PMS medicine alleviates some of the most common symptoms of Premenstrual Syndrome including, cramps, bloating, headaches, and more.
PMS medicine can also help you get the sleep you need and makes it easier to be productive at work. At the same time, it relieves irritability, reduces water weight gain, and enhances your overall sense of well-being.
There are dozens of over-the-counter PMS medicines on the market today. Some are quite effective, others not so much. We conducted exhaustive research on the subject and concluded that the following are the best PMS medicines of 2021.
Aleve has a well-earned reputation for being a first-class pain reliever. It provides the added benefit of also keeping moderate PMS symptoms at bay for hours at a time. If you suffer from PMS and arthritis, Aleve is like a one-stop-shop for relief.
What we like: Although it was not created to address PMS symptoms, it does a good job with cramping, headaches, and general aches and pains. There is no caffeine, no antihistamines, and no diuretics.
Flaws: Not terribly effective for bloating.
2. Boiron Cyclease
Those who prefer an alternate route to PMS relief will want to consider Boiron Cyclease. It uses numerous homeopathic ingredients like Colocynthis 6C HPUS to relieve menstrual cramps and calm frayed nerves so you can sleep.
What we like: Boiron Cyclease does a good job of reducing menstrual cramps without NSAIDs, aspirin, caffeine, or antihistamines. It is safe for teens and adults, and it does not produce much in the way of side effects.
Flaws: Has a chalky taste.
3. Pamprin Menstrual Pain Relief
Pamprin has been around for decades and, in that time, helped millions of women transcend the worst of their PMS symptoms. Pamprin Menstrual Pain Relief addresses all major aspects of PMS safely and effectively.
What we like: It provides effective relief from most PMS symptoms. The antihistamine pyrilamine maleate and the diuretic pamabrom do an excellent job relieving cramps and bloating, while acetaminophen reduces aches and pains.
Flaws: Contains antihistamines which can create some unpleasant side effects.
4. Midol Menstrual Complete Gelcaps
Midol Menstrual Complete Gelcaps are easy to swallow and loaded with ingredients known to relieve symptoms of PMS. This is a potent combination of painkiller, antihistamine, and diuretic that gets to work fast.
What we like: Midol Complete is safe for adults and teens. It contains a modest amount of caffeine that should help reduce water weight gain without producing jitters. And it typically gets to work fast.
Flaws: Too much acetaminophen is not necessarily a good thing. It also contains caffeine, which will turn some people off.
5. Pamprin Maximum Strength Max Formula
Whereas Pamprin Maximum Pain Relief (see #1 above), contains pambron and the antihistamine pyrilamine maleate, Pamprin Maximum Strength uses acetaminophen, aspirin and caffeine to work its magic.
What we like: We like how effective it is in fighting water weight gain and bloating. The combination of acetaminophen and aspirin does an excellent job reducing aches and pains. And it is safe for both adults and teens with PMS symptoms.
Flaws: Might cause upset stomach. Some with intense cramps say it is only moderately effective.
6. Premsyn PMS
Premsyn PMS uses the same basic formulation as our #1 entry (Pamprin Menstrual Pain Relief), although in slightly different quantities. The overall effect is one of relief for a majority of PMS sufferers.
What we like: Premsyn PMS is effective at reducing the severity of cramps and alleviating aches and pains. It also does a good job with bloating and can help you get a good night’s sleep. There is also a very low instance of side effects.
Flaws: Despite the absence of caffeine, it does not do much to relieve tension.
7. Equate Menstrual Complete
Equate Menstrual Complete is a lesser-known entry in the PMS medicine space. But its relative obscurity does not obscure its effectiveness. If you are looking for affordable relief from proven ingredients, Equate can help.
What we like: Equate does a fine job relieving cramps and bloating. It does a good job alleviating headaches and associated irritability. And it includes caffeine, which not only helps reduce water weight gain, but also provides energy to get you up and active again.
Flaws: They are pretty hard. You might have to cut them up to swallow them.
8. HUM Moody Bird Women’s Monthly Support Supplement
HUM Moody Bird takes an alternative approach to PMS treatment. It employs traditional Chinese herbal ingredients, including dong quai, and combines them with chaste berry to produce relief from cramps, bloating, and mood swings.
What we like: You have to appreciate the purity of this supplement. Beyond that, it has a reputation for providing real relief from mood swings, anxiety, and other less-physical, more emotional aspects of PMS.
Flaws: Some women complain of constipation, increased cramps, anxiety, and other side effects.
Women who suffer a more severe type of PMS called premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD, usually need something stronger than an OTC PMS medicine. Some will choose birth control medicines like LoSeasonique, which regulate hormone levels.
What we like: Although LoSeasonique was not intended to alleviate PMS symptoms, it can do an outstanding job of it. Women with PMDD should ask their doctor if LoSeasonique might be right for them.
Flaws: Some women say that hormonal birth control medication improves their mood and relieves their PMS symptoms. Others, however, say it has exactly the opposite effect.
10. Midol Caffeine free
Midol is well known for providing low-impact relief from PMS symptoms. But its most popular products contain caffeine, which some women would rather avoid. The makers of Midol have heard those women and produce Midol Caffeine Free.
What we like: We like that women sensitive to caffeine now can enjoy the benefits of Midol without the jitters. It still does a good job with cramping and bloating, and there is plenty of acetaminophen for aches and pains.
Flaws: Due to the lack of caffeine, you may suffer a lack of energy.
Who Needs PMS Medicine?
It is an unfortunate fact that countless millions of women suffer from premenstrual syndrome. Every month they endure cramping, headaches, mood swings, sore breasts, insomnia, and more. Most of them could, and many of them do, benefit from using PMS medicines like the ones on the above list.
The majority of PMS medicines do not require a prescription and are well within the budget of most people. They are easy to obtain, easy to use, and both safe and effective in dealing with PMS symptoms. If you find your PMS symptoms hard to deal with every month, you may want to consider using an OTC PMS medicine.
How We Ranked
There are some very simple criteria in play when it comes to ranking PMS medicines. First, they must be proven safe to use by the average woman, with few, if any, side effects. There should not be any ingredients that are known to cause negative interactions with common medications, and they should be affordable.
Once we established that a particular medication was basically safe, side effect free and was accessible to most women, it then had to prove its effectiveness. To determine this, we weighed user feedback from a variety of sources, including face to face discussions with women who have experience using the various products. The final rankings reflect the results of weighing all the various criteria.
PMS medicine can help stabilize moods. PMS is caused, at least in part, by changing levels of estrogen and progesterone. These changes can affect serotonin (1) levels in the brain. Serotonin plays an important role in regulating mood. When serotonin levels change, it can cause unpredictable mood swings. These mood swings can be exacerbated by pain and discomfort from cramping and bloating. PMS medicine can reduce cramping and bloating and help stabilize your mood.
PMS medicine can help alleviate depressed feelings. It would be a gross simplification to say that an OTC PMS medicine can alleviate PMS-related depression all by itself. But it may help reduce other symptoms like bloating and cramps so that you are able to exercise. Exercise is beneficial in reducing some PMS symptoms. During exercise, more oxygen gets to the brain, and endorphins are released (2). Both of these can help lift a depressed mood.
PMS medicine can reduce cramping. Cramping is one of the most odious symptoms of PMS. In some cases, the pain from menstrual cramps can be debilitating. Most PMS medicines contain some form of non-prescription painkiller. Acetaminophen, NSAIDs, and aspirin are all common ingredients in OTC PMS meds, and all have a decent record when it comes to alleviating pain caused by menstrual cramps (3).
PMS medicine can reduce bloating. Bloating associated with PMS is typically the result of water retention caused by hormonal fluctuations. Many PMS medicines contain diuretics (4). Diuretics are substances that promote urination. By causing you to urinate more frequently, excess fluid is released, and bloating is reduced. Caffeine is a diuretic. That is why many PMS medicines use it.
PMS medicine can get rid of your headache. As we mentioned, many PMS medications contain acetaminophen, aspirin, or NSAIDs. These do a generally outstanding job of alleviating headache pain regardless of the cause.
PMS medicine can reduce muscle aches and pains. The aches and pains associated with PMS have a number of potential sources. Hormonal fluctuations, particularly a drop in estrogen levels, can cause achy joints. The action of prostaglandins (5) is another possible cause of aches and pains. These complex compounds play a role in both causing and alleviating inflammation. And your body produces a lot of them in the lead up to your period. Pain and discomfort from prostaglandins can be effectively addressed using NSAIDs.
PMS medicine can reduce breast tenderness. Sore breasts are another unfortunate but all too common symptom of PMS. This type of cyclical breast soreness is the result of hormonal fluctuations. It will typically clear on its own once your period starts, but it is likely to return on a monthly basis. PMS medicines that contain NSAIDs can help alleviate some or most breast soreness.
PMS medicine reduces fatigue and helps you feel more energetic. Fatigue is commonly associated with PMS, but there is no single clear reason for it. Stress is certainly a potential contributing factor, hormones too. Dehydration may also play a role. For many women, however, it is a matter of not getting enough sleep. PMS medicine can reduce bloating, cramping and aches and pains so you can sleep better.
PMS medicine helps reduce food cravings. The exact cause of food cravings during PMS are unclear. One theory is that they are a psychological response to pain and anxiety. Virtually every man and woman on earth has sought comfort in food at some point in their life (6). PMS food cravings may come from a similar place in our psyche. PMS medicine that reduces aches and pains may also reduce the psychological need for comfort food.
PMS medicine can relieve the anxiety that accompanies PMS. Hormones are believed to be behind the elevated levels of anxiety some women experience during PMS. There is not a lot NSAIDs can do to address hormonal imbalance, caffeine either. However, some women find that birth control pills such as LoSeasonique on the above list – do a fine job preventing hormone imbalances and alleviating anxiety.
PMS medicine can help reduce emotional outbursts. Emotional outbursts associated with PMS may be the result of hormonal fluctuations, or lack of sleep, or dealing with constant pain and discomfort. Most likely, all of the above and more (7). While OTC PMS medicines cannot do a lot about hormone fluctuations, they can reduce PMS-related aches and pain, and they can help you get a better night’s sleep.
PMS medicine can make it easier to do your job. Studies indicate that some 14% of women miss work as a result of various symptoms related to menstruation. But absenteeism is not the biggest cause of PMS-related productivity losses. That distinction belongs to women who go to work despite their symptoms, but are unable to perform to their usual standards (8). PMS medicine can make it easier for these brave souls to do their job.
PMS medicine can help reduce hormone-related acne. The hormone fluctuations at the heart of PMS do more than produce cramps, muscle aches, and constipation. They also take a toll on your skin (9). One result is PMS-related acne. While something like acetaminophen is not going to prevent or clear up acne, some birth control pills used to control PMS symptoms can (10).
PMS medicine can enable you to get some beneficial exercise. Many PMS medicines relieve the aches, pains, and soreness associated with PMS. This enables you to feel more like your normal energetic self. Once you start feeling a bit better, you should consider doing some exercise. This can multiply the beneficial effects (11) and take the top off all but the most stubborn PMS symptoms.
PMS medicine can help you get a good night’s sleep. Sleep is the answer to most things that ail us (12). And PMS is certainly one of them. When hormones are raging, and you are beset by aches, pains, cramps, and bloating, a good night’s sleep can seem like a pipe dream. Many types of PMS medicine will help alleviate those symptoms that are keeping you awake so you can get the shut-eye you need.
PMS medicine is easy to get. Another great thing about most PMS medicine is that you can get it without a prescription. There is no need to take time out from your busy schedule to go see a doctor and no worrying about whether they will see fit to prescribe the medication you need (13). In fact, you do not even have to leave your home to purchase PMS medicine. Simply click any of the links in the above list, and it will be delivered right to your door.
PMS medicine is affordable. With the cost of healthcare these days going through the roof, the price of obtaining at least some relief from PMS symptoms is remarkably affordable. For just a couple of dollars a day, you can obtain relief from bloating, cramps, sleeplessness, and more.
Q: What is PMS?
A: PMS, or premenstrual syndrome, is a collection of symptoms that befall a large percentage of women in the week to 10 days before the beginning of their period. Some estimates put the number of menstruating women who experience some degree of PMS as high as 90% (14). PMS symptoms can range from mild to devastating and are caused by fluctuating levels of the hormones estrogen (15) and progesterone (16). However, they may be aggravated by secondary factors such as depression, addiction, and more. In most cases, PMS symptoms begin to manifest 5 to 10 days before menstruation begins. They typically clear on their own a few days after the start of menstruation.
Q: Do all menstruating women suffer from PMS?
A: No, all menstruating women do not suffer from PMS. Also, while as many as 90% of women report suffering some PMS symptoms, many of their symptoms are relatively mild and may include general discomfort in the days leading up to their period. That said, some 8% of women suffer from a severe form of PMS known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder or PMDD, which we will look at now.
Q: What is the difference between PMS and PMDD?
A: Symptoms of PMS may be serious enough to require taking a day off from work now and then, but they are not often debilitating. By contrast, PMDD (17) is characterized by extreme emotional swings, crushing depressive thoughts, anger, and extreme irritability. Anxiety among women with PMDD also tends to run high, along with a sense of hopelessness. Exactly why some women suffer from PMDD while others experience PMS and still others (though a distinct minority) have little or no difficulty related to their menstrual cycles is unknown.
Q: Do I need a prescription to get PMS medicine?
A: No, you do not need a prescription to get most of the PMS medicines on the above list. There are certain products, however, for which a prescription is required, such as LoSeasonique. LoSeasonique is a form of birth control pill used by some women for its ability to stabilize out of control hormone fluctuations. Also, women with PMDD often use SSRIs to relieve their symptoms. SSRIs (18), or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, require a prescription.
Q: Can I use PMS medicine if I am taking other medications?
A: It is not always easy to predict how different medications are going to react to one another. All you can say with any certainty is that negative drug interactions (19) are always a possibility, even with OTC medicines that have been approved by the FDA. If you are currently taking other medication, make sure you discuss the matter with your doctor before taking any type of PMS medicine.
Q: When should I think about seeing a doctor for my PMS?
A: While PMS is a vexing, often disheartening condition, not every case of PMS requires medical intervention. However, if you are experiencing severe mood swings, intense sadness, or other symptoms that are interfering with your ability to live your life on a daily basis, it is probably time to see the doctor. Once the doctor is able to eliminate other potential causes for your symptoms, they will work with you to develop a treatment program.
Q: Are PMS medicines safe?
A: Yes, PMS medicines, especially those obtained over-the-counter, are considered generally safe for most women. While it is not common, some women are allergic to acetaminophen (20) and should use caution when selecting a PMS medication, since many contain that ingredient. Others may have a sensitivity to NSAIDs (21) and should also exercise caution. For the vast majority of women, however, OTC PMS medicines are safe.
Q: What are some risk factors for PMS?
A: Risk factors for premenstrual syndrome include a family history of PMS, a history of depression in the family, a traumatic physical event such as a violent car accident, bipolar disorder, substance abuse and more. The exact reason why some women with these risk factors develop PMS or even PMDD, and others do not is not well understood. Poor diet and poor overall health may also play a role in determining who suffers from PMS and who does not.
Q: Does caffeine cause PMS or make it worse?
A: There are countless articles on the internet warning women with PMS to avoid caffeine. But while we have no doubt the writers’ hearts are in the right place, scientific studies indicate that caffeine does not cause PMS, nor does caffeine make PMS symptoms worse (22). If you are already suffering anxiety and frayed nerves as a result of PMS or PMDD, you may want to go easy on the coffee. Otherwise, there seems little reason to avoid caffeine. In fact, caffeine can help treat PMS-related bloating since it is a diuretic.
Q: Can you use PMS medicine if you are nursing?
A: In theory, because non-prescription PMS medicines have been cleared for general use by the FDA, they should not present a problem for nursing mothers. In theory. However, if you ever have questions regarding the safety of a medication – whether OTC or prescription – you should ask your doctor. That is doubly true when the health of both mother and child are involved.
Q: Can I use PMS medicine past the expiration date?
A: It is not advisable to use any medication past the expiration date. Expiration dates exist because medicines are like anything else; they break down over time. Once the expiration date has passed, it is likely PMS medicine will lose its potency. This may cause a person to use more than the recommended amount. Or to mix the expired medicine with another in an attempt to obtain relief. The best, safest course of action is to dispose of expired medicine.
Q: Is PMS medication safe for teenagers?
A: For most women, symptoms of PMS do not typically manifest until they are in their late 20s and early 30s (23). However, there are exceptions to every rule. Some girls begin experiencing painful cramps, moodiness, and other PMS symptoms in their mid-teens. They need help dealing with it too. You should always discuss it with your doctor before giving your child any medicine. However, OTC PMS medicines are considered generally safe for teens.
Q: How long can I take PMS medicine?
A: There is no practical limitation on how long you can take over-the-counter PMS medicine. If you need to take it every month for years, you should be able to do so. As long as you stay within the recommended dosage and do not continue to take it during times when you have no symptoms. If you are concerned about taking too much acetaminophen (24), discuss the matter with your doctor.
Q: Can lifestyle choices make PMS worse?
A: Dietary choices, whether a person exercises or not, whether they smoke, and the stress level of their job can all play a role in the severity of PMS symptoms. With ‘can’ being the operative word. Because the effect of lifestyle choices tends to vary from person to person. As a general rule, however, those in stressful jobs, who do not exercise, and who make poor dietary choices stand a greater chance of developing PMS.
Q: Can a few drinks relieve PMS cramps?
A: It may be tempting to skip the PMS medicine and reach for a drink in an effort to relieve menstrual cramps. But alcohol consumption is known to affect hormone production (25), which can wind up making PMS symptoms worse. Alcohol is also a diuretic. Which means it makes you pee more often. So if you decide to have a couple of drinks to try and gain relief, make sure you drink plenty of water too.
Q: Do all women with PMS feel angry?
A: Feelings of intense anger and sadness are a more common symptom of PMDD rather than PMS. So, no, not all women with PMS feel angry. Many women with PMS become irritable and impatient with others. But there is a difference between irritable and angry. Angry feelings are thought to be a result of estrogen and progesterone imbalances that affect serotonin production (26). Serotonin is an important mood regulator.
Q: How can I deal with out of control emotions that come with PMS?
A: Even though PMS medicines may relieve some of the pain and discomfort of PMS, many women are still left trying to deal with a flood of emotions. While there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to this problem, exercise is often a good place to start. It delivers oxygen to the brain and releases endorphins that can elevate your mood. It also allows you to work out some of the excess energy associated with strong emotions.
Q: How many women suffer from PMS?
A: Coming up with a precise number is challenging because people tend to differ on how they define PMS symptoms. But it is safe to say that a large majority of menstruating women experience PMS symptoms of some kind every month. The number may be as large as 90%. But again, it depends on how one defines ‘PMS’. What is more certain is the number of women who suffer more severe PMDD. That is about 5% of menstruating women (27).
Q: Will exercise help reduce the symptoms of PMS?
A: Yes, exercise will help reduce the symptoms of PMS for most women. Aerobic exercise brings increased oxygen to the brain, releases endorphins, and reduces fatigue. Vigorous exercise can also help you sleep better at the end of the day, and sleep is important for women suffering from PMS. If you get in the habit of exercising for 30 minutes a day every day, it will become second nature during those days when PMS descends on you.
Q: Will PMS medicine always provide relief from PMS symptoms?
A: Unfortunately, there is no way to guarantee that any given PMS medicine will work for every woman that takes it. People are different. They may have other ongoing health issues that affect the situation. Or, the medicine may simply not work for no apparent reason. It happens. If a particular PMS medicine does not provide the relief you seek, do not take more than the recommended dose. Instead, try another or discuss the matter with your doctor.
Q: Is PMS the same as my period?
A: ’Pre’-menstrual syndrome is just that: a collection of symptoms related to hormonal changes that occur before you begin to menstruate. So, no, PMS is not the same as your period. The two are related in that they both involve reproductive processes. But PMS itself is not your period, and your period is not PMS.
Q: Does PMS continue after menopause?
A: In the year or two following the cessation of her periods, a woman may still experience some degree of PMS. This ‘perimenopausal’ (28) is often a confusing one. Some women may actually start menstruating again for several months before things settle down, and menstruation ceases for good. While your hormones are attempting to find their new, post-menopausal normal, it is possible you will continue to experience some degree of PMS.
PMS medicine can provide relief for a wide range of symptoms related to premenstrual syndrome, including cramps, bloating, headaches, muscle aches and pains, and more. No prescription is necessary to obtain most PMS medicines, and they are both safe and effective for most women.
The PMS medicines on the above list are widely used and respected by both health professionals and the millions of women who use them on a monthly basis. Use the above information to help you make an informed decision about which PMS medicine is right for you. And if you have any questions or doubts, ask your doctor.
For cpoe.org’s #1 recommended PMS medicine, click here.