8 Habits That Are Making Your Period Even Worse
I know many people with vaginas, and I have yet to meet anyone who actually enjoys getting a period. Menstruation is an unfortunate fact of life, a hassle that unites every period-haver under a messy umbrella of inconvenience. But no matter what your period is like, there are a few things that can make that time of the month worse than it needs to be. Here, ob/gyns explain eight habits that might be making your period unnecessarily hellish.
Accidentally skipping some birth control pills.
Forgetting to take the Pill and needing to double-up the next day—or just skipping a few in a row—can throw your period out of whack, board-certified ob/gyn Antonio Pizarro, M.D., tells us. The uneven stream of hormones may cause unexpected breakthrough bleeding, he explains.
The same thing can happen if you change birth control pills in quick succession. “I see this all the time,” says Pizarro. “A patient will say her periods are messed up, but in the previous year she and her clinician will have tried her on four different pills. You’ve got to give each one time to work.”
Eating salty, fatty foods.
Of course, this may be all you crave during your period. The universe is a cruel mistress. But if you have problems with bloating and cramps, it may be best to cut back. “Salty foods increase water retention and can cause issues with bloating,” Jamil Abdur-Rahman, M.D., board-certified ob/gyn and chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at Vista East Medical Center in Waukegan, Illinois, tells. For some extra help, you can try these eight ways to debloat as soon as possible.
As for fatty foods, many contain arachidonic acids, or unsaturated fatty acids found in animal products. “They can increase the production of prostaglandins, which are chemicals that cause the uterus to contract,” also known as give you monster cramps, says Abdur-Rahman.
Skimping on sleep.
“If you don’t sleep enough, your body will release more of the stress hormone cortisol, which affects how your pituitary gland works,” says Abdur-Rahman. Your pituitary gland regulates hormones, so this can have a major effect on your cycle, leading to periods that don’t arrive when you’re expecting them to. Thanks to the imbalanced hormones, they may even be heavier or more painful than usual, says Abdur-Rahman.
Letting your stress spiral out of control.
This is similar to the sleep issue. “High levels of stress, especially in severe cases, can affect the pituitary gland and potentially affect the period,” says Pizarro. Because that’s just what you need when you’re already extremely stressed!
Wearing the wrong bra.
This won’t help ease your discomfort, but know that it’s normal to experience breast pain during your period due to hormonal fluctuations. “If you experience breast tenderness, make sure you have a supportive, well-fitting bra around your period,” says Pizarro. You want maximum support, minimum movement. You might even find that a good sports bra brings you some much-needed relief, as can over-the-counter painkillers or even getting on hormonal birth control.
Drinking a ton of caffeine.
Caffeine causes vasoconstriction, or the narrowing of blood vessels, says Abdur-Rahman. “This decreases the blood supply to the lining and muscles of the uterus,” he explains. That can cause even more cramping and pain than you’re already dealing with. We’d never suggest going without your precious coffee or tea during your period, but it may be smart to cut back from your usual intake.
There’s that vasoconstriction again. Much like caffeine, nicotine inhibits blood flow to your uterus. A 2014 Tobacco Controlstudy of over 9,000 women found that former smokers were 33 percent more likely to have chronically painful periods than nonsmokers, and current smokers were 41 percent more likely to deal with consistently painful menstruation. Add this to the already very long list of why it’s a good idea to quit smoking.
Training for a marathon.
Exercise is obviously great for you, but if you’re on an amped up exercise program, your period might show up in fits and bursts, freaking you out when it doesn’t show up and annoying you when it appears out of nowhere. “Very intense exercise is a potential cause of menstrual disturbance,” says Pizarro. That’s because, like many of the above habits, it can affect your hormones, leading to annoyingly irregular periods.