It feels bigger than you, quite scary at times and, for some, can leave you trembling on the floor. It is your period and she seems to haunt you month after month no matter what you do to soothe and tame her. Unfortunately for most women we are given tools that are created out of misinformation, lack of education and companies wanting to capitalize on your pain.
From the time we hit puberty, which is happening at shockingly earlier ages, women are told that their menstrual cycles are an inconvenient episode of pain with gross and shameful vaginal bleeding not to be discussed or explored. We are not taught about how the uterus works, why there may be pain and discomfort and that there should not be severe pain and discomfort. The message rarely ever involves the beauty of what the menstrual cycle represents ~ the hopeful creation of ripe beautiful life.
Fear comes from a place of “not knowing”. When you take a closer look and learn about how your period acts, what she likes, what she doesn’t and what she is telling you she begins to look a lot less frightening.
Main Causes of a painful period:
- Malpositioned Uterus
- Underlying polyps, fibroids and endometriosis
- Overexposure to toxins and products that disrupt hormone function.
- Stress and Trauma
- Poor dietary habits and nutritional deficiencies
- Sedentary Lifestyle
A few things you probably don’t know:
How you bleed matters~ (And I don’t mean your political views). A “normal” flow will be bright red with some occasional clots and flow fully for 3-5 days with some spotting on either side of that range. Excessive bleeding (interferes with your life) can indicate a deeper problem and possible polyps. These polyps are not always harmful but can interfere with fertility. If your period is very light and short, as blessed as you may feel, you may not build enough Uterine lining to support implantation making fertility a challenge also. If you are regularly seeing dark blood at the beginning of your period then your Uterus is still trying to clean out what was left from your last cycle. Dark blood at the end of your period shows she is working on trying to clean out some even older stuff. There can be a variety of reasons for how you flow and some simple and natural adjustments that can help.
Don’t stop the flow~ Your period is your body’s way of releasing, shedding and cleaning out your Uterine lining to prepare for a ripe new cycle. Your blood is dropping downward and out and does not like interference in this process. Yet, we have developed the tampon that does just that with the added danger of harmful chemicals such as dioxin- a bi product of bleaching the tampons white. According to Dr. Tierno Jr at NYC University Medical Center, even small traces of dioxin found in tampons can cause such problems as endometriosis and cervical cancer. And recently women who have had historically longer periods have reported shorter, easier periods once they stopped using tampons. Unfortunately with such new interest in learning how our bodies work there is little research around the topic. Even switching to all natural tampons, in my opinion, only solves the toxin issue still leaving your flow a little stuck and your Uterus having to work a little harder than she should. I personally am all for the Diva Cup as it still allows for easy flow but catches it before it drains all the way out. Plus, one Diva Cup is around $30 and will last you up to 10 years (you do the money saving math).
Your man loves your flow but tell him NO– So, you have a man who is in tune with and loves every ounce of you. That is beautiful. However, having intercourse while menstruating can cause some issues. The Uterus is enlarged and wants to drain and shed without obstruction. Intercourse while flowing heavily may cause endometrial fluid to back up into the Uterus causing stagnant blood (the dark stuff). Also, considering there is a little less room in your pelvic bowl while on your period, the added pressure could put strain on your pelvic ligaments and your organs causing organ malpositioning and pain. On the flip side- a good orgasm can relieve pain. So, be creative as there are still so many other ways, parts and pieces for him to love and leave the Uterus alone to do her work.
A LITTLE pain and bloating is an easy price to pay ~ Your Uterus is roughly the size of a small pear weighing around 2-4 oz depending on the woman. During menstruation she swells to almost twice this size. This increase in weight and size of any organ is going to inevitably create some bloating and a little achiness. I believe that this is a rather fair price to pay considering the potential life we are able to create. However, extreme bloating and pain (disrupts normal life) is a sign that something is out of balance. If your back feels like it wants to blow out and your belly is full and constipated then it is time to look at the bigger picture of your health. I strongly caution against using OTC pain relievers as relying on these only masks a possible underlying issue that could be dealt with safely and naturally. I would start with asking yourself- what in your life causes excess inflammation?
Don’t stress the 28 day rule!~ Each woman is different in the length of her cycle and your cycle will vary throughout the course of your life. An average healthy cycle is anywhere from 28-35 days. That’s not to say that if you have a 45 day cycle and that you normally hover around 45 days that it isn’t normal. If your cycle changes one month, don’t panic! Stress and related factors can cause your cycle to change. But, if it continues to be erratic I would begin to investigate underlying issues. Knowing the different elements of your cycle (aka charting) is the BEST way to understand how your body works, when it is acting up and how to begin to really use your body’s cues for proper family planning- or not. Charting can sound daunting at first but is really no more difficult than remembering to take a little pill once you get a routine. To get started I HIGHLY recommend Taking Charge of Your Fertility. Have fun!
What to do when your painful periods are scaring you:
There are many tools for women to help address the many debilitating and scary symptoms that come along with your period. Uterine massage (Maya Abdominal Therapy), castor oil packs, herbal and dietary support and stress reduction are a few that have changed women’s lives. Most important is to learn about and understand your body. Working with a health care practitioner who will help you identify the root causes of your scary cycle is key. I strongly caution against working with a provider whose first recommendation is using HRTs (hormone replacement therapies) to correct your complaints as it is like putting a band-aid on a broken leg (again, just my opinion) and can lead to many other unwelcome side effects.