Warning: graphic content / TMI.
So, periods. Not my favorite time of the month, and probably not the favorite time of the month for about 50% of the adult population. Today, I’m sharing with you tips and tricks I’ve been using to make period-cruising a breeze.
Let me preface by saying I generally do not have a very painful period. I have, however, had very painful periods before. I displaced my pelvis after falling down stairs, and while I thought I got out of it with only a bad bruise, it took I think about two years until it got put back in place by an osteopath and my period pain became way less, which is when I realized it had started being way worse after that fall. Hindsight is 20/20. So first things first: it is absolutely not normal to have periods so painful that even taking painkillers does not soothe it. If you have horrible, horrible cramps, by all means please consult a medical professional and don’t play down your pain. Same thing if you have very heavy or irregular periods: anything could be happening, from PCOS, to a displaced pelvis, to a contraception method that does not fit you.
Talking about contraception. Diverse types of hormonal contraception can be prescribed for different types of issues, from acne to period pain, etc. I personally stopped hormonal contraception after I noticed that it did not fare well with me (it had a negative impact on my libido – I tried many different and all had this effect). A bit more than six months ago, I decided to get a copper IUD, and so far I’ve been loving it. I have not experienced any issues so far, neither with the placement (I was at work 20 minutes after having it placed and took part in a yoga workshop the same evening) nor with the period themselves. Apparently some women can experience larger blood loss and bad cramping, but I haven’t noticed any difference so far. I also know a friend who has an hormonal IUD, and who is very happy with it (Contrarily to copper IUDs, they often make periods become lighter or even disappear – which I didn’t want). So advice number 1: make sure you have explored different types of contraception and get the one that fits you best.
I think everyone knows that heat helps relieving cramps, so I definitely advise getting a hot shower and using a hot water bottle 🙂
One of the earliest changes I made about how I deal with my period was actually getting a menstrual cup. I’ve had mine since 2010, when it wasn’t cool at all, and the people I was hanging out with were immature enough to find it disgusting and shame-worthy. But I tried it anyways and immediately loved it. I cannot imagine going back to tampons and pads. I know it’s not for everyone, as some people have issues placing it properly or get cramps with it, but if you have never tried it I would advise you to give it a chance. There are many different brands and sizes, so you might need to try a couple to find the right one for you, but I was lucky enough to get the right one on the first try. And I appreciate not having to change it SO much! Place it in the morning, go around with your day, change it* when you get home, done deal. No leaks, no risk of not having a change – I just put it back in my bag after sanitizing** it for the next period. Oh, and another advantage of the menstrual cup and IUD is that they are zero-waste 😀
* I simply rinse it with water and pop it back in
** I boil it with baking soda for 5′ to sanitize in between periods
As expected, I “use” my yoga practice to help out with my period. Having a regular yoga practice has helped immensely with relieving period pain. When not on my period, I have a strong inversion practice, and I have found this helps regulate my hormones. My period is regular, comes every 27 or 28 days, and lasts 3-4 days. When I am on my period, I avoid inversions (I’ve talked about this here), but I still have a relatively intense practice. I often do standing poses, especially Trikonasana and Ardha Chandrasana, as they help release cramps and make me feel lighter. I find that keeping active, especially on my second (heaviest) day, helps get the blood flowing and release cramps. One of my favorites is supported downward dog with a rope around the hips. Love love love it. If I can’t do anything else, I always do that. I find it more efficient at releasing cramps than any of the forward bends or supine poses. So if I can only do 3 poses I’ll do:
- Supported Downdog (with rope, and if possible forehead on block or bolster)
- Ardha Chandrasana (support if needed, if you have ropes I get my foot supported in a top rope – but I often do it unsupported cause I love the freedom of it)
- Supta badakonasana (classic, also supported with bolsters and/or belt(s))
Bonus poses: I usually also enjoy Malasana-type squats and supported child’s pose.
OK, now I’m getting to the seriously disgusting part. Period poops, or the female best kept secret. Yes, period poops are a thing, and not a good one. See, prostaglandins are released causing intestines and uterus to contract (hello cramps!) and it leads to more/different poop. Now, I’m vegan, so I already poop a lot. So when I’m on my period, I feel like I’m pooping every two hours. I also feel like I cannot keep it in, which leads to me rushing to the toilet pretty often, or even feeling like it isn’t really safe to leave the toilet’s side. Not nice. The positive point though, is that once they’re out, the cramps usually recede. I find that drinking tea helps both with releasing cramps and avoiding diarrhea, and I do so as much as I can. I also drink some water in parallel to help with hydration.
Last thing I will mention is eating, or rather not eating. I often practice intermittent fasting, aka “I don’t eat breakfast”. I am rarely hungry in the morning, and I used to force myself to eat anyways, thinking that otherwise I would faint or something bad would happen. I’ve stopped doing that, and I feel much better for it. I’m not very strict with it, I simply eat when I’m hungry. Revolutionary concept, I know. Funnily, not forcing myself to eat in the morning has also helped with cravings. I used to have very intense sugary craving, especially before my period but also during. I still have a little of it before my period, but not so much during, I believe because I have found that eating less (smaller, lighter meals), and healthier, actually helps in relieving bloating and cramps. Then again, revolutionary concept: who knew eating healthy was good for you? Finally, one thing I have not tried yet but want to, is eating more ginger. There has been many studies showing that ginger might help reduce cramping and general PMS pain, and I feel like that’s an easy-enough solution. So I’ll definitely give it a try next time before I get a painkiller. Cause yes, if the pain doesn’t go away with all my tips and tricks, I’ll use a painkiller. Sometimes it’s necessary, don’t stay in pain for the badge of honor…
What are your tips and tricks to manage your period? Did you change anything and thought it was revolutionary?