Cramps? Aches? Headaches? PMS? Is this period pain and when will it stop?
We get the down-low from our experienced no-filter period educator Demi on what exactly is happening to your body during your period.
Here are some of your most asked questions!
Q1 Does everyone get period pain?
Demi - No. We are all so different! Everyone’s body is different, and just like we have different hair colour, skin colour and eye colour, we also have different periods. There’s so many factors of our health and our life that will influence how much or how little period pain we experience. You might think that period pain is common, because you hear about it a lot from your mum, sister, grandma, friends or from the internet. But just because it’s common doesn’t mean it's good - period pain is not good if it's the kind of pain that leaves you on the bathroom floor crying, or if it means you miss a few days of school each month. Period pain is an issue if it’s impacting your quality of life and making you miserable. Just because we have periods, does not mean that we are doomed to be miserable. So, if you have that crippling period pain, it’s time to seek out a women’s health professional or tell your mum or dad to help you to get on top of your period pain.
Q2 My sister has endo; will I get it too?
Demi - To explain what endometriosis is first – it's a reproductive health condition where cells that were meant to grow inside the uterus grow outside the uterus. This can cause severe pain and inflammation for some people.
It’s unfortunately not a very straight forward answer. You might get it because there is a genetic component to endometriosis but that does not mean you 100% will, but you’ll be at an advantage as you know it runs in your family so you can keep an eye out for it. The average delay in people getting a diagnosis is 7-10 years, meaning some people can go 7-10 years with terrible period pain and not know why! Don’t ignore the signs from your body – listen to your period pain and investigate it.
Q3 Will the pill help my period pain?
Demi – Lots of teens and even adults are prescribed the pill when they let their doctor know that they’re having really bad period pain. We need to keep in mind that period pain can be our body’s way of speaking to us. We need to imagine that our body speaks to us through symptoms. Our period pain might be saying that there’s something in our body that we need to look into. Maybe there’s a hormonal imbalance, a nutritional deficiency, or even a reproductive health condition like endometriosis, PCOS or fibroids. Yes, the pill might put an end to period pain, but is that a beneficial thing if we have underlying issues with our health that we should be looking into first? The pill is a daily drug that we need to be serious about if it’s going to be a part of our everyday routine. There are many risks and side effects associated with the oral contraceptive pill like increased risk of strokes, blood clots, anxiety, depression, cervical cancer, weight gain, acne and extreme mood swings. A lot of people end up coming off the pill because the side effects out-weight the benefits. Before you go on the pill, look into the side effects and investigate your period pain with a women’s health practitioner beforehand.
Q4 What are the best ways to stop cramps?
As teenagers, it’s more expected that we’re going to have a bit more cramping and period pain because there’s a lot of work that our body’s doing to balance our hormones. This takes practice for our bodies, so it’s okay if you’re having more period pain in the first 3 – 6 years of having your period. These 5 tips should be done consistently and built into your everyday lifestyle day after day in order to beat period pain naturally.
- The first tip is to do with what we eat: period pain is inflammation, and inflammation creates pain. We can eat foods that are anti-inflammatory in order to promote less pain. If we’re eating inflammatory foods like lots of fast food, fried food, sugary food, or gluten and dairy, your body might not process these foods very well and these foods may create inflammation in your body. Be avoiding junk foods and processed foods.
- Eating vegetables at every meal: veggies contain lots of nutrients and vitamins to help your body create hormones, and they’re also high in fibre, which helps your body to get rid of excess hormones that it doesn’t need so that they don’t stay in your body and cause an imbalance.
- Dealing with stress: If you don’t feel super stressed but have a lot of things going on, i.e. with school, friends, etc., this can create stress which can place havoc on your hormones. If our hormones aren’t healthy and in balance, we’ll have lots of period symptoms. Get on top of your stress with some meditation, deep breathing, yoga, or taking aside some time to rest. Take it seriously – as stress is huge for period pain.
- Exercise: Regular exercise can actually really help our hormonal balance. It’s important to get your body moving a couple of days a week in moderation.
- Eating lots of healthy fats: Doing this is going to help reduce inflammation.
Q5 What is PMS?
Demi – PMS stands for Pre-Menstrual Syndrome. ‘Pre’ means before, so these are symptoms that we might experience just before our period comes. It can actually occur about two weeks before our period comes, but majority of people experience it in the week before their period comes.
PMS happens as a big shift in our hormones takes place in the weeks before our period. Progesterone, which was low, starts to go up, and oestrogen, which was high, starts to go down. There’s this shift that happens between progesterone and oestrogen, and if these two hormones are not balanced it can cause more PMS symptoms. The key to getting rid of PMS symptoms is making sure that we have balanced hormones. Some common PMS symptoms are headaches, migraines, acne breakouts, mood swings, wanting to cry for no reason, changing your eating behaviours or wanting to be less social. Some people get severe symptoms like vomiting or fainting but those are not ideal.
Q6 Is craving chocolate part of PMS?
Demi - The answer is yes! In the weeks before our period, what can happen is that our levels of serotonin can drop, and this can control our eating behaviour. As that drops, we might have a few more cravings and want to eat more. Other things that can be low in the weeks leading up to our period are magnesium and zinc, and chocolate actually has magnesium in it. The unfortunate thing is that chocolate can have some inflammatory and unhealthy ingredients like dairy and sugar, which can actually make hormone balance, PMS and period pain worse. Instead of eating chocolate when you have cravings, eat some healthy foods that are high in magnesium and zinc like pumpkin seeds, quinoa, green veggies or take supplements. Another thing you can do if you just really want chocolate is to create some chocolate protein balls made with cacao, or a chocolate-banana smoothie.
One tip on period pain and PMS is to just be kind on yourself and your body. It’s okay if you experience these things – don't beat yourself up, embrace the period life, get cosy on the couch with some tea, healthy snacks, and wear RED by Modibodi underwear.
Thank you Demi for answering all our questions!