Go with the Flow

Painful menstruation cycles? Experts suggest way to cope with the problem

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Ten out of every 100 women experience menstrual pain that’s so intense that they cannot perform normal activities, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. in Bethesda, Md. You should learn more about it here.

But women can take steps to make menstruation easier.

Knowing when it’s going to happen can help women plan ahead and stay prepared with products to deal with flow and cramps. The average cycle is 28 days long; however, it’s perfectly normal for a cycle to be as long as 36 days.

To help anticipate the next period, Clue, Eve, Pink Pad, Flo, Period Tracker and other apps (all on iOS and Android) remind users of when to expect their period, along with other helpful tips.

Cindy Fiege, owner of Harmony Health Store in Spencerport, said that quite a few supplements and herbs may ease symptoms.

Dong quai (Angelica sinensis) root can help take the edge off menstrual cramp pain, as well as help improve irregular menstrual cycles. She added that omega-6 and omoega-3, evening primrose and milk thistle may also help with cramping, along with wild yam, black kohash, magnesium complex.

“Essential oils are very helpful, too, like jasmine, red mandarin, and pine,” Fiege said.

Prescription medication can also reduce or even eliminate the symptoms of menstruation.

Mitchell Linder, OB-GYN with University of Rochester Medical Center, said that using an intrauterine device, a T-shaped piece of plastic inserted in the uterus, causes 20 percent of users to not bleed or experience menstrual cramps.

“They’re totally safe,” Linder said. “They’re not the types of IUDs like in the ‘70s. They can be used in people who’ve never had a pregnancy or women who are 40 and are having irregular periods, even if not for birth control because they’ve had their tubes tied.”

One example, Mirena, is FDA approved for contraception and period control. It lasts up to five years.

For women who want better means of dealing with flow, menstrual cups may provide an easy way to get long-lasting protection. Brands such as Luna Cup or Diva are made of medical-grade silicone. Users fold the cup in half length wise, insert, and let it go so it resumes its previous shape while it forms a seal that prevents leaks and odors.

The cup catches menstrual flow rather than absorbing it like tampons and pads. Many women can wear a cup up to 12 hours, depending upon her flow, without emptying it instead of changing a pad or tampon every few hours.

Cups are reusable and long-lasting, which saves both money and landfill space.

“You take it out and wash it and put it in again,” Linder said. “If you’re worried you’ll get your period, you can stick one in and you’re covered.”

Taking over-the-counter pain medication, using heating pads or microwavable rice bags may ease pain.

Linder said that menstruating women may want to avoid coffee and caffeine, which are diuretics.

“The bladder sits on top of the uterus so if it’s full, that’s uncomfortable,” Linder said.

While it may seem a good time to curl up on the sofa hugging a pillow, exercise may improve symptoms.

“You don’t have to run a marathon, but endorphins released through exercise can help,” Linder said. “Stay well hydrated; that will help with bloating.”

A little pampering is also appropriate. Websites such as www.mylola.com and www.theperiodstore.com provide mail-order subscriptions for products helpful during menstruation; however, The Period Store includes both utilitarian and luxury items to make this time of month a little easier.