Know Your Period
What is a Period?
What happens to the body?
Each month, one of the ovaries releases an egg - a process called ovulation. The egg moves into the uterus through the fallopian tubes, which are the 'pipes' found on both sides of the uterus and connect the ovaries to the uterus.
The lining of the uterus starts to form with tissue and blood for fertilisation (pregnancy). If ovulation takes place and the egg isn’t fertilised, the lining of the uterus sheds through the vagina along with blood. And then happens all over again!
What does period pain feel like?
Many people experience slight to severe pain in different parts of their body just before or during their period, while some don't at all. Couple of years after your period first starts, you might confuse period pain with feeling ill, indigestion, or thinking that you might need to poo.
Here are some common symptoms:
Mild to intense throbbing pain in your lower abdomen starting one to three days before your period and gets better after two to three days in to your period.
Pain in your lower back, thighs, and breasts, as well as headaches.
Bloating before your period.
Loose stools or constipation.
Emotional pain can feel stronger.
A slight pain is normal. Also if you get cramps a couple days before your period, it can even become a convenient signal to indicate the start of your period. But if it disrupts your life every month or if you suddenly start having severe pain after the age of 25, see if your doctor can help because it might be a cause of menstrual related illnesses.
How to Alleviate Pain
There are different ways for a person to alleviate pain during their period; there is no fixed method or technique so you can pick whatever works for you!
There are also events in your life which can make your pains worse - try to identify them in order to prevent them in the future.
Some things you can try:
A simple walk or yoga meditation can get your mind off of the pain and enhance happiness-inducing endorphins.
Hot water bottles, teas, and anything warm are your best friends. Be careful of excess heat, don't burn yourself!
While you may experience cravings, be mindful of overly greasy, heavy, and salty foods to help prevent nausea, bloating, and water retention.
Pain killers like Paracetamol or Ibuprofen works best. Be careful to track how many you’ve taken and make sure you consult a doctor before taking medication.
Studies have shown that stress can cause more painful periods as well as affect your next cycle. Engage in enjoyable activities and hobbies to help you de-stress!
As you hormone levels change, your body may have trouble controlling its internal temperature causing restless or interrupted sleep. Try going to bed earlier than usual and be as comfortable as possible.
Speak with your doctor
Your doctor or nurse can also help you soothe your pain with other methods or by prescribing other types of medication or healing.
Self-care during your period
There are many ways you can practice self-care during your period even if you're not experiencing pain.
"when I would go to India, people would tell me 'Oh, you're on raja (holiday).'
I would be exempt from having to do anything. ‘Just sit down and put your feet up' they'd say."
- Avni Chang (HINDU STUDIES SCHOLAR)
Try some of the activities below:
Take a hot bath
Make yourself a cup of tea
Do yoga or meditate
Indulge in some moderate snacking
Take a nap
Think of your period week as a holiday, be nice to yourself and take it easy!
Understanding our behaviour during periods
Next time you have your period, you can use this to determine your best and worst habits when you’re in pain, craving certain types of foods, or when you feel blue!
What are your favourite things to eat during your period?
What’s your period exercise routine?
What is stressing you out at the moment?
When was the last time you took time alone to focus on your mind and body? Draw your favourite way to relax.
Know Your Flow
Period blood colour - what do they mean?
Brown or Dark red
Beginning or end of period - usually old blood
Spotting, anaemia, vitamin deficiency or low estrogen levels.
Visit a doctor if your period blood is:
Whitish or greyish
Possible bacterial infection of the vagina
Make sure not to mistake white discharge with period blood.
Red or Bright red
Beginning of period - fresh blood
Period blood and cervical fluid or a possible infection.
Know your period texture
Clots, which are small lumps of blood, are common during the first two days. Make sure it’s smaller than 2cm and to always track your period!
Regularity and flow
At the beginning it can often be irregular. That is normal. However if you are familiar with your cycle and go through months without having your periods, this is abnormal.
Everybody has a different cycle. Make sure to journal and track your period.
Tracking means control
I didn't track my period when I was younger but Now i'm way more aware of why i'm tender or phYsically and emotionally sensitive around my period! - A.
The menstrual cycle, which is counted from the first day of one period to the first day of the next, varies from person to person. Your menstrual cycle might be regular or irregular, be light or heavy, painful or pain free, long or short, and still be considered normal. It's normal for your period to be irregular when you first start. However, it's abnormal if you are familiar with your cycle and go through months without having periods.
In order for you to understand your cycle, it is essential that you track your cycle in terms of flow, regularity, pain, emotional changes and habits! It allows you to truly connect with your menstrual experience and understand any changes in behaviour during that time. Plus, you get to know when your next period is so you can be ready for it. Jump to the next chapter to learn more about how to track your periods.
How much blood can you lose?
So how do you calculate how much blood you lose per month?
1. Multiply the number of hygiene products you used that month during your period by 5 ml (for regular size products) or 10 ml (for extra absorbent products).
2. Multiply this number by 0.36 to get the approximate amount of blood you lost that month. Example:
Normally, you lose around two to three tablespoons (30-50 mL) of menstrual blood each month, but this really depends on each person. Your flow is usually heavier at the beginning of your menstruation, and it tends to lighten as the days go by.
During your menstruation, you’re not just losing blood. Other fluids like mucus, can make up nearly 64% of your menstrual flow. This means that blood only makes up 36% of your flow, although it might look like you are losing a lot more blood.
When is it too much?
Heavy periods do not necessarily mean there’s anything wrong. However, if you track your flow and lose more blood than usual, it’s time for a check-up. If you bleed 6-8 teaspoons on average, heavy menstrual bleeding is defined as losing 16 teaspoons or more in each period or having periods that last longer than 7 days. Sometimes it can be both.
Other indications are:
Having to change your sanitary products every hour or two
Passing blood clots larger than 2.5cm
Bleeding through your clothes or bedding
Needing to use 2 types of sanitary products together (for example, tampons and pads)
There is nothing wrong with being a heavy bleeder. However, we must remember that people who naturally have heavy periods (without underlying issues or conditions) can have flows which interrupt their daily lives and activities. If you are a heavy bleeder, we empathise with your situation! If you find your flow too problematic, talk to your local doctor to see how you can manage the heavy blood!
When is it too little?
When you first get your period, it is common that it is irregular for the first year. However, as you grow older, it should become more regular. Amenorrhea is when you don’t have a period for at least 3 to 6 months. This can cause a lot of stress and anxiety and it can feel like your womanhood isn't present anymore (which is untrue of course).
What causes delayed periods?
If you don’t eat enough, you won’t produce enough energy to sustain your body or a healthy pregnancy. Your brain will save the nutrients that would otherwise be used on ovulation, shutting down your periods.
The stress hormone cortisol influences the production of female hormones by communicating the stress to your brain, which stops ovulation until you have overcome the stress. So make sure to take some time off for yourself.
Overexercising can affect women’s periods as your body senses exertion as stress and sends information to your ovaries to stop ovulating.
Know Your Emotions
Why do you feel this way?
During puberty and your period, you may experience mood swings. That is totally normal! Track your emotions. If you notice that it changes drastically, tracking can help you to identify, understand, and manage your emotions.
What is PMS?
PMS (pre-menstrual syndrome) are the emotional and physical symptoms which happen due to hormone fluctuations before the start of your periods.
Low estrogen levels decrease the release of serotonin (the happy hormone) affecting your mood levels and making you feel depressed or sad.
Don’t worry! These feelings won’t last forever.
the smallest things annoy or upset me during this time! Now I know why... - A.
If you track your period and emotions and notice these emotions significantly worsening during menstruation, you might have Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD). It’s okay.
Between 5-10% of people with periods are affected by this. Symptoms can resemble that of depression or bipolar disorder and are very distressing and disruptive. If you still feel low after your period or think you might have symptoms of PMDD, talk to your doctor or an adult you trust about your emotional symptoms.
"I fight with my friends and family when I am on my period.
What should I do?"
Identify the root of the issue to understand why you may be feeling negative. How can you set healthy boundaries to avoid it upsetting you next time?
Take some time to care for yourself, drink tea and other hot drinks, take baths, go for walks, eat foods that you love (and are relatively healthy), and take a breath of fresh air.
Do not isolate yourself and talk to someone you trust about what’s bothering you; don't be afraid to ask for their support.
Do not repress and ignore bad thoughts or issues you have, as they may worsen during PMS and your anger could become more severe.
Apologise to your loved ones and take responsibility if you’ve made mistakes.
Grow from your mistakes. We all make mistakes, it is part of being human - the most important part is learning from them.
Understand that these feelings are not your fault - there are a lot of hormonal changes happening on in your body so take it easy on yourself.
Understanding your emotions
Whether you have PMS or feel that your negative emotions affect you the worst during your period, it can be useful to know what things, contexts and situations affect, scare, anger, sadden or stress you out the most.
Make a list of things that help you to calm down or cheer up?
If you are upset, how would you like your friends and family to help?
Draw the place you feel the safest or most relaxed.