Q: Do over-the-counter PMS pills work?
A: They may help some women, but it’s hard to predict, since premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms are so varied. For most women premenstrual symptoms (bloating, headaches, breast soreness, irritability, and fatigue) are minor and vanish in a few days. But for others the problems may last as long as two weeks.
PMS tablets, such as Midol or Pamprin, typically contain a pain reliever (usually acetaminophen) for headaches and cramps; a diuretic (pamabrom or ammonium chloride), supposedly to relieve bloating; and an antihistamine (pyrilamine maleate or diphenhydramine), supposedly to reduce irritability.
If your main symptoms are headaches and cramping, a simple pain reliever would be a cheaper option. Other pain relievers, notably ibuprofen, may actually be more effective against cramping than the acetaminophen found in most PMS pills. If you suffer from serious symptoms, talk to your doctor. The very mild diuretics in these pills are unlikely to have much of an effect. As for irritability and other emotional symptoms, don’t expect an antihistamine to help much, except to make you sleepy.