Periods, Pain & PMS: Women’s Health

For many women periods are a pain, literarily. Ladies often resort to skipping their periods rather than suffering the pain and inconvenience of having a monthly cycle. Many suffer their whole reproductive lives to then trade in their PMS and pads for hot flushes and night sweats. Hardly seems fair does it?

Whilst being a woman does have its trials, we are also extremely blessed to be women. As women our bodies are capable of amazing things. We have the ability to create life and carry a child in our womb and then make milk for our babies to drink. Having periods is a trade-off for this wonderful experience called motherhood. The great news is periods don’t need to be a pain.

Usually there is a cause for pain (dysmenorrhea) and period related disorders. Many women suffer from Endometriosis, Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and Fibroids. Along with pain, these conditions can lead to heavy periods (menorrhagia), scanty or absent periods (amenorrhoea) irregular, long or short cycles and blood clots. Some can also experience breast tenderness, pain at ovulation time and even pain during intercourse.

For many being a woman feels like more trouble than its worth. Many women have to take time off of work or will miss out on social events due to period pain and flooding. There are many natural things you can do to make your periods a lot less debilitating. We will discuss those soon. First it is a good idea to understand exactly what we are dealing with.

Blood tests, pelvic exams, external or internal ultrasounds and laparoscopies can often lead to a diagnosis of a reproductive related disorder or hormonal issue. However, some tests come up clear and often this is distressing for many women as they just want a reason for their pain and suffering.

From a Chinese Medicine perspective many of these issues result from the absence of free flow of qi and blood. Also cold in the uterus or lack of blood flow can also lead to pain and even fertility issues.


Strategies for Period Related Disorders

(From a Traditional Chinese Perspective)

  1. Get Rid of your Tampons: Tampons can cause stagnation in the womb leading to a full feeling in the uterus or even pain. Also our vaginas are very vascular and we can absorb chemicals that may be present from the growing or manufacturing of the cotton.
  2. Switch to pads: Pads allow for free flow of menstrual blood and you can actually see the quality of the menstrual blood more clearly which can lead to a better understanding of what is going on in your cycle.
  3. Avoid swimming with your period: The cervix dilates slightly with the period; it is said that cold can easy enter the womb when the cervix is open. A cold uterus can lead to pain and fertility issues.
  4. Wear warm clothes and leg covering with the period: The liver channel is very important for the free flow of menstrual blood. The liver channel runs up the leg through the genitals and over the uterus. It is said that cold can travel along the channel and lodge in the uterus. Leggings and warm boots instead of sandals and skirts during the period are a great option.
  5. Avoid cold foods and drink with the period: Similar principles to those above.
  6. Avoid Soy Products: Most of the Soy on the market contain Genetically modified (GMO) soy beans. I would assume GMO unless your product states otherwise. Soy is full of Phytoestrogens; many now believe that the soy craze along with the addition of soy fillers in many foods has led to an increase in gynecological disorders. Oncologists advise their patients who have suffered from estrogen dependent tumors i.e. breast, ovarian or uterine cancer to avoid soy products completely.
  7. No sex with the period: The Chinese explain that sex with the period can cause blood to become reckless, in this case the blood can flow upward towards the Fallopian tubes instead of out through the vagina. Some scholars believe this to be one way in which endometriosis forms.
  8. Avoid Alcohol with your period: Alcohol can heat the blood and cause it to become reckless, leading to excessive bleeding. The reverse can also happen where the heat in the alcohol can also dry the blood if scanty and lead to stagnation.
  9. Rest with your period and build your blood: Excessive work or exercise on your period can increase blood flow, this can be quite draining. Around day 2-3 of your period you can start taking nourishing herbs and food to rebuild the uterine lining that is being shed. You should take it easy as much as possible during this time.
  10. Use warm heat/wheat packs: Heat packs can draw the cold out and add some warmth to your lower abdomen. Heat also increase blood flow and releases the free flow of qi and blood in the collateral’s. This can help with period pain and clots that can be formed from cold and stagnation.
  11. Do not skip your period: Skipping your period with the pill can sometimes be convenient when attending a special event or if pain is such an issue that you really don’t want to cycle. However, if this is done frequently or for months on end, it can really play havoc with your hormones and compound underlying health issues. It is often better in the long run to get to the underlying issues addressed rather than apply a Band-Aid approach in many cases.
  12. BBT Chart (for those not on the pill): Basil Body Temperature Charting (BBT) can be a great little tool to help a woman understand her natural cycle. It can be used as a method for natural birth control, or used to enhance conception through appropriate timing of intercourse.

I only recommend this to women who have been are really strict with using condoms during their fertile times and who really understand the BBT process and their cycle thoroughly. Also only an option if the woman would welcome a pregnancy if a woops happened. For those who are definitely not in a position to allow a pregnancy to occur I recommend using a more accident proof form of contraception. This is best discussed with your GP.

How do I BBT Chart

  • You must get yourself a thermometer that can be used orally as they are the most sensitive and appropriate for what you need. Some people prefer to use an ovulation thermometer which measure to the 2nd decimal point, however one decimal point is fine for charting purposes.
  • You need to take your temperature as soon as you wake up, before you visit the bathroom or even get out of bed. It’s ideal to keep your thermometer and your chart next to your bed for ease of use and to record your temp before it is forgotten. Preferably the temperature should be taken at the same time each day, however some people sleep in on weekends etc. so just record the time that the temp was taken just to factor that time change in.
  • You do need at least four hours of solid sleep before temping for the reading to be accurate.
  • Alcohol, poor sleep and colds and flu’s will affect your temperatures, if anything like this does occur that is fine, just record it on your sheet so that any spike or drop in temperature can be assessed in relation to a temperature changing event.
  • You will also need to notice when your fertile mucous is present. This can be experienced when you wipe after you urinate. Upon wiping you may feel slippery or even notice it on your underwear.
  • You will need to chart for approximately 3 months to get a great understanding of your cycle. If the chart is erratic, your cycles are too long or short or if your temps are high during the first part of your cycle (follicular Phase) and too low during the second part of your cycle (the luteal phase) then this could show some underlying hormone issues.

You will probably notice that these charts will change during the course of your acupuncture sessions and when taken into sessions, your practitioner can work on regulating and balancing your chart with you.

This is the chart that I like to use in the clinic, we do have plenty of copies but if you prefer to download your own, here is where I get mine from:

You can choose any chart that you like, there are many apps now that allow you to track your cycle, however I recommend that you definitely get an app that allows for the temperature storing information, a period tracker will not give you the information that a BBT chart will. The shape of a chart can be very telling.

If you would like any further information, please feel free to discuss any questions you may have with your Samsara Women’s Health Practitioner.

Written by: Britt-Amber Robertson
BHSc (Acupuncture & Chinese Herbs)

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