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Menstrual Life Hacks: Making Your Period Easier by Annie McKernan

Menstrual Life Hacks: Making Your Period Easier by Annie McKernan

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One thing most of us can unanimously agree on is that periods can be downright annoying. Whether you're grappling with pain, battling exhaustion, nervously monitoring for leaks, suffering from nausea, or painstakingly scrubbing blood off your favourite underwear, it's a rollercoaster of mental and physical challenges. Navigating the monthly crimson tide can feel like a stormy sea, but remember, you've got the power to wash away any challenges that come ashore.

Armed with these science-backed period life hacks and tips, we hope to make that time of the month just a tad more bearable.

But before we dive into the hacks, it's crucial to address something on a serious note. If your pain reaches an intensity that interferes with your daily activities, causing symptoms like passing out or vomiting, please seek medical attention. This isn't normal. You might be dealing with an underlying medical condition that warrants proper diagnosis and treatment.

The following is not medical advice. Before implementing new things into your routine you should discuss them with your doctor.

Preparing For Battle.

One of the best period life hacks is to make a period survival kit!

The dreaded unexpected period – ever been there? Frantically digging in your pockets for a pound to buy a tampon in a public toilet, acutely aware that you're bleeding into a rolled-up wad of toilet paper that won't hold up for long? This is awful, but you can be better prepared by making a period kit. I like to make them and pop one into the back of every single bag I own – not only will this prepare you for your own cycle, but you can also be somebody’s saviour when they’re the one who has to ask for period products. So, how do we make one?

  1. First, you will need a small pouch: this could be one designed for periods, an old makeup bag, an old purse or even a zip lock bag. Fab Little Bag even does their own versions - check the Fab Period Bag
  2. Next, you will need your period products. In day-to-day kits, I like to include at least 2 of everything: overnight pads, daily pads, tampons and liners. Choose what you personally use, or if you keep your kit for others too then consider what they use.
  3. Extras! Your period survival kit could be considered done at this point, but I also like to add some extra items for pain, comfort and messes. We will be going through some extras in this guide that you can add in too, but here are some basics:
  • Painkillers (especially NSAIDs).
  • An extra pair of dark underwear – just in case you bleed through.
  • Fab Little Bag’s sanitary bags to throw away your used products. These mean that whatever the bin situation, you are equipped to dispose of your period products in a hygienic, easy way. These bags are odourless, opaque and seal shut. They are especially handy if you are in a situation where you can’t throw out your products or if there is no bin, they won’t leak in your bag!
  • A travel-sized spray bottle of air freshener/ toilet spray for if you get paranoid about the smell.
  • Hand sanitizer, yet again for smell but also if you get any blood on your hands before washing them.
  • Tissues, just in case the toilet has no toilet paper or if you’re outside hiking.

I like to make 3 types of kits: everyday ones you can put in all your bags, a sleepover kit and a large period kit that stays at home. The everyday emergency kits may be small and basic, only containing the essentials and maybe underwear and painkillers. The sleepover kits may contain some extra luxuries like lip balm, deodorant and chocolate. Your at-home kit can be large (mine is a small basket) and include everything you use, possibly containing your hot water bottles, supplements and more.

These can be customised to your every need, and after reading the following life hacks you can also decide what you might want to add to your period kits!

Bonus life hack: if your bra has removable pads, you can put some period pads or tampons in the little pockets!

What A Pain In The Ass – No, Literally!

Period cramps are one of the most common symptoms, with over 80% of people experiencing them and nearly half of them experiencing it every single cycle. Painful periods are known in the medical world as dysmenorrhea (dys-men-or-ree-ah) and it is believed that prostaglandins (pros-tah-gland-ins) cause the contractions that we feel as cramps. Prostaglandins are needed for normal functioning in the body, but it is believed that excess prostaglandins are what are responsible for period cramps. They may cause excess inflammation, extra cramping and also the dreaded period poos. Since your body makes prostaglandins at the site of action, their effects are very localised, hence why you may have bowel symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, nausea and “butt lightning”  alongside your period cramps.

So, what can we do about it?

Painkillers.

Since period cramps are caused by those painful prostaglandins, there will be inflammation. Studies have shown that NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as ibuprofen are better than a placebo in controlling period pains and they actually block the production of prostaglandins! They also work better than other drugs like paracetamol since it works by simply blocking your pain signals and doesn’t typically reduce inflammation. So, when you next reach for painkillers, make a savvy choice: reach for an NSAID like ibuprofen instead of the usual paracetamol. Your body might just thank you!

Toasty Titillations And Icy Indulgence.

Heat is an easy way to tackle cramps - no meds needed! Grab a cosy hot water bottle, gel packs, microwave plushies, electric heat pads, or stick-on warming patches for some warmness. In a meta-analysis published by the National Library of Medicine, they found that “there was a consistent reduction in menstrual pain with heat therapy compared with unheated placebo therapy”, meaning that your hot water bottle might just help! According to John Hopkins Medicine, heat increases blood flow to the area, theoretically helping to flush out the prostaglandins that cause cramps. Warm baths may soothe cramps and double as a relaxing bonus. Cute tip: Mini hot water bottles are a nice addition to your period survival kit!

Alternatively, you may prefer to experiment with the cold! You can get gel packs that you can both put in the freezer and microwave, offering hot or cold therapy. You could fill a hot water bottle up and put it in the freezer to use as an ice pack, although be warned – do NOT use this frozen water bottle for hot water ever again, as it has an increased chance of breaking and spilling hot water. Cold can slightly numb the affected area as well as reduce swelling, hence why it helps soothe cramps for some.

Chill Out Maaann…

The recent surge in popularity of CBD oil might raise a sceptical eyebrow, and that's completely understandable! There haven’t been any studies on the use of CBD oil specifically in regards to managing period pain, however in an Australian survey of women with Endometriosis (which can cause really painful periods) they found that “Cannabis, heat, hemp/CBD oil, and dietary changes were the most highly rated in terms of self-reported effectiveness in pain reduction”. Online, particularly in pelvic pain communities and subreddits, numerous anecdotal reports suggest people using CBD oil to ease menstrual cramps. It might be worth keeping a small vial in your kit! Unfortunately, CBD products can be quite expensive, which might pose a challenge for some seeking a cost-effective solution.

Beneficial Beverages.

I know this advice seems obvious enough to make your eyes roll, but drink water! A study published in the Journal of Taibah University Medical Sciences found that “caffeine consumption is related to prolonged, heavy menses... and chocolate was associated with fewer premenstrual symptoms”. I know you’re already fighting exhaustion for the week, but cut the caffeine for cramps or at least go for decaf – you can treat yourself to a little chocolate for your suffrage.

If you suffer from nausea during your monthly cycle, ginger tea might be worth trying. Ginger has been found to be an effective nausea treatment, and it is also anti-inflammatory, potentially aiding with alleviating cramps. Peppermint oil has been shown to significantly reduce nausea too, so some peppermint tea might be a good alternative.

To spice things up, why not incorporate some turmeric into your life? Tumeric has an active compound called curcumin, which is yet again anti-inflammatory and could aid in reducing your period pains. You could use turmeric shots, drink a turmeric latte, add it to curries or simply take it in a capsule. Black pepper increases the absorption of turmeric, so always pair it with pepper to boost the benefits!

Evading Embarrassment And Leaks.

Feeling embarrassed about leaks is pretty standard, especially with a heavy flow. Whether you're rocking overnight pads during the day, doubling up on products, or have that constant worry that "everyone can see my period," relax—some handy life hacks are coming to the rescue!

Dress For Success.

When you’re on your period next, aside opting for dark bottoms (black outperforms red in concealing leaks, by the way), consider adding a removable layer with long sleeves, like a hoodie or overshirt. This trick comes in handy when you suspect a leak or know it's happened. Simply take off the extra layer and tie the arms around your waist – a discreet move that keeps you covered without drawing undue attention.

If you like to wear skirts, this is the perfect time to flaunt it! By wearing a skirt with shorts under, you don’t have to worry about having a “nappy bum” that you can often get with pads and period underwear.

To get the stains out, leave some hydrogen peroxide on the stain for 5 minutes, and then rinse out the blood with cold water. Good as new!

Stressing About Sleep?

Worried about leaking in your bed? Say goodbye to ruined bed sheets! A nifty trick is to sleep with a dark towel beneath you and for even better protection, slide a puppy pad underneath – these have a waterproof layer and essentially serve as a giant, flat pad, saving your bed from any unexpected mishaps. It's a smart solution to keep your bed clean and your sleep worry-free!

If your pad feels too loose, you can double up on underwear to secure it in place. You might also like to invest in reusable period underwear where the pad is sewn in, and then you never have to worry about the pad shifting again!

If you have to get up in the middle of the night because you have to change your tampon, perhaps consider switching to a menstrual cup. Menstrual cups can stay in for up to 12 hours, meaning that you won’t have to get up in the middle of the night to change your tampon. Menstrual cups are also far less likely to give you Toxic Shock Syndrome than tampons, so don’t let the fears of that keep you up at night.

That Crinkling Noise…

This is the loudest noise on earth when you don’t want people to hear it. If you don’t want to unwrap your pads in a public toilet loudly – although you shouldn’t be embarrassed anyway – you can unwrap them before you go out and pop them in your bag. Or, you could double up your pads so you simply rip the top one off and bin it with your Fab Little Bagand use the one under, although this may give a bulky appearance.

Nowhere To Bin?

This is where FabLittleBag can help to save you. They are made from sustainable materials, are opaque, odour free and seal shut, meaning no leak in your bag and the ability to dispose of period waste discreetly without stress. You can order them on subscription so you never run out.

From Woes to Wins.

As we sail through the stormy sea of monthly challenges, armed with science-backed life hacks and tips, the aim is clear: to make that time of the month just a bit more bearable. As we navigate these waters together, armed with knowledge and practical solutions, let's redefine the narrative around periods. It's time to turn the tide on discomfort and embrace a smoother journey sailing through the crimson sea.

 By Annie McKernan

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