Six Ways to Help Period Pain
Menstrual pain is no joke, 40 – 70% of women of reproductive age experience some kind of pain, with 10% of women describing severe symptoms. That’s a lot of regular women with hot water bottles. In fact, there is no need for us to experience pain, it is not healthy or necessary.
1. Menstrual cycle awareness
“Will you please stop breathing like that!!!”
But what if I was to suggest that your energy and internal weather changed all through your cycle?
- Noting down your feelings and energy each day of your cycle brings awareness of your own needs.
- There’s a swing through the month – for two weeks we are all about exploring and getting shit done in the world, then for two weeks we head back inside ourselves, more introverted. This blog will explain the seasonality of your cycle in more depth.
- When we are pressured to perform out in the world during the second half of our cycle, trouble brews.
- When we can follow our natural energy, there will be less pain; less raging, less self-hatred, less physical pain.
Imagine that instead of working at full tilt all the time, you could plan and nudge your life towards the energy of your cycle…
- Playing with new ideas in spring
- Being super-woman in the summer
- Assessing and editing in autumn
- Going slow and resting in winter
For most of us, the demands of our lives mean we can’t totally follow our flow, worst luck. But noticing and accepting how we change is the first step. And awareness changes things, for some clients of mine their period pain stopped, just because they became aware of how their feelings changed.
- Using this chart, start on whatever day of your cycle you are on, and note down your feelings. Simple magic.
- Download this handy graphic and pin it to your wall.
2. Period. Full stop.
In my fantasy world, women are allowed to rest and do nothing for as long as we need during our periods, knowing that around ovulation, we can do the work of 10 men in one day. Tea and dishes of small, delicious treats are regularly brought to my side and I alternate resting and moving gently to allow the blood to flow. In ‘Wild Power’ Alexandra Pope and Sjanie Hugo-Wurlitzer explain how the bleed time is when women are effortlessly in touch with their spiritual life and have access to visionary gifts. So in my fantasy, I also have lengthy conversations with God and she’s very happy with the way her world turned out.
Cue screeching tyres….
OK back to the real world. We are not empowered to rest when we bleed. But we can make changes. When you expect your period you can:
- Plan your diary to reduce activity during that time
- Move more slowly, take more breaks
- Go to bed early, like putting a child to bed.
- Once in a while take a duvet day
- And occasionally, plan for a BIG bleed, organise yourself a 4-day total me-time orgy of wintery bliss
Need some inspiration? This article from Mandy Adams shows how taking time out at menstruation can work, even with a young family.
3. Reduce stress
Stress is a major hormone disruptor and in the delicate balance that is our endocrine system, it’s when the sex hormones go out of whack that we most notice. That’s why managing your stress levels better will help you reduce period pain. We may or may not be able to control the outside pressures that are driving us nuts, but we are able to control our own responses to them.
A little of what you fancy
As my mum used to warble, in WW2 style “A little of what you fancy does you good!” Well, what you fancy might be to burn down the house and move to the Caribbean, which may not be practical. But what if you could manage to create 1% of that escape? What would that look like? Escaping for a quiet cup of tea in a café? Getting into the garden for a 10-minute breather? Regularly doing a tiny bit of what you long for has a profound effect:
- You recognise the validity of your own needs
- You make your needs important
- You give yourself time to rest and recover
- Move every day in a way that feels good
- Express your feelings to a nonjudgmental friend or loved one, who doesn’t want to fix you.
- If that isn’t available to you, then writing or drawing your feelings works well too.
- Practice gratitude
- Accept what you cannot change
- Get clear about the values and feelings you want in your life and focus on how to achieve those.
- Break stuff down into small tasks.
- Eat more fruit and veggies.
- Self-care massage – the queen of kindness to yourself.
Or you can listen to the inimitable Marie Lloyd singing ‘A little of what you fancy does you good’.
Even massage therapists spend a ridiculous amount of time sitting in front of a computer, and it’s not hard to see how bad posture will restrict the blood flow to the womb and the other organs in the pelvis. Any kind of posture that keeps the pelvis in a contracted position will have the same effect. Restricting the blood to the organ will make it function less well and also squish her up against her friend Ms Colon. All the organs are wrapped in fascia, a kind of cling film that allows them to slide against each other when given space, however when constricted the fascia can adhere and further restrict good health.
Lift sternum – this video will show you how to create more space and softly improve your posture.
Take breaks – HSE recommends taking more frequent, shorter breaks from your computer. Get up, stretch, pretend to pick up something under your desk.
Breathing – deep diaphragmatic breathing naturally stretches the fascia and massages the organs.
Movement – yoga and pilates will both help you to balance and align your posture, swimming and walking are great too.
5. Womb position
Naturally, if your posture is hunched over, your abdominal area and womb will be all squished up. Over time this can result in your womb being slightly forward or backwards. If you’ve ever had the experience of a nurse rummaging around inside you to find your elusive cervix, when doing a smear test, you’ll know about tilted wombs!
There are other things that can contribute, such as:
- living in high heels,
- a compromised pelvic floor (too tight or too loose),
- A weak core
- scar tissue and
- the effects of endometriosis
Though for many women, a tilted womb isn’t a problem, if your womb is unable to release the endometrium easily when you have your period, there’s likely to be some cramping.
Different womb positions
Hunched forward – an anteverted womb leans into the bladder, so you might wee a lot more often when you have your period or be prone to urinary infections.
Leaning back – a retroverted womb leans back slightly and is often associated with lower back pain, numbness in the legs, migraine or pain with vaginal intercourse.
Hunched over backwards
Any of these will make it harder for your blood to flow, and the cramps crampier.
All the ideas suggested above for improving posture will help to balance up a tilited womb.
Abdominal massage – massage your womb will release the fascia and dissolve muscle tension, helping to bring the womb back into alignment. And it feels fantastic.
Self-care massage – giving yourself a regular belly massage is a wonderful way of supporting good abdominal health.
Castor oil packs – the oil is placed over the belly and warmed gently with a hot water bottle, which is thought to break down scarring and fascial adhesions.
Womb steams – even though Gwynyth does then, they are still a great thing, honest. Warming and softening your lady parts can help your womb to find her right place.
6. Eat well
What you eat makes a massive impact on your hormones and consequently your period pain, but this is not my area of expertise. In fact just listening to food recommendations make me feel a bit queasy, so instead of giving you the chapter and verse on unrefined carbohydrates, I’m going to recommend some excellent resources.
A hormone balancing diet from the patron saint of women’s health, Dr Christiana Northrup
This book is aimed at fertility, but a fertile cycle is a healthy one and the grounded, sensible advice is excellent.
Help period pain
If the idea of receiving healing for your womb is intriguing, I’d be delighted to work with you, just give me a call.