We don’t know anyone who enjoys a visit from “Auntie Flo.” But if your time of the month is making you so miserable that it’s hard to get out of bed, we’re here for you. Whether this is your first period or your hundredth, here are some tips and tricks to make your time of the month more comfortable.
How Do I Know My Period Will Be Here Soon?
Every woman's period is different. We know — that’s not helpful. But it’s true! Your body is unique and your period will be, too. When you’re aware of the signs, you’ll start to figure out what your body does to prepare for menstruation. Here are some of the most common signals you’re about to start your period:
Tender breasts — Maybe your bosom besties just ache a little, or maybe the pain is so severe that you feel like screaming when someone accidentally bumps into you.
Bloating — If you feel like you’re retaining a lot of water and it’s harder to button up those jeans, it could be a sign that your period is on its way.
Achy muscles — You might feel like you had a good workout a day or two before you start bleeding.
Headaches — You know that headache that just won’t go away? It could be your body prepping for your period.
Acne — One of our least favorite signs; spots magically appearing on your forehead, chin, and cheeks. Ugh!
Cramps in your abdomen or lower back — You could feel pain in your abdomen, back, or even in both.
- Mood swings — If you start having a meltdown over nothing, or you feel like you want to bang your head against a wall, don’t worry — it’s normal to feel extra sensitive, frustrated, and generally moody.
At first, you might not even recognize the patterns and signals your body is sending you. You might realize after you start bleeding that you had been showing signs for two days, and think, “Oh, that’s why I totally freaked out over nothing,” or “Man, that’s why my breasts and head were hurting.” All of those uncomfortable and frustrating physical responses were just signs that your period was on its way.
Why Are Periods So Painful?
Speaking of discomfort, why does it have to be so painful? When you’re in the middle of dealing with pains and cramps, it’s good to remember that all of this pain has a purpose. We’ll keep this brief, but here’s the Period 101 to help you understand why you’re hurting so much.
Throughout the month, your uterus builds up lining to prepare to take care of a fetus. If you do not get pregnant during that time, you will begin to menstruate, or have your period. When you’re on your period, your body is clearing your uterus (or your womb) of blood and tissue that isn’t needed. This passes through your uterus, down through your cervix, and out of your body through your vagina.
This process is painful, because the muscles in and around your uterus are contracting to get all of that unnecessary tissue out of your body. For some women, the pain can be so severe, that they want to hug a pillow and stay in bed forever. For others, it’s a little bit uncomfortable, but totally manageable for day-to-day activities like sports.
How Can I Make My Cramps Manageable?
No matter how bad your period pain is, there are a lot of things you can do to make it less acute. Your mom, sisters, or friends probably have their favorite ways of making their cramps disappear (or get better), but here are some of our favorite things to do to ease the pain:
Heat — Whether it’s a hot water bottle or a heating pad, just applying some heat to your abdomen or your back can help. Taking a hot bath is also helpful. Why does this work? Researchers at University College London found that using heat to help you relax will block the pain messages being sent to your brain.
Drink more water — As with any pain, drinking water can make a difference. But when you’re on your period, hydrating is even more important since you’re losing fluids all day. Make sure you choose clear, clean water, as sugary drinks can often make throbbing pains feel worse.
Yoga — Different types of yoga can help bring relief. Yoga is a low impact exercise that can help you stretch the muscles that will be working hard when you’re on your period. We suggest vinyasa flow to help with period cramps.
Take your vitamins — Vitamin E, calcium, and iron can help ease you through period cramps.
Essential oils — There are many scents that can offer you feelings of relaxation. We suggest lavender. You can use a lavender essential oil, lotion, or candle to help calm you down after a cranky day, and get a good night of sleep.
Skip caffeine — Okay, you might have heard that caffeine can help with the pain. Actually, it elevates the estrogen in your body and can make you more uncomfortable and irritable. So hold off on that Starbucks, just for a bit.
Cut back on salty foods — Salt makes you retain water, which can increase bloating, and in turn make your cramps worse. Instead, eat fresh fruits and vegetables to get nutrients and feel more energized.
- Get some Z’s — Get as much rest as you can. Not only will this improve your mood, but it will help your body relax and ease your cramps.
When should you go to the ER for period cramps?
Yes, this has happened to some women. (Sorry, friends!) If your cramps are so bad that it’s difficult for you to stand up, your pelvic area is throbbing, and/or you can’t participate in your normal activities, it’s time to talk to a doctor. We suggest calling your primary care provider first to see what they suggest, but if the pain is so horrible that you can’t breathe, call a friend and get to the ER.
Why Am I Bloated And What Can I Do About It?
If you’re retaining a lot of water and feeling bloated when you’re on your period, there are a couple of things you can do:
- Cut back on salt
- Skip caffeine and alcohol
Cutting back on these three things will help limit the amount of water you’re retaining and help you get back to normal ASAP.
I Can’t Get Comfortable At Night During My Period — Help!
Getting enough sleep is one of the best ways to make your period just a little bit easier. One of the best positions to sleep in to help relieve pain is the fetal position. Ironic, right? But seriously, that position which you automatically go to when you’re upset and hurting, is the one that can take pressure off of your abdominal muscles and relieve those cramps.
Also, if you tend to bleed a lot during the night, try not to sleep on your stomach. It squeezes your uterus in a way that encourages blood to flow. If you don’t want to worry about leaks during the night, Proof is proven to help stop the leaks.
What Should I Avoid Doing While On My Period?
The most important thing to do when you’re on your period is to keep living your life! Unless you have severe physical responses to periods, you don’t need to put your life on hold. Keep doing what you’re doing. That being said, there are some things you should avoid if you want to make this week less miserable.
Avoid using scented soaps “down there” — Try to use unscented soaps when you’re cleaning your vulva. It’s important to keep clean, but sometimes scented soaps can cause irritation.
Don’t wait to take pain meds — Seriously, why wait? Ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and drugs created to help ease period cramps are perfectly safe when you use the proper dosage. Check the bottle, get a drink of water and a snack, and take care of your pain.
Change your sanitary products often — Don’t keep your sanitary pad or tampon in for too long. Change them often and keep your vaginal opening clean. It can help limit infection and keep you safe. Plus, you’ll feel so much better!
Don’t skip protection — It’s perfectly fine to continue having sex while you’re on your period. But just because you’re on your period doesn’t mean you won’t get pregnant! If you’re not ready to have a baby, make sure to continue using protection when having sex.
- Don’t skip exercise — Sometimes exercise is what helps you feel the best when you’re on your period. So, don’t stay in bed all day! Go for a walk, do some yoga, play basketball, whatever it is that you usually do to stay active, do it!
You’ve Got This, Girl!
Don’t worry, girlfriend — you’ve got this! Your period will only last for a few days. You are a strong, capable woman. While your period might be the thing you hate the most, you can make it through those few days with a minimal amount of discomfort. You’ve got this, girl!