The list of terms used to refer to menstruation is a long one. There are Aunt Flo’s visits, nature’s gift, girl flu, and the ubiquitous time of the month. For football fans, there’s crimson tide, for book lovers, red badge of courage, and for “Game of Thrones” fans, red wedding.
These might be funny if your periods don’t negatively disrupt your life month after month. But it’s hard to chuckle when you’re doubled over in agony, washing out bloodied underwear, or enduring bouts of depression each month.
That birds-and-the-bees talk about the coming-of-age event of your first period wasn’t exactly what you expected. You might remember your mom, barely able to muster a smile, welcoming you to the sorority neither of you asked to join. And you shudder at the excruciating memory of deciding to wear white pants during shark week.
For some women, periods are short, light, and pain free. For others, they are nothing less than dreaded monthly nightmares you can’t avoid. But if you want to try, here’s how to get help when your periods are ultra punishing.
Address Your Mental Health
Punishing periods are not just about cramps and heavy bleeding. Depression, anxiety, and irritability may also be part of your monthly cycle. Treating your mental health issues is as important as treating the physical ones.
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PDD) is a more serious form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Not only do you suffer from the usual bloating, breast tenderness, and headaches a week or two before your period starts. You also suffer some level of anxiety or depression that may even be accompanied by thoughts of suicide.
The precise cause of PDD remains unknown to the medical community. But hormonal and serotonin changes that occur with menstruation are the likely culprits. An aspirin or ibuprofen will do little to help improve it.
The good news is that safe and effective mental health treatment is easier than ever to access. If you don’t know where to begin, try an online provider. You consult with a professional, and if medication is recommended, you can have it delivered discreetly to your door. Check-ins are typically provided to make sure your mental health improves.
Depression and anxiety related to your monthly cycle isn’t “all in your mind.” The issues are real, so you need to deal with them. That way, when your period hits, you can strike back.
Reduce That Flow to a Trickle
If you’re one of those women who feels like you donate pints of blood during your period, you aren’t alone. If you’re one whose period lasts much longer than a week, you aren’t either. You might suffer from menorrhagia, and it isn’t healthy.
There are multiple possibilities for why you bleed too much and for too long. Conditions that cause hormonal imbalances, fibroids, uterine cancer, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), even certain medications are a few. Determine the source of the problem, and you may be able to find a way to reduce or even eliminate the bleeding.
For example, treat and cure an STI or have the fibroids removed from your uterus. Treat uterine or cervical cancer, or kidney, thyroid, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), or pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
Do not forget to talk to your doctor about using birth control methods that may slow or stop the bleeding. Hormonal IUDs are a great option for those who experience painful cycles. They are not only 99% effective at preventing pregnancy, but may halt your periods for the duration they’re inserted. If one of these solutions work, you might avoid dangerous anemia.
Stop resenting your friend whose period is more like spotting for a couple of days every month. And stop blowing through tampons, maxi-pads, and your monthly budget. Put yourself in charge of your own lady business.
Don’t Just Power Through Cramps
Most women experience some cramps before or during their periods. But if yours make you want to curl up in a ball and die, you need to confront them head on. Any time pain affects your quality of life, you should find ways to get your life back.
Cramps are uterine contractions, which you feel primarily in your lower abdomen. But pain can radiate to your inner thighs and lower back. If a dose of ibuprofen doesn’t knock them back enough to let you function, you need to explore other solutions.
First, you should check with your doctor to find out if your cramps are the result of an underlying health condition. Endometriosis, PCOS, uterine fibroids, PID, and cervical stenosis may be to blame. Address the root cause, and you may find relief in the process.
Otherwise, try different ways to manage the pain, including aerobic exercise, using a heating pad, or soaking in a hot tub. Certain yoga positions have been known to reduce pain from cramping and stress levels. If over-the-counter pain relievers aren’t enough, ask your provider about a prescription-strength NSAID.
Missing school, work, or avoiding social activities are sure signs that your cramps are relentless. Convert your power-through mentality to power up a solution. Your life will thank you.
Although some will say that periods are the most natural thing in the world, ultra-punishing periods are not. Periods can be beneficial if you’re tracking fertility or hormone balance. Otherwise, Aunt Flo doesn’t need to visit every single month.
If she’s a kind, quiet, and conscientious guest, that’s one thing. If she’s a harsh intruder in your life who overstays her welcome, you need to keep your door closed.
Talk to your doctor about your period symptoms, duration, and flow. Ask for a referral to see a specialist if your provider won’t or isn’t qualified to help you find the root of the problem. There are options from medication to a hysterectomy, and you and your doctor should explore what’s right for you.
If your period is a punisher, fight back. Earn that red badge of courage.