully this will also provide you with a working-knowledge of PMS and menstruation and to demystify misinformation that often gets injected into male minds about what-is-what!

Cheers. 🙂

[This post will be checked by one of my ex’s due to her medical expertise for accuracy :P]

About Prexus Swyftwynd

Probably not a good idea for you to know anything about me....

Posted on June 3, 2010, in Periodtastic and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 21 Comments.

  1. I wanted to know if I got the whole PMS thing right because God knows how often I use it as an excuse, and I think I nailed it. 🙂
    On PMS, I used to experience none of it until my more ‘mature’ years. Stress-related perhaps? And also, please DO NOT add a picture of a 9-tbsp of fluid. If you are, pls do not make it in red. I am experiencing my ‘flow’ as I type and just early this evening I had clots in my sanitary which were the yuckiest thing ever, EEW! Makes me not want to inspect my flow, eeh they were yuck.

    Oh, and I found a Kotex Luxw here in the Philippines! 🙂 They didn’t come in tin cans though. They did, however, come in boxes which are a ‘luxurious’ change from the plastice-covered ones from other brands. 🙂

    • I don’t mind when girls use PMS as an excuse on me, because that means they’re close to their period arriving, and that always makes me happy anyways 😆 … haha. I like how you said ‘mature’ years… as in you make yourself sound old, lol – you’re not even as old as I am =\ It’s so depressing, haha. Stress will definitely trigger PMS symptoms, mind you, a child will definitely do that to you, lol. Also, people’s health progressively goes down hill as they get older, day-by-day, so it’s not unusual for you not to suffer something before and suddenly it hits you. Maybe you should try some Chinese herbal stuff 😛

      I was thinking of using something simple like water, LOL… but now that you give me an idea to add red food colouring XD hahaha… sometimes you make me out to be a more complex person than I really am 😀 It just started raining here as I got home, I could use rain-water 😛 Nevertheless, even red-dyed water wouldn’t really be the same. Menstrual blood has a much thicker consistency than water, so it doesn’t simulate it very well. I’m sure if I wanted to, I could get my hands on 9 tablespoons of real menstrual fluid, but eek, that would be gross to post up on my website, LOL. I have to make sure my website abides by all the WordPress regulations 😆

      Yay, congratulations maysea, hehe, you little girl you – having your period is good! 😛 I was just looking at my calendar, and I don’t have enough accurate data from my girlfriend’s to calculate hers properly 😦 According to my calendar, today is supposed to be her last day of her period, but I’m not sure how accurate that is… haha.. It is so sad… it’s like every time she says she’ll tell me when she gets it, she goes on an ignoring/cold-shoulder spree on me – LOL, such a coincidence… wonder if that’s when her PMS kicks in 😀 The flaw of my calendar is that I can only get good accuracy when I can get at least 3-periods worth of data, then it’s pretty accurate thereon in!

      Do you normally not get clots? When you say “inspect” – I swear it gives me this image of you using a magnifying class and looking at it — LOLOL!! Unless you close your eyes to change your pad or look away, I’m sure your eyes will “glance” it either way. You can do it completely blind anyways, it is not that hard. Clots are normal, although there are specific colours of clots and sizes of them that make them abnormal. As a doctor-in-training, you should know well that it’s better to catch problems early as they make for easy treatment. As gross as looking at your menstrual blood may be, if it gives off telltale signs, it could save your life 🙂 – clots included!

      I think the new “U by Kotex” brands being released in North America are pretty much on-par with the Luxe-line in SG, MY and PH… so I guess I don’t feel as left out, lol. Ours comes in a nice, smooth cardboard box, and after comparing the ‘look’ of the pads, they are quite similar.

      Btw, you should listen to Kim Chiu and “You go girl. Have a happy period” 😀

  2. I think I do need some Chinese herbal stuff but then I’ve always like my PMS, despite my complaints.

    Why not true BLUE coloring? that’s what they used in commercial ads here before. But better add some coagulants to make it thicker. Hahaha.

    I think knowing a little ‘medicine’ I am actually paranoid. There was even a time when I had brown clots, that was scary and I had all these theories running in my head. I tell you, when I had dengue, my menstruation came with and it was TEN times more. And the clot, oh I could feel it coming out. It was literally as big as an apple.

    I can’t believe you have Kim Chiu here. LOL. That’s an old one. She has a new one with a sexier take to it. You should look for it. Haha. Btw, my sister I just found out the other day, is allergic to Kotex too.

    • You’re one of the few girls I know who enjoy having PMS, haha… I guess your husband coddles you when you’re not feeling your best eh? Awww… so cute 😛 I like coddling my girls too!

      LOL, they use blue colouring globally I think to demonstrate pad/tampon absorbency. I actually would prefer they use red – it only makes sense! Menstrual blood has very interesting consistency, so I doubt it’d be very easy to replicate by any means, haha.

      Brown and black clots are pretty normal, unless there are other signs/symptoms. Clots usually form when menstrual flow does is not expelled from the body quick enough. Oops, sorry for lecturing, I’m sure you know this better than I do XD But yes, clots can be signs of abnormality and I know what you mean that things go through your head. Heck, even at one point when I was feeling tired and stuff, I thought I was dying or something because I’m usually quite energetic. Crazy stuff was going through my head like, “What if I have this..” or “What if I have that..” .. so ya, hehe. Having dengue and your period must’ve been pretty… cool? 😯 Or more like having your period is pretty cool and when there’s lots, it’s even cooler 😛 Not for you I suppose… great for your husband. Actually, maybe not great for him either if he’s not into periods 😆

      I honestly had NO idea who Kim Chiu is… I don’t follow Filipino stars or anything, I was looking up Whisper stuff on YouTube one time and ran into her. The song is very catchy though, lol… I found myself signing it in my head .. I don’t find her particularly attractive.

      I have two cousins on my mom’s side who are allergic to Whisper, so they have to use Kotex or else they rash up. It’s weird, lol, you and your sister are allergic to Kotex and while my cousins HAVE to use Kotex. Then again, I don’t know too much details about it, because I know only overhearing a conversation they were having, LOL. I only have one cousin who I talk to about this stuff, because it feels so weird knowing stuff about the females within my own family – it’s kinda gross, haha. I wish I had a sister though, that’s different because she’d be the one who’d understand me the best =\ I could share all my deep little secrets like this with her XD

  3. Wowwee… it’s amazing how many girls who don’t know u actually feel comfortable enough to open up to u 😀 U r really amazing sometimes…. Even though u r not “touching the entire world” yur impact is still incredible for a small little blog. I remember when the blog was onli me n’ that P.C girl 😛

    Almost 36,000 visitors in less than 6 months of having yur blog live O_o If u ‘stepped this up’ – I’m sure u can reali do smthg useful with it, maybe even get yurself a job with some big companies, kekeke.

    Btw, I try the new Kotex 410 u recommended me the other day… it was soooo comfy, jealous ma? xDD

    • Hrm.. ya, it’s kinda cool. I guess it does kind of make me feel nice that they’re willing to share something as private as that – but then again, I’ve always known a group of my girls who share those things with me anyways, like you for instance 😛 However, I suppose it definitely more “prestigious” that someone who I don’t know in person still has that same comfort level. It does make me smile (not the lecherous-type smiles, LOL) and it does make me feel that there’s a degree of success to my blog and having a personality that people can connect with.

      Yep, the blog certainly has a lot of visitors, but the comments are lacking. I definitely appreciate the ‘regulars’ I get around here, but given there are so many readers, I would imagine there’s be at least a good percentage who may reply. Then again, the topic itself is quite taboo so maybe many don’t dare make a post 😛 lest their name be ruined or something, haha.

      I highly doubt I can get a job just based on blogging about periods and feminine hygiene products 😛 I wouldn’t mind if companies contacted me and wanted me to advertise for them or create some kind of social/media-network though, LOL. Oh well, just dreams 😛 But maybe this will give me an idea to make a post on it!

      Nah, not TOO jealous… only a few more months to go ’til I’m home again, hehe. Then I’ll come over and snatch one from you.. wait not one.. MANY 😆 haha, just joking. But I’m not overly jealous, I just haven’t visited T&T yet for a while with any of my girls. My cousin said she is still re-thinking whether she wants to move from Toronto Downtown to Mississauga… it is so sad and disappointing if she doesn’t 😦 I was really hoping we’d be able to spend more quality time together. She’s definitely appreciating family now though, when she first came here, she tried to do the whole “independent” thing and now she realizes how great it is to have someone who will unconditionally love you and watch over you. I really hope she does move there though, it’ll make visiting her a lot easier! I don’t go to her place at all ‘cuz she’s out in TO and I hate driving/parking there, lol.

      • U nvr know ’til u apply, LOL…

        U should try spreading yur blog in other places ma, u will probably get more commenter than trying to just wait until ppl post. Many ppl like to read stuff, but not always contribute… not mayb embarrassing, but takes time, haha…. even I feel lazy sometimes xDD

        U dun like Kim Chiu ma? I think she looks pretty….

        • Haha, ya I know, like I said, I’ll make a post of it at some point, it’ll be funny and maybe attract some visitors – lol, no getting-the-job intended.

          I take the opportunity to spread my blog as the situation presents itself. I don’t want to spam my blog all over the place. I get enough stupid posts I have to filter out as it is, let alone if I start posting it up everywhere. There’s a few menstrual communities and that’s already a good place to start. Also, some reputable forums and such already provide great traffic. I want quality members, not quantity 😛

          I’ve never had a thing for Filipino girls… not necessarily because “I don’t like her” – I’ve only see a few Filipino girls in my life who I would say are extremely attractive, but I also don’t know many as well, so it’s not to say they don’t have attractive girls, I just don’t know them 😀

          Kim is pretty… but it’s not like “wow” or anything… like Gem Tang, Tavia Yeung, Vivien Yeo, Karen Kong, Leila Tong, etc… omg, the list could go on, haha. However, girls in pad ads always appear hot, so I don’t want to associate the type of commercial with their beauty, lol. S.H.E, Joey Yung, Karen Mok and Linda Chung have all been in Sanitary Napkin Commercials at one point 😀

  4. It is so surprising to see that such basics are also not known to all..
    You are doing a thankless job there- keep it up..
    Tampons- The best way to know when its time to replace a tampon is:
    1) It would start sliding out, usually happens at the 2nd and 3rd day- not on the 1st day. If not changed, it would start becoming uncomfortable, and yet not changed, would mess up the clothes.
    2) The string starts to become wet, delay that, and it gets stained and then of course the garments.
    3) The 1st day usually is heavy on flow; so, one would have to change the absorbent a little frequently.
    4) Use of Tampon also reduces the number of active hours of Bleeding to upto 24 hours (less). This happens since the cotton sits very close to the vulva cervix (opening of uterus) and absorbs the fluid directly before it starts to flow out of the body which is usually 5- 6 hours. In the process, it takes a day off.
    A Word of Caution: if not carefully used or changed frequently, it develops a nasty disorder whereby one would never be able to use Tampon again. Girls do complete their period even in single Tampon when the flow is light- completely forbidden to do so.
    A Tampon is anyday the best way of Protection against the Monthly Fluid Discharge as compared to the ST (Sanitary Towel); please, exercise caution.
    I wish a few more brands were available here in India too..
    Here, its crime to use one.. esp. if the girl is yet to be married.. not using the word, since its your Blog..

  5. Sorry, not vulva- but CERVIX..
    Error Regretted- Could you please edit that comment for me- so readers don’t get mis-leaded?
    Thanks in advance.

    • Hi Olivia,

      Thanks for your response for my readers – it is very informative! I have editted your post with the correction as per your request!

      I did not know using tampons in India is illegal for non-virgins! That is big news to me.

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  8. Hi, from what I read. I can understand that menstral flow comes out from two to seven days but wot I still dont grab is the difference between period,menstral cycle and ovulation. Replies can go to me on facebook inbox, 2go(my number is +2347067112661), twitter(username is De_chydon) or Blackberry messenger(pin is 28EE4B17). Please the explanation should be to a lay man.

  9. Wow! This can be 1 of the top blogs I’ve actually arrive throughout on this subject. Merely Magnificent

  10. Hey, just to know I Really appreciate the articles you write to inform men about periods. Though I need to point out:

    What leaves out of a woman’s body is dead, not decomposed, tissue. Decomposed means it is falling apart or rotting, and if the tissue was indeed decomposing then the woman would have blood poisoning and the tissue smell would reek. It is dead tissue lining that that has been shed through contractions, but it is still fresh (hence the non-brown colour).

  1. Pingback: Be Informed: Know the Difference! PMS and Period/Menstruation … » Difference, PeriodMenstruation, Know, Informed, Read, Rather » Be Internet Medical

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