Because the female body, like you, is a complex, temperamental, wonderful and interesting thing, the more you know, the better. Here are a few tips we gathered with the help of gynaecologist Natalia Novikova, about things you’re doing that unintentionally worsen your menstruation – and a few funny signs you shouldn’t stress about.
1 You’re stressing yourself out
Daily stress-inducers like the guy who cut you off generally won’t mess with your period but they could influence them in the long term. Huge stressors such as the loss of a loved one or a bad break-up can cause your period to stop altogether. When your body senses that it’s in a ‘dangerous’ environment, your period stops to prevent reproduction.
2 Extreme weight loss
Whether it’s unexplained weight loss or a radical change of diet, when your period stops as a result of your diet, your body is crying out for help. If you’ve decided to go vegetarian/vegan, make sure you’re still getting the necessary nutrients. Likewise, if your weight suddenly drops and your periods come to a halt, you need to see a professional to figure out what’s up.
3 Bad eating habits
Conversely, says Novikova, ‘Having lots of fat tissue leads to increased levels of oestrogen, which stimulates growth of the lining of the womb and causes very heavy periods.’ This doesn’t just apply to overweight women. Women who are ‘thin’ can have a lot of fat tissue around organs (which is a whole other health problem), caused by too many bad fats being consumed. An unhealthy diet = an unhappy period.
4 Messing with contraception
Forgetting more than three doses of your Pill can wreck havoc with your cycle by causing irregular spotting and bleeding. Seeing as periods are influenced by hormones and the Pill interacts with your hormones, missing contraception or stopping and starting will have negative effects on the way your body functions. If you’re starting a new method of contraception, make sure you know the side effects so that if something is up, you can take care of it immediately.
Wait, what? Exercising too much? You read right. If you’ve just started a new routine or been hitting the gym harder and your period has become irregular or stopped altogether, you may be exercising too much. This happens when the body goes into survival mode – it may shut down ‘unnecessary’ functions to save energy.
6 Caffeine overload
PMS symptoms such as cramping, headaches, breast tenderness, bloating, mood swings, backaches, fatigue and irritability are worsened by caffeine. Because caffeine is a stimulant, it increases blood pressure and heart rate, exacerbating anxiety and making it much harder to get those necessary hours of sleep.
7 Binge drinking
If you suffer from intense cramps, drinking excessively (more than one glass of wine a day) can make them even worse. Rather get into a hot bath, make some camomile tea and take a hot-water bottle to bed.
8 Not sleeping
Yes, we know life doesn’t always allow for eight hours but a study by Health Care Women International shows that regularly under-sleeping can cause irregular periods. The less you sleep, the longer your cycle will be.
Smoking alters your body’s natural levels of oestrogen, progesterone, testosterone and other hormones involved in your cycle, causing shorter and more irregular visits.
Signs to look out for:
1 Heavy periods – changing a pad/tampon every one or two hours
2 Painful periods – missing studies or work because of menstruation pain
3 Irregular periods – more than 45 days between the periods or irregular, frequent bleeding.
Worrying signs you don’t need to worry about:
1 Missing one period can be okay, and related to stress and travel or a change in lifestyle. It is normal if it happens only once.
2 Experiencing pain in the middle of your menstrual cycle is normal and usually related to ovulation (release of the egg).
This article was originally published on Marieclaire.co.za