Woman practising yoga

Period pain isn’t ideal but there’s also a lot you can do to make it better. Let’s take a further look.

Period pain really can’t be sugar coated; it’s uncomfortable, distracting and an issue that many of us will deal with starting from puberty up until menopause. You may also go for months having pain free periods, only to wake up one day feeling like there’s an angry monster jabbing around inside your womb; every month can feel like an unpredictable lottery. 

But having said that, there are certain things you can do to help ease your period pain and generally help you to not let your cramps get in the way of your day-to-day life. Let’s take a look at some of best ways you can improve your period cramps…

Period pain relief tips and home remedies

Keep painkillers at hand

Over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen will help nip cramps in the bud, but they should always be taken after food, or with a glass of milk in order to protect the stomach lining.

Get that body moving!

Whether it’s a walk around the block with a friend or something that requires a little more energy such as a run or bike ride – exercise helps increase blood flow, oxygen levels and endorphin levels (nature’s painkilling and feel-good hormones). It might seem like the last thing you want to do when you’re cuddled up on the sofa with a hot water bottle but exercise will help your body to relax and ease some of the pain during this tricky time.

Weather not great? You can stay active indoors too

Get the same endorphins and pain-killing benefits of exercise without going outside by practising yoga! If you don’t have a yoga mat to hand, you can always use a towel or exercise on carpet or a rug. There are also a variety of workouts you can do on the spot, like High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) which you can easily do inside or outside in the garden without the need for any fancy equipment.

Heat will help you heal

Heat will loosen up your muscles, so a hot bath, or hugging a hot water bottle are both recommended – as if we even needed an excuse to indulge in a bit of self-love and pampering!

Eat right

We know that comfort food may be an appealing option, but lowering your fat intake and upping your vegetable count can ease the pain by ensuring that your body receives extra nutrients and hydration. Increasing the amount of fluid you drink by drinking more water can also help, as dehydration can cause muscle cramps. Herbal teas – especially ones that contain peppermint and chamomile – are soothing and can make you feel calm and relaxed, helping you get through the pain.

Give in to your chocolate cravings

There’s a cocoa coloured lining to this cloud of period pain – chocolate contains cocoa which triggers the brain to release endorphins and boost your energy, so feel free to have a nibble (or a whole bar)! Remember, a chocolate with a higher concentration of cocoa will contain more of these mood-boosting nutrients – so if you have a choice, we recommend opting for a darker chocolate.

When to go to your doctor about menstrual cramps

In a few cases, painful menstruation – or dysmenorrhoea – can get in the way of you living your life. In one study, up to 14% of women reported frequently being unable to go to work because of period pain [1]. But there’s no need to suffer alone or feel like you can’t ask for help; if your period cramps are this severe, talk to a doctor or a medical healthcare professional. 

In some cases, they may prescribe you hormonal contraception to reduce period pain or help you to discover the underlying problem. Some of the conditions that could be causing you excessive amounts of period pain include endometriosis and PCOS – so if you do feel like your period cramps are constantly unbearable make sure you talk to a doctor so that they can provide you with the best solutions for relieving your pain. 

Period pain can make us hate our wombs at times, but it doesn’t need to ruin your life or stop you from doing all the activities you want to do! This guidance for relief should help you curb most of the pain so you can carry on living your life. It’s also worth phoning friends and asking what they do to help soothe cramps, talking about this can help you cope with all those emotions, and you might get great additional tips too! 

If you want to learn more about living with periods, check out our articles on preventing night-time leaking and brown discharge.

Medical disclaimer

The medical information in this article is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. Please consult your doctor for guidance about a specific medical condition.



[References]  

[1] Schoep ME, Adang EMM, Maas JWM, et al Productivity loss due to menstruation-related symptoms: a nationwide cross-sectional survey among 32 748 women BMJ Open 2019

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Have you ever noticed that there’s something different about your poop around your period? Well, you’re not alone.

It’s normal to notice a change in the consistency, frequency and smell of your poop when you’re menstruating, or to experience ‘period constipation’. Here’s why it all happens, and what you can do about it.

Why do periods affect your poop?

Throughout your menstrual cycle, the amount of hormones in your body vary. Before your period starts, levels of progesterone are high to prepare for a possible pregnancy. Then during menstruation, your body increases levels of the compound prostaglandins, while decreasing the amount of progesterone. Prostaglandins encourage your womb muscles to contract to help break down the uterine lining[1].
 
So where does poop come in? Well, both progesterone and prostaglandins can affect your poop. While prostaglandins target your uterus, if your body produces more than it needs, they can enter the bloodstream and have a similar effect on other muscles, including your bowels and other digestive organs nearby – resulting in more frequent toilet trips. Low levels of progesterone can also cause you to poop more often, or for you to experience diarrhoea.

Why do I get constipation before my period?

Another feature of the hormone progesterone is that it can have a slight constipating effect on the body. As it builds up in your body, it can slow down your digestive system. This is why you may experience some constipation in the few days before your period –  your stomach might ache, and your poops might be infrequent, and look like small lumps, or a lumpy sausage. If you eat foods that are fatty and less fibrous thanks to your PMS food cravings, then this can also have an effect.
 
Certain health conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), endometriosis or even just having typically painful periods can make you more likely to be constipated, especially in the first few days of your period. As well as dealing with period constipation, it’s also normal to experience bloating and weight gain during your menstrual cycle.

Why do period poops smell so bad?

Another side of PMS is that you may pick up some interesting food habits. Progesterone can lead you to crave unusual foods, or compulsively eat. This change in your usual diet can lead to some funky smelling stool and of course, the dreaded period farts.
 
To counteract the stink, you could try to avoid overeating and especially steer clear of refined sugars as well as processed foods. That being said, if you want to eat all the chocolate when you’re PMS-ing then go for it!
 
Another explanation is that it’s normal for menstrual blood to have an odour too, which may contribute to what you’re smelling. Other people probably can’t smell it, and it’s simply the sign of a healthy vagina, so there’s no need to be ashamed of it. Everyone’s vagina and vagina smell is different – just like how your clothes smell different to your friends because of your unique laundry powder and perfume combo! If you’re feeling a little insecure, you may feel more comfortable using a scented towel like Ultra Normal Deo Fresh which has a subtle fragrance to leave you feeling fresh.

What can you do to help period poop?

There’s no getting around it – everybody poops. There’s nothing shameful about having a few smelly poops that seem a bit weird while you’re on your period.
 
If you are suffering from period-related diarrhoea (which means your poops are mushy or have a loose and watery consistency) you can take a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug like ibuprofen just before your period starts to block prostaglandin production and reduce diarrhoea[1]. It should also help with period pain by easing cramps. To help with constipation, try to eat more nutritious foods that are high in fibre. That could just mean a yummy fruit salad with berries, topped with nuts and seeds, or some wholegrain bread topped with your favourite spread.
 
If you are experiencing severe pain, it’s always best to talk to a doctor as certain health conditions like endometriosis or IBS can flare up during your period.
 
Period poop and period constipation can be annoying, but knowing that many people go through it can help, as can continuing to learn more about your cycle…
 

Swimming on your period is totally doable. Yes, really. In fact, it’s a brilliant way to ease cramps and PMS symptoms and improve your mood.

Read on for some practical advice before you dive in – then off you go.

Period poolside pointers

As sanitary towels are super-absorbent, they’re no use when you’re going in the pool during your period, as they’ll just soak up tons of water. Not only is this not a good look, it’s also unhygienic. Using a tampon when you’re swimming is the best option, as it’s discreet and will keep you secure. Pop a fresh one in just before you jump in and you’ll be fine.

If you’re worried about the tampon absorbing water, all you need to do is take it out soon after swimming. There’s also a small chance bacteria from the pool water could get picked up by the tampon, so being extra careful about hygiene when you take a dip is a good idea. Swim then use fresh protection and you’ll have nothing to worry about.

What to do when you hit the beach

If you’re on a beach, make sure you position yourself not too far from the nearest café or toilets, so you can change tampons easily. If you’re out in the wilds and there are no toilets close by, you may need to hide behind some bushes or improvise with a beach umbrella. Whatever you do, don’t buy into the notion that swimming on your period is a no-no. Just make sure you plan ahead and have fresh protection with you.

Swimming at school

Of course, you may not feel comfortable with the idea of using a tampon, in which case avoid swimming when your period is heavy. If you’re at school, just tell your PE teacher you’ve got your period and suggest you sit out the swimming lesson. But when your flow is lighter, you should be fine to swim without any sanitary protection.

Let’s face it, Mother Nature doesn’t always have the best timing. Whether you’re on holiday or at the pool, there are ways of at least delaying your period.

Realising that your period is going to inconveniently coincide with jetting off on your vacation or a swimming competition doesn’t necessarily mean you’re stuck with it. Once you’ve sussed out how to regulate your periods occasionally, you get a sense of control over the situation. We’ll also talk about how you can prevent those night time leaks when your period does come along.

Using the pill to stop your period

So, here’s the lowdown on how to stop a period. If you use the combined contraceptive pill you can delay your period by taking two packets back-to-back [1]. It’s important to consult your doctor, gynaecologist or practise nurse before you go ahead, to make sure that it’s safe to do so, and that it’s possible to delay your period with the type of pill you take.

If you take a different contraceptive pill you may be able to switch to the combined one to enable you to postpone your period [2]. If you don’t take a contraceptive pill, speak to your GP about other ways to delay your period. If you don’t have any other health issues, you may be prescribed medication (norethisterone) to prevent your period starting at an inconvenient time.

Can you stop your period once it’s started?

As for stopping a period once it starts, no one’s worked out how to do this yet. But once you begin bleeding, if you start taking your combined contraceptive pills immediately this should make your period shorter and lighter [3]. Taking over-the-counter painkillers according to dosage instructions will also reduce swelling of the uterine walls, which will in turn reduce bleeding and the pain that comes with it.

There are a few natural ways you can try too [4]. These include regular exercise, which helps relax the uterine muscles to reduce period flow. Meanwhile, many women swear by herbal teas containing valerian root and chamomile, while raspberry and nettle leaf tea are also thought to slow down menstrual bleeding. Just remember to always consult a doctor before trying herbal methods.

In all cases, while it’s fine to delay your period on occasion, science has not yet worked out whether it’s safe to do so in the long-term. So don’t put your health at risk – it’s not worth it for the sake of a period.