How Your Period Works

I don’t know why I felt compelled to start this blog post today. I might have an idea, but I’m not sharing it with you. What? Stop looking at me.

This is a uterus. Kind of.

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Inside the peritoneum (I don’t have time to explain this organ-wrapper but I’m just letting you know that I know I’m leaving it off to save you emailing me saying actually there’s another part called the peritoneum. I know. I just don’t have time to write about it right now, geez.), the uterus is made up of two layers, which are, in turn each made up of additional layers, so really there are 5 layers and I don’t know why they they don’t just say five instead of two.

Anyway, the uterus is formed by a muscular layer (the myometrium) resulting in a shape I like to think of as an upside-down gourd. Like a gourd your uterus is hollow inside (unless you’re currently occupied by a fetus or seven). The muscular wall has three separate layers of muscle, each layer containing fibers running in a unique direction — right to left, up and down, and crisscross — a series you see over and over again in the body (e.g. the layers of your abdominal and rib-moving muscles are oriented like this as well). (Image from the Free Dictionary.)

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The innermost layer(s) of the uterus is called the endometrium. The endometrium is the non-muscle part of the uterus and is typically the part we think of shedding each month during a period, but that’s not exactly what happens.

The endometrium also has two layers (see rant moment above), the bottom (up against the muscle layer) layer called the stratum basalis (base layer). This layer does not shed during your cycle but is responsible for re-growing the new layer when it’s time. The innermost layer of the gourd-uterus is the stratum functionalis. This is the layer shed every month. BUT HOW DOES THAT SHEDDING HAPPEN? Don’t you want to know? I mean, how does it shed? Why does it shed? WHAT’S ACTUALLY BLEEDING?

Here’s how it works. Right before you get your period, blood vessels to the endometrium contract, shutting off oxygen to the lining which — as weird as it sounds — kills the lining by starving it of oxygen (ischemia). In response to the dying tissue, white blood cells (WBCs) are released to process and remove the now-dying functional layer of the endometrium. This process is called desquamation, which means to scrape the scales off a fish. Nice. You already know that your body, like a snake, is constantly desquamating, right?

The WBCs secrete digestive enzymes that break the dead tissue away, a process that also removes some of the blood vessels just beneath the dying lining. These freshly exposed vessels on the surface are what is bleeding during your period.

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But the WBCs don’t digest the entire functional layer. There are “stumps” left here and there — imagine a forest burnt almost all the way to the ground, but not entirely. And, just like a forest after a fire, as soon as the “fire” (WBCs) stop, re-growth begins immediately. Just as grass and moss and ferns start popping up from what’s continues to live beneath the forest that used to be, cells that will become the new lining spring up close, at first, to the left over stumps, and then spread out to create an entire new forest floor (er lining of the uterus) in a matter of days.

Dysmenorrhea — that is periods that don’t go as smoothly as what I’ve just described here — can occur for a couple of reasons. When the WBCs DON’T stop breaking down the functional layer, they chew through a lot more blood vessels and bleeding becomes excessive and prolonged, and the re-growth of the lining becomes problematic.

Also, I forgot to mention that, as the cells of the functional layer begin to lose oxygen (e.g. start to die), they begin to produce a protein called hypoxia inducible factor (HIF). Hypoxia Inducible Factor is what gets the “forest” re-growing, but amounts of produced HIF seem to vary between women. The more HIF you produce, the faster you repair and the less you bleed. The less you produce, the more you bleed. (Not really a side note, but for some reason I feel compelled to put this in parenthesis, research shows hyperglycemia — too much blood sugar — interferes with the function of HIF.)

As a member of this species, I find it totally disturbing that the prevalence of primary dysmenorrhea (cramping in the lower abdomen occurring just before or during menstruation) is 90% and that most of these women take either NSAIDs (like aspirin or ibuprofen) or are prescribed oral contraceptive pills to cope, every month, beginning in their teens. TEENS! Drugs to cope with a biological function. Does this strike anyone else as odd? And I don’t mean it’s odd that we want drugs to cope with something uncomfortable, but that a biological function has become painful enough to require the regular taking of drugs — which is a different thing altogether.

As I’m writing about in my upcoming book Move Your DNA, the way we move (or don’t) impacts our body, head to toe. For decades, menstrual cramps have been associated with the temporary reduction in blood flow to the uterus (necessary to kill the lining). But here’s the thing. As confirmed by research using Doppler radar, women who experience painful periods aren’t only having problems with the blood flow to their uterus during their period, the blood flow is too low to their uterus all of the time. The time of the month to reduce it further merely highlights the problem.(Full disclosure: I have no idea my period is coming because I no longer have any physical discomfort to alert me. This wasn’t always the case, I used to be a “four Tylenol the first two days” kind of gal. My husband would like to add that he can always tell when I’m about to start my period, but whatever, he’s pretty much an idiot, especially today.)

As with any issue, consider how you move (not just do you move or not) as a mechanism of blood flow regulation. The distribution of blood throughout the body is directly a result of your movement patterns.

A couple years ago I wrote a post telling one woman’s story of how five exercises got her off some dangerous pain meds. If you’re having painful periods, read Aching for an Answer.  My friends Kate Hanley and Ellen Barret have also just written a book ALL ABOUT YOUR PERIOD called the 28 Days Lighter Diet.

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Seriously. It’s a great book with a ton of info that everyone should consider. I also contributed a couple of essays to it! I’m giving THREE copies away today — one on this blog, one on the Aligned and Well Facebook page, and one on Twitter.

1) To enter on the blog: leave your favorite time of the month “coping mechanism” below (guys, that goes for you too) today (April 28th, 2014) until midnight, Pacific Standard Time. I’ll pick a random winner tomorrow.

2) To play on Facebook, share the post on your Facebook page (tag Aligned and Well) and come back to comment on the contest thread that you did so! Share until midnight tonight, and I’ll pick a random winner tomorrow.

3) To play on Twitter, share this post (tag @AlignedandWell) and include hashtag #MoveYourDNA until midnight tonight. I’ll pick a random winner tomorrow.

Update: Winners have been picked and notified!

Spread the knowledge. It really is power.

References: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2064187,  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21616486,  http://diabetes.diabetesjournals.org/content/53/12/3226.short, http://europepmc.org/abstract/MED/10465224http://informahealthcare.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00016340009169273?journalCode=obs, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15916208

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319 thoughts on “How Your Period Works

  1. It’s been so long since I’ve had a period, I am not sure I remember! Expecting #3 in November, but I’ll have to go with pizza. I was one of the fortunate ones with short, regular, not-painful periods… except this one time I ended up on some weird version of the pill and it made me think I was losing my mind. That’s when I gave it up and “took charge of my fertility.”

  2. I guess I am lucky. I have very mild periods and so never really needed to develop a favorite coping mechanism. Yes, I do get cramps, but they are bearable. For this reason, I thought childbirth would be a breeze (ha!) A very challenging labor (attempted natural, med free for 24 hours, followed by epidural and pitocin) and a c-section labor – I have realized that my period cramps (or lack thereof) really had nothing to do with my child-bearing ability. Would love to hear your thoughts on this Katy, as well as how c-section recover affects the layers of the uterus and pp periods (of which I have yet to have one…)

  3. I cope by switching from my usual black tea to more green tea, raspberry leaf tea, and lime tea. Nothing scientific about it, it just makes me feel better.

  4. My favorite coping mechanisms are warm baths, wine or tequila, and rest. And I try to use my favorite foam roller to ease my back pain as often as possible.

  5. The thing that helps me most is just keeping track of where I am in my cycle. That way when those days come that the world feels like it is ending I know there is hope if I just hang in there 2-3 more days:)

  6. My favorite coping mechanism is letting my husband get the kiddo ready in the morning while I get extra sleep, with a bunch of pillows on all sides of me (and one between my knees!), bolstering all my achy parts (my low back is always the worst, but all my parts get pretty achy).

  7. I exercise, and unfortunately still take tons of advil – and still have awful awful periods. Thanks for the chance to win this book – and for all the great resources.

  8. i would not be able to survive without my hot water bottle for uterine cramps and especially for the period hip pain. and my chamomile and lemon tea is pretty helpful :3

  9. Good stuff here, Katy.

    This has spurred a lot of thoughts for me, about PCOS, endometriosis and endometrial polyps, too. I suspect this one will stay on my mind for awhile.

    On a more meta-level, this post just affirms for me how important going back to the mechanical, structural and functional issues in the body is.

  10. My coping mechanism is to dial back to survival modes and just doing my “musts” with no worrying about my “shoulds.”

  11. Diva cup has been much better than disposable products. Since switching to that and low(ish) carb eating, cramps are not a problem.

  12. Ooooh, I love that sassy Ellen Berrett! I find that hip openers, short walks, and wine are the best way to get me through the pre-menstrual period as smoothly as possible…..especially when I make time for the stretching and walking part, and rely less on the wine. 😉

  13. I like to watch some mindless TV with a mug of hot tea and curl up on the couch. I also usually partake in a treat – some form of chocolate or other dessert. I slow down during this time but try to get walks in so I’m not too sedentary.

  14. I’m menopausal now, at age 44 (thanks, chemo & Tamoxifen), but back in the day I was a fan of cloth pads, warm baths, restorative yoga, and, yes, red wine.

  15. If bad enough, I’ll lay in child’s pose for a while. Lately, it’s not so much uterus cramps, but lower back pain (what’s the difference? what’s happening?) and I’ve discovered using my Yoga Tune Up balls on my lower back. They definitely provide relief.

  16. Much less pain & suffering than when I was younger. Heat and powering through it with intense dancing or hiking and occasionally sex have all helped. You asked.

  17. Chocolate ice cream. Geranium oil helps with any cramps. Luckily most of the time things are lighter and not as painful as they used to be. Changing what kind of, ummm, feminine protection I use also affected it. 🙂

  18. Heating pad, but I actually just have a question about this. What if you don’t HAVE a period? What can I do besides eat more and quit running (check, check)? Could something be off on the inside? Any ideas, even from left field, appreciated! (I’m 29, former marathoner, as paleo as I can be living in Africa, and haven’t had a period in 2 years.)

    Great post!

    1. A friend of mine exercised too much and was on a very restrictive diet and stopped getting her period. Once she stopped working out and introduced more fat (and other foods also) to her diet she got it back very quickly. She is the same age as you.

  19. So, I don’t have a coping mechanism because I don’t have periods anymore because I have an IUD (never really had any side effects before anyway.)

    My question is: what is the downside to not having periods as a result of the IUD? What are the biological consequences of this natural process stopping. I am hoping they are not significant, because it is really nice. 🙂

  20. Coping mech: everything becomes unconscious around that time. Afterwards I realize I’ve drunk wine and eaten chocolate for 3 days straight. So I guess that’s my coping mech.

    Fantastic blog – I have recently treated a patient who had worse cramping since recovering from an L spine disc issue – fantastic insight (and from the aching for an answer blog) that I’ve been applying.

    Thank you!

  21. As someone unable to tolerate painkillers I found regular Bowen & Emmett technique sessions have greatly reduced the pain. Also taking a vitamin c with magnesium supplements work as an alternative to painkillers on the odd occasions it gets intolerable. (Think that came from a Chris Northrup book)

  22. I was seriously thinking of sharing this blog post on facebook anyway…but when there was a contest to win a free book to teach me even MORE information about my physical body, well BONUS!

    Coping with my period? I like to try to take a walk in the woods, the more varied the terrain the better. I try to take good care of myself in all the ways (food, plenty of water, some herbal tea sometimes, a nap if I want to, kindness to myself and others) but sometimes what actually happens is I make a batch of brownies.

  23. Oh man, what a timely article for me! I’ve only had two periods since my second kiddo was born 8 months ago, and they’ve been 6 weeks apart… I thought I was getting one again because I just finished the *worst* four days of PMS ever… but nothing. The thing that helps me is to really make myself drink a lot of water – it helps with the cramping and bloat-feel and seems to make the whole process faster. 😛

  24. This looks like a great book! As one of eight sisters this is a topic we have discussed many, many times. I have had horrible PMS in the past … to the point of sick-in-bed stomach flu symptoms. I am grateful to say that it has been a long time since any of us sisters have had it that bad. I tend to cope by staying hydrated with water or whatever herbal tea sounds good, going for a walk, and taking a bit of my favorite female calcium! It really does wonders! Now I can’t even tell when its coming.
    Thanks for this great post!

    1. Ooops! The web address is http://www.RealFoodEtc.com...

      I’m just starting to blog… and have SO enjoyed your blog and resources, Katy! I was recently teaching a women’s health & fitness class in Mongolia, and they could tell a huge difference with your “Down There for Women” exercises after just a week! Yippee! Such a wonderful blessing. Thank you!

  25. It used to involve paracetamol and curling up like a ball on the sofa or in bed. Maybe some ice cream, I don’t remember. But that was while taking contraception, now I really don’t know, I haven’t taken that or had a period for a very very long time. (currently breastfeeding my 3 yo and 8 mo)

  26. I focus on getting enough sleep and being adequately hydrated – really helps with mood and cramps. Honestly since I started regularly exercising a couple years ago, my periods have become lighter and less painful. I have to watch the calendar to know when it’s coming because I don’t have all the tell-tale signs that I previously experienced. (I am a 46 year old mother of four)

  27. A good long walk or easy run help to take the edge off, physically and mentally. I find that if I’ve been more sedentary than usual I’m a little crampier. And strangely, my cycles seem to alternate. One heavier more painful month, often followed by a relatively light, pain free month. Weird!

  28. This is so interesting. Thank you. I had no idea.
    I cope by trying to get more rest (ha!) and sometimes taking hot baths. And dark chocolate. 🙂

  29. Heating pads, child’s pose, and suckering a classmate into treating my sacrum & pelvis with OMM are my favorite managements for when in the wretched throes.

    Stopping hormonal BC (OCPs were okay, but I had an IUD which messed me up for *years*, constant cramping even with amenorrhea) and removing wheat have brought me back from “I’m a nullip but seriously considering hysterectomy because I am always physically miserable” to the plain ol’ dysmenorrhea of my teens. Who knew I’d be *glad* for pain so intense it made me sick three days a month — at least it’s no longer daily!

    Also, I had to laugh at the Doppler statement — we use Doppler in sonos/ultrasounds/echoes (different words, same thing), but I’m pretty sure that radar is reserved for the weather. =)

  30. My favorite coping mechanism is my menstrual cup! Yes, that’s right, there is an alternative to pads and tampons that fill up landfills and cost a lot, and are not healthy (TSS anyone?). I have the Sckoon cup, but there are many different types. You’ll never buy another tampon again! hooray!

  31. Peppermint essential oil is great relief for my cramps(although it’s been a while!) I just has my third baby…this is a really interesting read right now since I’ve bled for a few weeks -more than average I think- after each birth, how much does all that info apply to healing after birth?! I’m gonna have to re-read this and research that some more. I have had good, natural births with all 3 but my post partum time has had challenges after each one :-/

  32. My favorite coping mechanism is a few sips of coffee, followed by some bone broth/chicken bouillon, and some of Aunt Flo’s Cramp Relax (homeopathic meds).

  33. Double dosing the fermented cod liver oil! Thanks for the complete menstrual story, Katy, I love having all the deets 🙂

  34. A couple days before the bleeding I would wake up knowing the first word I said would cause an argument with my husband on account of the compass of my interior world spinning out of control. (is there a compass in the uterus?) I took to warning him first thing in the morning and he took to walking on eggshells all day. Usually the argument happened anyway, but I could say, “I warned you”. Not much, but it was something. Now my period is AWOL for a couple months and I’m maybe having hot-flashes. Hot flashes would be a great hot movement topic, apparently very mysterious.

  35. I feel so much more sane since cleaning up my diet. But my husband and homeschooled kids are hormone experts getting to practice twice each month (ovulation and PMS). My tip: be alone (either I send the kids off or I go off). 🙂

  36. I usually stretch and or use a heating pad the first day. Most of the time, I just deal with the pain because I don’t like to take medication (prescription or OTC) and the fact that “that time of the month” isn’t REAL painful. It’s just a little annoying pain. But, I’ve also being dealing with infertility for over 23 years might have something to do with it!

  37. Great explanation!
    I stretch. All the Katy-style-back-of-the-leg stretches. And walking. If I’m walking regularly…it’s generally pain free. If not, my period lets me know it.

  38. don’t notice it too much except the first few hours on the first day – rarely I take an acetaminophen pill but mainly I just try to keep my mind occupied so I don’t notice it.

  39. Ashtanga yoga and cutting back on dairy gradually got me off of Advil. A few months of slacking brought back the cramps, but now that I’ve got it figured out, they are waning again. Caffeine is my crutch.

  40. It’s been a little while since I had my last period (7 month old baby) but it was often uncomfortable. I think I usually just suffered through it… maybe slept a little more, and ate more chocolate, haha!

  41. Whoa! Great info. I’d love to check out the book.
    My favorite coping mechanism for cramps is to lie down with the heating pad. Sometimes my daughter (age 5) will sing to me. Otherwise, chocolate.

    Can you explain why I never had cramps until I had an IUD put in? I was warned about the cramps in advance, and they have diminished over time (from 1 day of incapacitance to just an hour or so), but what gives, physically?

  42. I use magnesium supplements, lots of stretching (thanks Katy!) and either a hot bath or a hot rice bag. It’s amazing how much stretching helps!

  43. I used to be quite a mess for a few days each month but since incorporating some of your ideas as well as probiotic foods into my lifestyle it’s become smooth sailing. If I hadn’t had my calendar to alert me, I would have not even know that I had my last few periods!

  44. Posted it on FB but it is not letting me tag it!!
    Since About age 25 I have honored my bleeding time. Resting, relaxing and letting it flow. I use cloth pads or the Diva Cup. I have been involved in woman’s ceremony related to menstruation. I can only remember a few painful experiences and it is 25 years later. Now it is time to honor the end of my bleeding!!!

  45. Looooong baths and/or showers, finger-picking guitar music, restful reading material. I’d love to try the sweat lodge method!

  46. For the first 25 years of my period, my coping mechanism was near-lethal doses of painkillers (tylenol in high school; prescription NSAID for a while; ibuprofen in the late 90s; and then tylenol again).

    But check it out: after a twin pregnancy that WRECKED my body in every other way, and fifteen bonus months of no period due to nursing, no more cramps! Seriously. I consider it my kids’ consolation gift to me for all the other crap. 🙂

    Oh, and my husband has no idea when I’m getting my period. He used to know, ’cause he would find me writhing in pain while I waited for the drugs to kick in. Now, I’m stealth-bleeder.

  47. I shared this on Facebook. Thanks for this amazing blog post. Women need to know that a period shouldn’t hurt. Too many think it is normal for it to be problematic and to take NSAIDs. I love your blog posts because you educate us about things that are in our control and about better choices we can make to be healthier.

  48. I do not have them anymore but when I did I started jogging 20 minutes each day and my periods really lightened up and lasted 2 or 3 days compared to 7 days. Plus very little cramps. I was amazed.

  49. Is it going to make everyone angry if I say I’ve never had menstrual cramps? 🙂 It sure made my two labour and deliveries interesting as I truly had no idea what to expect! But to deal with bloating and crankiness, drinking extra water and black tea and talking an extra long walk seem to help.

  50. Favorite coping mechanism: going to bed with the kids. 2nd fave: hamstring stretching. Maybe it just distracts my brain from one pain location by introducing another, but it totally works. Not that I have to use the second method much any more, thanks to you. 🙂 But I won’t give up my early-to-bed night. At LEAST once a month I need it, period pain or not. So lovely.

  51. I have said for 20 years that something is medically wrong when a natural process becomes so painful and unpleasant for so many people. On a side note, I think it says something about society too when we as women are pretty much just told and taught that it’s normal and that we should just accept it. If men experienced this level of pain every month, you bet your butt that they would have “cured” it a long time ago.

    Having said that, I have a question for you. I have had painful periods all my life, whether I am active and moving or not. Now I’m wondering: could a circulatory problem alone be enough to cause this? I have other circulatory symptoms as well but cannot seem to convince doctors that there is a real problem since my bp is always “normal”. Is there a way to “cure” circulatory problems?

    1. When I say “moving” I’m not talking about exercise or not, but how your small parts are moving, including blood. I’ll cover this in Move Your DNA! -KAB

  52. Thankfully I don’t usually have pain. I’ve learned to rest during this time. Normally I don’t find time to rest enough, this is a monthly cue to do just that. Great info, thank you!

  53. Hot packs over belly and lower back lying in bed in frog stretch is a necessity. Plus rolling spikey massage balls over back of pelvis and lower back over and over and over….

  54. Crampbark tincture, magnesium, and heat. We have EDS-hypermobility syndrome in my family, and it makes for four sick, crampy women. Stretchy ligaments equals pain.

  55. Cal-mag supplements seem to help some with mood swings, maintaining milk supply (when nursing a little one), and cramps. Also, staying well hydrated, too.

  56. Usually a heating pad will get me through, but I’m going to try some restorative yoga next time…whenever that is!

  57. Fascinating article, thank you.

    I would be really interested to know whether physical activity and or a reduction in time spent sitting could increase the amount of HIF produced. When I made these changes to my lifestyle my previously troublesome period became much more manageable but I’m not clear exactly why.

    Anyhow, it’s much better than going down the medical/surgical route 😉

  58. I stretch a lot the first few days of my period. Lower back stretches are my biggest coping mechanism, along with some quiet (if possible), and wine always helps, too.

  59. As a teen, ballet dancer, and up-till-3am homework finisher, I had terrible cramps that I either had to sleep thru, or a couple of my high school teachers would let me pace in the back of their classrooms. No amount of tylenol would make a difference, once it started. But I was also rail thin, bruised very easily, and often lost hair when brushing or showering. I wasn’t unhealthy – but on the edge of being unhealthy. Since I stopped dancing and gained some a) weight and b) healthy sleep habits, I haven’t had painful periods.
    I do sometimes feel a sharp contraction a few days before the period starts, and I do some emotional bolstering with Dark Chocolate. 🙂 But your description of the process is more vivid than any I’ve read before. Thanks for helping me understand more of what’s going on.

  60. I’ve been extremely lucky (or perhaps it isn’t actually luck?) that I’ve never been doubled over with cramping as many of my friends have. I’ve always forgotten to keep track of my cycle, and the only way I have an inkling it’s on its way is that I start craving sweet things (and I’m more of a savoury/salty lovah). Staying hydrated and getting lots of sleep definitely makes things go smoothly.
    My sister had extremely heavy and drawn-out bleeding and cramps during her entire menstruation, uh, “career” (?)- since the age of 9, and always took prescription-level drugs to deal with the pain. She eventually got a hysterectomy at 36 to “not deal with it anymore”. She also was on bed rest from 5 months on with her first child, and in and out of the hospital regularly with preterm labour with her second. Makes me wonder about so many things!

  61. I am one of those with fairly easy cycles, but for occasional cramping my husband makes me homemade heating pads by boiling water and pouring it over a dishtowel folded up inside a plastic ziploc bag. For emotional symptoms, dark chocolate is the only reliable solution!

  62. Unfortunately haven’t found a cure for my painfull periods. Tried hot compresses of essential oils, tried mayan abdominal massage, drinking different tea blends.. no big difference

  63. I was put on birth control pills at age 14 to help with irregular periods, fortunately I didn’t have cramping issues that weren’t manageable. Now that I’m in the 30’s, I have learned a lot thanks to you Katy! To cope with menstrual pain for me is to exercise.

  64. Can you follow up with info on Hypothalamic amenorrhea? I was diagnosed at age 26 when my periods stopped due to training for a marathon & having low body fat. I had no period for 7 years, despite gaining weight. I needed fertility treatments (hormone injections) to concieve my son. My son is now 1 year old & I still haven’t seen my period… Wondering the long term effects of absence of menses (I’m 35 now)

  65. Tea & some very focussed relaxation of the bodyparts that are cramping was my go to solution until the relaxation became so habitual I didn’t suffer cramps for decades! Reading this, I’m thinking improving blood flow seems a much better way to address the issue. This essay has really connected some dots for me and explains a *lot* about the eb and flow (no pun intended) of what’s been happening with my cycle over time.

  66. Some months are good and others could be better. I usually just grin and bear it. Sometimes I lay down with my hands on my tummy. ( on the skin) The warmth is soothing. I am really interested in this! My periods normally come every 5 weeks instead of the normal 4. One of these days I will figure out why! The book sounds fascinating!

  67. I don’t remember having painful periods as an adolescent. It’s only been since I’m an adult and don’t move as much. Stretching has always been my coping mechanism.

  68. For year and years I had excruciating periods, I mean excruciating, where absolutely nothing helped…except throwing up would temporarily make me feel better. Before anyone recommends I see a doctor, I did and I tried. After having a baby my periods are fine and I’m trying to figure out exactly why that is. So now, for just normal cramping type pain, a mason jar with hot water wrapped in an old sock, plus a movie is the best medicine for me.

  69. My coping mechanism is lots of chai tea (decaf or herbal chai), an extra magnesium supplement, and loose, comfy clothing. And fantasizing about a hysterectomy.

  70. Thanks for the information I didn’t even know I wanted to know! I was the 15 year old with horrific cramps, which led to the Rx for birth control until, oh, age 28 when I wanted to get pregnant. Luckily I had two great pregnancies with minimal complications, but now that I’m done breast feeding I am starting to pay more attention to my body. I used to think if I took it easy during my period I was being a wimp. Now I realize from reading your posts that 1) it shouldn’t hurt this badly, and 2) I really should give my body time to rest.
    I’ve learned more about my own body in the last few months reading your blog and books than I have known my whole life. Crazy… You know me better than I do! Thanks Katy for all you do!

  71. As a former(! :D) member of the ‘cramps that control everything and all bodily functions from ribs to knees club’ and someone who has a high chance of hurking most NSAIDs, I can’t recommend reusable heat packs enough! Heat packs for EVERYWHERE. And gentle hip stretches and sleeping as much as possible. Preferably with the heatpacks inside of the blankets making a cocoon of pain reduction. And hot tea: it’s like a heat pack from the inside…

    But, I think, rather than coping with the pain alone, getting circulation to my uterus has been the most helpful thing I ever did for coping with my period. I go to an osteopath for my hip, and it turns out my uterus was stuck to everything. Since we started working out the stickiness and stiffness (as awkward as it can get at times…) my periods have been lighter and less painful. Nearly cramp free for 9 months and counting!

  72. I seem to crave dark chocolate … No pain though … I sometimes get cold symptoms or a fever just the day before, which always baffled me , but now I get that the immune system is involved in the whole process so it makes some sense. Thank you. Great posts 🙂

  73. I just got my period back after having my first child (14 months old now). My period is totally different now! No cramps like before but I get super swollen and achy feeling for a day or so. Baths and heat are my top coping techniques for this so far.

  74. Being outside and active.
    When I stay home and immobile, it sucks big time. When I am DOING something (mentally and physically, ideally, though physically is sufficient), I’m distracted and can’t properly concentrate on suffering 😉 so that I really mostly don’t notice anything.

  75. I’ve found that some gin helps – like a fun and tonic. But usually some restorative yoga and legs up the wall feels best.

  76. Sometimes NSAIDs, but most often the heating pad, the cat, and a good book. And absolutely nothing else. Nothing. Else. NO big decisions. NO big discussions.

  77. As a teen I had bad cramping and I loved a hot water bottle for that. I am almost 40 now and no longer get cramping, just a bit of bloating. Also my period has become a bit irregular when it used to be very regular.

  78. I have a favorite coping mechanism and an alternative: if there is sun shining, a 30 minute walk. The combo of sunshine and movement seem to have a huge effect. If there’s no sunshine, dancing to something that moves me enough to make me cry while I dance.

  79. How,erm, topical…

    Coming off birth control helped (with so many things but that’s probably another story), my Mooncup and a decent calendar app so I know when to just let myself eat as much cheese as I can lift!

  80. P.S. I have been following the 28 Days Lighter Diet’s plan the last few months and have noticed a HUGE difference! Less cramps and more regular periods.

  81. These past few years my answer has been pregnancy and “extended” breastfeeding–I have only had three periods in the last five years! Pre-babies/toddlers, however, tracking my cycle really helped me feel like I had a better understanding of things. The diva cup made a huge difference in how I felt during my period. Walking, stretching, and chocolate seem to help with other discomforts.

  82. Really dark chocolate, more chocolate, and if that’s all gone the chocolate chips, and once they are gone I whine to my hubby that I want more chocolate. And I totally shared on Face book. Thanks for the good info.

  83. I stopped using tampons, and that pretty much fixed my cramping issues. P.s. That factoid about blood sugar and menstration totally makes sense! Have you read the book Sugar Blues? So good. Since you have so much time on your hands…

  84. I work hard at relaxing through breathing, walking, and alone time, so I don’t feel the urge to knock some random stranger out:) Mood is more my issue than cramps or bleeding. I do really love your hamstring and calf stretch for the migraines I get with my period.

  85. Going out on my bike, as fast as I can (safely, responsibly, legally, fast), and yelling at any drivers who cut me up / drive too close / stop in cycle lanes / etc – the exercise helps with the pain, and the drivers can’t hear what I am saying at high speed but yelling at them definitely helps me blow off steam and go home a bit calmer. I get full on pain for 3 days and evil grumpy sweaty moods for 7 days every month, and I’m a working single mum, I don’t want to take the moods out on my kids so it’s better to yell at cars. Also, the mooncup is a sanity-saver, especially for heavy-bleeding days

  86. Raspberry leaf tea works like a charm for me for any cramping. 10 minutes later they’re gone! I try to make sure I get enough food and rest for the rest of the PMS/bleeding shenanigans.

  87. Unfortunately haven’t found a cure for my painfull periods. Tried hot compresses of essential oils, tried mayan abdominal massage, drinking different tea blends.. no big difference.
    Most of the times pain killers don’t help. Especially after my cervical disc broke. First 3 periods after the accident, the pain was worse than from the disc. Now I’m still not functioning the first two days. But fighting to find the help. 🙂

  88. The only problems I have with my period are pain and heavy bleeding, no PMS =)

    So my coping mech. is Rx-strength naproxen, because my essential organs like my liver, kidneys, stomach and any organ that relies on my blood supply needs to be sacrificed for my very non-essential uterus :p Oh, and I kinda came up with a diet plan to replace the naproxen but I only do that for about a week before I expect to get my period, I’ve been looking into plans for the whole cycle

  89. My favorite coping mechanism? Not having a period in years!! Well… I’ve had less than 10 in the last 8 years. I don’t get it back postpartum until about 17 months and then I have so far gotten pregnant about 3 cycles in each time. Still waiting for it to return postpartum this time. It seems my biology wants me to have a kid about every 3 years.

  90. I know its coming when I can’t stop myself from eating anything and everything in sight (and all the hidden junk too). The first day or two I try to sleep as much my 4 kids would allow… And as the years go by I seem to get much moodier maybe its the fluctuating hormones

  91. Great article!

    I find that being mindful of where I am in my cycle helps me to plan and organise my life around my natural rhythms. This, along with castor oil packs, and a regular stretching and yoga practice cured my severe menstrual pain.

  92. My coping mechanisms: chocolate, wine, yoga pants.

    Interestingly, before having a baby, my cramps were horrendous. Yet since my period has returned, I have been completely cramp free! Maybe chasing around a toddler has me more active than I was before?

  93. The only time I have ever gotten cramps in my life is when I wear a tampon. So my coping mechanism is to not wear tampons!

  94. Sleep, wine, and naps. I’m 48 and if I have my 2 year old granddaughter and 7 month old grandson on.the first couple days, more wine than.sleep after their mother gets them. My periods have always ben regular, and not very crampy at all. Exercise really does help especially yoga.

  95. This is very interresting to me. For my entire life, I’ve had periods so disgusting that I’ve been hospitalised, given gas and air, passed out and writhed around screaming. Awful. Just awful. After my first child, they got so out of control that I started talking about HRT and hysterectomy. Crazy.

    Since changing my diet (less carbs, less sugar, nothing hardcore) and starting the MuTu program for my diastasis recti, I’ve noticed a marked reduction in the pain. I do still have (competely manageable) cramps, but since improving my alignment, things seem to be moving in the right direction. The flow is lighter, too, and I have stopped cramping at ovulation time.

    I’m still a total headcase for the few days before my bleed, though. My family runs for the hills. They have threatened to lock me in the wendy house…

  96. I have always had awful cramps since a teenager and since RE the only way I know it’s coming is my bitchy, emotional roller coaster self. I’m looking in to making that better, but I’m loving no cramps and if I feel the slightest bit of discomfort I set aside extra time for RE and skip cooking, laundry and general housework. 😀

  97. It used to be primrose oil + cozy time with heating pad + partner stroking my hair. I’m still in lactational amenorrhea, and believing that what I’m learning from you will have a positive effect on my physical comfort during period.

  98. I used to start the ibuprofen 2 days in advance… Now I “resistance stretch” my calves/shins and psoas/piraformis. In the ibuprofen days I was “relaxed stretching” those muscles and it did not help. Once I learned how to keep the muscles on while stretching them, I went from five days of intense bleeding and pain killers to two days of barely noticing. Auntie Flo now sneaks up on me!

  99. Thanks Katy!
    No coping mechanism. Cramps are very mild. But bleeding is heavy and a week long. starting to get worrisome as it seems to be getting worse. I should just buy the book!

  100. What I really wish for is a red tent. But since that is fairly impractical these days I sleep a lot. Like 10-12 hours at night. And maybe a nap or two. My body is doing a lot of work! And good nutritious food. Steak and beets and chocolate top my list. And movement. Even when it sounds like the last thing I want to do a yoga session or long walk really helps. Great post, thanks!

  101. emotionally I turn to chocolate.
    mentally I turn off my expectations and allow time for brain fuzz.
    physically I take Crampbark tincture, stretch stretch stretch and use a warm flax pack on my achy parts (usually low back and abdomen)

    (ps. posted on FB as well)

  102. This is, uh, timely for me as well… just returning to fertility at 11 months postpartum. Not super excited about it 😛

    I had horrifying periods before I was pregnant… like, lay on the bathroom floor, throw up, pass out when I tried to stand up, take 2 days off work type periods. YIKES. I went to the doctor and was pretty much told it was just the way things were… How did I think that was “normal”???

    I found restorative exercise. I totally credit that with having my first COMPLETELY PAINLESS period. I have been trying to relax the crap out of my psoas, open my hips, stretch my calves and hams… daily for the past 9 months. And after everyone told me how bad your first postpartum AF is, mine was ridiculously “normal” (for once), painless, and frankly unbelievable.

    So restorative exercise. Resting. And chocolate. And lots of magnesium oil sprayed and massaged on the belly 🙂

  103. “research shows hyperglycemia — too much blood sugar — interferes with the function of HIF”…. interesting, this may explain why when I eat less carb/sugar, my usually 7 day heavy painful emotional periods turn into 3 day light ones, with no pain or bloating, and no disruption in mood or energy. Thanks for the missing piece of wisdom Katy!

  104. Menstrual cup and iPeriod app. My only physical symptom is a migraine after my period starts, but that’s recent and I think it’s perimenapausal (43yo).

    I never understood what all the fuss was about until several years ago when I decided that if the media was telling me that soy is so good for women I should use soy milk instead of dairy. After three months of feeling like I was going to die before and during my period I finally connected the dots and ditched the soy. It took another few months for things to return to normal.

  105. I used to have very bad, painful periods, as in throwing up from the pain. But now I rarely even cramp. What changed is 1) I am very strict with eating Paleo. Just one month of being lenient = pain. and 2) I use mama cloth and a cup. I also don’t have the massive bloating or cravings that used to plague me.

  106. P.S. In case I just confused anyone out there about the difference between sloppy stretches and resisted stretches, Katy Bowman stretches are all resistance stretches, it’s one of many reasons she’s awesome. If anyone is thinking “Well, I stretch at Pilates all the time but it doesn’t seem to be helping… ” You are probably laying on your back, yanking on your leg with a theraband, or sinking to sloppily into your psoas reformer stretch. Do specifically Katy’s stretches, they are far superior. Doing a relaxed Psoas stretch on the Pilates reformer, never helped me cope with cramps and period related back pain the way Katy’s FUNCTIONAL stretches will! (I am only bashing sloppy pilates, not all pilates, I love and teach it 8 hrs a day)

  107. There can be good reasons for giveing contraceptive pills to teens in case of endometriosis. It may save their fertility as well as reduce pain.
    In endo, endometrial calls grow outside the uterus, causing pain and quite often infertility. The contaceptive pills limits the growth of these cells.
    I have had surgery six times, removing endometriosis growths, cysts, and in the end one ovary and my uterus.
    I do not advocate unneccecary use of NSAID or contraceptive pills, but neither do I like to me made to feel guilty about using them when they are needed!
    I love your blog, and find so much of onterest here – but in this cas, I do not believ that all periode pain is due to lack of movement.

    1. Hi Trude,
      Yes, there can be good reasons for all medicines! This post is not about medicine or not (to be decided by the individual) but about why 90% of a population is having medical issues with a biological function (primary dysmenorrhea is discomfort outside of a condition like endometriosis!). It wasn’t my intention to make you or anyone feel guilty; everyone is supported here, no matter what their choices are! Regarding movement, I am not speaking of exercise when I’m talking about movement, but about movement of all tissues, including blood, which is a byproduct of other things (i.e not happening in a vacuum). Wishing you tons of well! -KAB

  108. After college I noticed my periods gradually got much less painful. I thought my hormones were finally calming down as I got older, but since I found this blog I think I should thank my little dog for taking me on all those walks. I still resort to ibuprofen occasionally; hopefully that will come to an end as I get better at walking.

  109. I found you during my last pregnancy. All my periods since she was born have been cramp-free since, except the last one. I was stresses and busy the week before and neglected my alignment. So my coping mechanism is staying aligned.

  110. Love this. I used to have horrible periods too until I started acupuncture, squatting and lunging daily and continuing with a more restorative yoga practice. My favourite period yoga pose is corpse pose. 🙂

  111. Red raspberry tea- brewed in a pot. Pot sits on my belly while I drink the tea. By the time I’ve finished the pot the combo of heat and herb has made the cramps go away

  112. The so called PMS is a new, postpartum discovery for me. I find I become a very mean cow…which should not be a comfort, but does make me feel better.

    “But shooting makes me feel better!” Anyone? Anyone? KBye!

  113. Hamstring stretches have very much reduced cramping. Less carbohydrates more nuts, butter, oily fish. And ” the red tent” – on the first day I feel like being alone and resting. and I try to do that as much as possible – just listening to my body.

  114. My coping mechanism as of late that seems to work best for me is laying down & relaxing. I am hoping that this will change as I have recently started working on my alignment & losing weight. When I was younger & lighter I never need a coping mechanism. 🙂

  115. Pernicious coping habit: carbs (nom nom) ((according to Robb Wolf, that may be a seratonin coping mechanism gone awry though)). More useful: hot water bottle. New to the repertoire: squatting or hiking. Haven’t needed them much though since my whole dietary overhaul followed by pregnancy followed by lactational amennorhea. Gives a whole new meaning to “I love LA”!

  116. Meat, meat and more meat! Did I say meat? Also the regular walking and yogaing and a bit of extra resting. I am not sure what to do for my husband and son though, they get so agitated right before I get my period! It’s kind of irritating…

  117. My number one coping mechanism is REST . . . quiet, no pressure to do dishes or laundry, no pressure to do anything.

  118. After reading some of these responses I feel really lucky for never having had problems with PMS and not having many issues with cramps anymore. I did have cramps when I was younger. I’d take 2 ibuprofen and that usually took care of it for the month. After I had my first child and my cycle returned, I realized that I could usually make the cramps go away quite quickly by taking some magnesium. After having three more kids, I just rarely get them anymore though I really don’t know why (switching to a whole foods diet perhaps?). Sometimes I do get slightly crampy or my upper thighs and/or hips will ache a bit, but I can usually just ignore it. I’ll have to try stretching and see if that makes it go away next time it happens.

  119. Great post Katy! We had a great discussion around the uterus (scar tissue, dysmenorrhea, dietary impacts, etc) at my last clinic team meeting.

    As a teen I had horrible undiagnosed dysmenorrhea to the point that I was missing school, falling behind and failing some classes, and associated migraines. My only relief was copious amounts of NSAIDs and being laid out in bed for 2-3 days at a time. While I as in college I picked up a few neat little tricks that helped (kinda important when passing your courses are based on grades AND attendance!) but I was still taking oral contraceptives and by that time my GP had me on a three month cycle.

    Prior to getting my IUD last fall I was relying on ice packs and NSAIDs to get me functional enough to get up and able to work and dance. Definitely glad I don’t have to go through that every month now, however I would also like your opinion on IUD/artificial hormone-induced amenorrhea =)

  120. Hot shower, heat pack, ice cream, staying at home – these are my favourites, but unfortunately a) not always an option and b) hopelessly inadequate without a hefty dose of NSAIDs (+ codein if all else fails). I’ve been struggling even with painkillers, but naproxen seems to work, so that’s my new fave.

  121. For the past 3+ years, pregnancy and/or breastfeeding have been my coping mechanisms (no, I only have 2 children, but I did tandem feed). Otherwise wine, chocolate, doing jigsaw puzzles while rocking on a yoga ball, and quiet undisturbed time are my solutions.

  122. Bubble baths with epsom salt. Also rest, chocolate, walking, and a painkiller if needed. But my last two cycles have been awesome! due to doing the stretches you’ve recommended. 🙂

  123. My best coping combo is red raspberry leaf tea from the time of ovulation and on to first day of my period. This works on my PMS. For cramps I stretch my plantar flexors and hamstrings. My last period I had zero cramping! Speaking of which, it’s time for my tea!

  124. I used to have horrible periods, but I have learned that loving myself, accepting the noble qualities of being a woman, and learning to be ok with my periods have helped so much. I was so embarrassed about my periods, and so uncomfortable, that much of that hateful energy created painful periods. Now, I use a Diva cup and other than having to change it a bit more often in the first two days, I almost forget I am on my period. LOVE the Diva Cup! My main complaint now is that I have a slight uterine prolapse (I have 7 kids and didn’t take care of myself for the last 2 until I found this blog!), so my cup wants to fall out when the cup gets a bit full.

  125. I used to have severe menstrual symptoms, but they have improved over the years. Still, I like gentle movement, like walking or certain yoga. I think coconut water helps too, because I crave it. Very interested in learning more from this book.

  126. Self massage to entire abdomen using a good quality avocado or sesame oil scented with geranium essential oil.
    More rest, and less stress. Being on my own for a day would be the sweetest as it’s more mood related symptoms that I experience.
    Restorative yoga and cleaning up my diet has probably helped the most as far as prevention goes.
    Great post!

  127. I am 60 and quite a few years away from a menstrual cycle. When I was a teen….there were no hormonal pills for controlling menstruation. Tampons were not discussed. So when I think back to my girlfriends and reflect on my college age daughter’s experience and read all the generous responses here, I keep wondering when did menstruation become a medical problem? What is different now compared to 40 or so years ago? Reading everyone’s responses here….I think it is a shame that menstruation causes so much suffering. The only thing I can think of is that the world has changed and our lives and work make us so much more sedentary. I walked everywhere as a teen, college student, grad student (couldn’t afford a car). And perhaps the food we eat now is full of hidden content.
    My husband knew when I was about to get my period….I would become very cranky and he would offer me chocolate! But I don’t recall suffering or cramps…just the routine of staying “clean” and changing pads or tampons. I was either nursing or pregnant for 10 years (each child weaned at 5 years old). I was not menstruating for a long time.

  128. I never really had a coping method, I preferred to curl up and die. But whenever we are super busy or travelling and I have to keep moving (and moving fast, with 3 little ones) my husband LOVE’s to point out that my periods and shorter and less painful. Because he believes exercise is the cure to everything. He is annoying like that. Annoying and right.

  129. Hot water bottle!! Nothing beats it and there is no chance for an electrical shock (let’s just say I know someone who prefers electric blankets).

  130. How is it that husbands always know? I mean, it’s our bodies, and if we don’t know, I don’t think it’s right that they know. 🙂 This isn’t so much a coping mechanism (thankfully my cycles are pretty easy) but my husband has helped me realize that a week before I start, I suddenly become empowered with “super-human” strength and energy for one day. I have learned to embrace it and channel this energy into projects I need/want done! Does anyone else notice this effect?

  131. Gentle exercise and stretching seem to be the way to go. Especially calf stretch 😉

    Katy have you come across much info on Endometriosis? I have it severe. As a couple of others have said – if this is what happens to “normal” people during their period then what about us? Do our patches of Endo go through that same whole process what must that do to the tissue in the surrounding area? Thanks for teaching us all so much

  132. My favorite coping mechanisms are drinking chamomile tea, treating myself to dark chocolate or a good book, and just giving myself a bit of a break in general. Being a woman is hard sometimes – might as well face it and cut myself some slack. 🙂

  133. The Red Tent was written for this very event. I am a now a Hyster-sister but I can say without a doubt that I suffered a good portion of my life with cramps. I missed at least 3 to 5 days a month to discomfort and skipped classes and days off work to stay in bed. I would circle up in a little ball with my dog on the bed. Heat and sleep and more snuggles with my heating pad when the dog got off the bed. Hot water bottle use to be my favorite gift to all my girl friends when they got their period. Now I give rice packs for those special girl times.

  134. I down red raspberry leaf tea- like a gallon. When I’m on the ball, I up my intake a few days before and that helps. I generally drink at least 16 oz of it a day regularly. It often works as well as ibruprofen for me. My first real day of flow is pretty heavy and I’m pretty crampy, so I usually just try to take it easy drink my tea and watch Dr Who in bed. I feel like that day is my day to be indulgent to myself, which usually includes eating- dark chocolate and salty fried potatoes…

  135. My favorite coping tool are those ThermaCare disposable heat wraps. I wear it all day at work and my back is much better! Also car seat warmers work well too, but eventually you have to leave that…

  136. I have a few. Extra water intake. Peppermint tea. Yoga and/or meditation. And when all else fails, a painkiller. Thankfully, age has made them more tolerable every month.

  137. My favorite coping mechanism is a hot bath with Epsom salts, lavender, eucalyptus, and mint essential oils…and some quiet, alone time away after the kids have gone to bed.

  138. Not usually an issue except for the tiredness and the nursling complaining. I keep Luna Pads essential oil blend around just in case. Mainly I like dark green veggies.

  139. I now use a homemade tincture of motherwort. it’s pretty great and worked for my cousin too. that and chocolate of course.

  140. My monthly routine now is tons of chocolate the week before I start then once I start it’s either extra strength Tylenol and a heating pad as well as drinking tons and I mean TONS of water. When I first started and into my late teens I was on bed rest or next to a toilet for two days and couldn’t eat or drink a thing because of how bad my cramps were.

  141. My coping mechanism is a warm rice bag, curling up in a small tight ball, and waiting for the ibuprofen to kick in. It’s been that way for years. The only time I wasn’t in pain was when I was running 4-5 or sometimes 7 miles a day. Because of 3 knee surgeries I’ve been told I cannot run again if I want to walk. So, I deal with the monthly physical and emotional pain.

  142. One of my favorite coping mechanisms is taking time to go within and feel what’s happening in my body, listening and journaling about the messages. Like a modern day moonlodge, without the moon and moss. 🙂

  143. Oh man, I have had a terrible “time of the month” since I started over 30 years ago. Thank goodness menopause is 10 years or so away. The only interim relief was 3 pregnancies, not sure those were good ways to get a break! Probably a bit extreme….seriously though, I have found that eating less carbs makes a bit of improvement, as does avoiding wine and sugar 🙁
    But for1-2 days every month I have to plan very strategically where I will be because every 30 minutes to an hour a change or check-in is required. That is my abnormal normal. Ridiculous.

  144. I have been talking about this topic for at least a healthy year now. I was on birth control from 2005-2011. In June of 2011 I put my foot down and said no more. Every month since then my menstrual cramps continue to get worse. I have TRIED to go without taking medication, but I end up curled up on the floor moaning like a dying cow, unable to concentrate until I get two Aleve in me and a heating pad on my abdomen. When someone asks how I’m doing, I tell them my uterus is falling out [or at least that’s what it feels like]. All I can think of is, “How in the hell am I going to manage having a natural birth” and “How in the hell did my mom do it four times!?”

  145. Wow, lots of other Jenny’s here. *waves* I have a great homemade heating pad filled with rice that I heat up in the microwave. Gentle walking can also help and if it’s really bad I’ll take tylenol or ibuprophen. The strange thing is that my period has changed after each time I’ve given birth (twice now) and after this last baby I have the shortest and least painful periods so far. The bleeding is much heavier though. I’ve always wondered how childbirth effects this process. The body is amazing.

  146. I announce to my husband that “sexy time” is canceled, hide from my toddler so I don’t have to field anymore questions about the sandman, curl up in bed and google gluten-free recipes containing raw chocolate and wonder when I will ever have time to make them.

  147. When I was a teenager a shot of bourbon and a four hour nap usually did the trick. In my twenties with a 28 day period flow I discovered Herbs and finally took Flash-Ease and Female Comfort – both with Dong Quai, Black Cohosh, Red Raspberry and one has blessed thistle. Got to the point that my nice three day period would creep up if I didn’t keep track of the timing. BUT my husband always knew when my period was coming because I would clean the whole house in one day like a white tornado. It made him laugh.
    I’m past those days and would have loved to add the Katie Restore stretches to those herbs. I start everyday out with prayer and Restore (not always in that order) and the day is always better.

  148. Definitely a hot water bottle and/or a cat or four. Purrs are like instant painkillers. And if available a bunch of human hugs and snuggles.

  149. These days its just the one day before my period that I feel the urge to lay down for 5-10 minutes every hour or so. So I do. I cancel whatever I can, and try to just take it easy. Back in the days when I had cramps, when I stopped using tampons it helped enormously.. And now I use a cup, and it is the most awesome invention since thin pads (which I no longer use either).

  150. It doesn’t hurt anymore, but I’d have to say that having sex or exercise are my best coping mechanisms these days. Or just sleep it off.

  151. Lots of time in Constructive Rest Position (Lying on the back with knees up and feet on the floor with relaxed and short Psoas) with hot water bottle on the tummy. Also gentle spiraling movements with the pelvis from time to time while sitting (can´t stand up when it hits).
    Just loooooove this blog. More please and isn´t also a thight and strained Psoas a main culprit in the lack of bloodflow to the uterus?

  152. Hi Katy,

    Too late to enter I guess… warmth is my coping strategy. And by that I mean hot, really hot. I’ve set fire to several warmth-cushions, freeking out my partner!

    But… the pain I experience is in my mid-back (say T11-T12-L1), so this is where the warmth goes. Twice a month: upon ovulation and period. Any insight you might give in this issue would be sooooooo welcome and I would be even more gratefull!

  153. My favorite coping mechanism: taking the day off of work, tea, carbs, having a hot water bottle or purring cat on my abdomen, and not talking to anyone.

  154. Like Katy, I never had a clue when my period was coming either (never asked anyone in my family if THEY knew – I’m not that courageous) and I was always grateful for that. (I’m now that I’m long past having them.) However, my youngest daughter has always had incredibly painful periods – so she gets a forward of this blog – and with any luck, will, at some point, get to read Katy’s book.

  155. Hi Katy! I loveloveLOVE your blog, I am reading it voraciously now that I’m an expectant momma with hypertonic pelvic floor. As an endometriosis advocate, however, I would be remiss in keeping to myself that while I am totally 100% open to exercise and posture to alleviate menstrual cramps, many times they are an indication of a much more serious problem. One in ten women suffers from the life-stealing disorder endometriosis, which is darn near impossible to have properly diagnosed as it is misunderstood and stigmatized by the medical community. The average time before diagnosis is 3-5 years, and I myself suffered for 20 before it was discovered. I know you love the ladies, I wonder if you would ever consider addressing this condition on your blog sometime? I am all for natural remedies, but whenever the topic of painful periods come up I feel it’s my duty to mention that there could be something else going on.

    1. YES! Absolutely — painful periods and endometriosis are two entirely different things. BUT, I think the point that might be being lost here is that exercise and posture as you are thinking of them don’t equal what I’m talking about when I say movement. I don’t mean “you have this condition because you’re not exercising enough or exercising right. I’m not talking about exercise at all, actually. We are a population that is, essentially, in captivity. In the same way animals in zoos develop reproductive issues, we too show many signs that our lifestyle isn’t working. Nutritional input and cellular movement therapy (mechanotherapy, it’s called) are essential to get the lining cells to the correct place in the uterus. Endometriosis isn’t something happening in a vacuum, it’s occuring in an environment that’s allowing it, due to a complex relationship between many different environments (chemical, mechanical, and maybe even psychological, if that is so aggravated that it’s dampening your immune response). I’ll address this on the blog, for sure, although closer to when the book is out — which people will need to read in order to get a richer explanation of what I mean by “diseases of captivity” and “mechanical environment.” Thanks for advocating! -KAB

      1. Awesome, can’t wait to see what you post! Although I do want to say that endometriosis is not strictly caused by external factors (nor is it caused by retrograde menstruation which is STILL–argh–being taught in medical schools). It has been found in baby girl fetuses, so the newest data shows that at least some of us are born with the condition. Other research shows an epigenetic link, although it’s not yet clear what turns the gene “on”. Endometriosis can be found anywhere in the body, some women have it in their lungs, noses, and skin. It doesn’t spread, although it deepens wherever it is located. No one knows quite yet what or even if there is a single cause, but we do know pretty definitively that it isn’t strictly lifestyle-related. I bring this up only because there is so much misinformation out there about the causes of endometriosis, in fact Dr Drew Pinsky on his show Loveline recently told the world that endo was caused by childhood sexual abuse. OH HECK NO! I think it’s so important to acknowledge that our understanding of this disease is evolving, and the best we can do is to continue to educate ourselves and each other, to share information about what works, and to stop blaming ourselves for our condition 🙂

        1. Evolving information is awesome! I’d love it if you could post some links to lit for me to review — specifically the one about endo en utero, but others you think are good too. Preferably stuff after 2005. Move Your DNA will clarify that movement (specifically mechanotransduction) is an epigenetic factor, and how developing fetuses en utero are affected by their maternal environment (i.e the term “being born” with something might reinforce the idea that the maternal environment isn’t at play when it comes to genetic expression). This is absolutely not about blame. No blame or promotion of blame going on here. Keeping all the contributing factors in the discussion lest one be alterable if one chooses is about thorough scientific investigation. So many things people suffer from are related to how we behave — and I don’t mean how “Nancy” chooses to live her life (i.e. sit on the couch every day watching tv all day eating a bag of white sugar) but about how humans have come to behave as a group. The lifestyle mandated by our culture. Again, thanks for sharing. I’ll add the post on endo to the list 🙂 – KAB

          1. I didn’t!! I just want to make sure that you know that this site (and hopefully all my work, everywhere!) comes off as blame-free 🙂 THANK YOU for the study!!!

  156. Quick question: If the blood cells are what bleed, then what does the shed functional is look like? Or is it just digested by the white blood cells?

    1. The blood vessels bleed, not the cells. The shed lining are the chunks that pass. I believe the WBCs just break down some of the connections — help separate it? I don’t think anyone knows, cuz you’d need an embedded electron microscope as it was happening. I, for one, am NOT WILLING. 🙂

  157. KATY!!!! Frick I love you! I am sure everyone gets similar feelings of “it’s like she wrote this blog post for me!” I have been wanting to contact you for a while to see if my theory that my dysmenorrhea and friable cervix could be caused by tension in my pelvic floor. I have been using your pelvic floor work and techniques from my background as a yoga therapist to release my pelvic floor and so far this is helping.

    Please enter me in the contest for the book too. The greatest coping mechanism I have found is Maya Abdominal Massage all month when I am not bleeding, as well as inversions. I really love the Maya Abdominal Massage!

    Thank you so much Katy!

    Your ever devoted follower,

    Krystal

  158. Coping: Heat (heating pad, heated seats in car), advil.

    Katy, you misspelled Ellen’s name in your post as Ellen Barrent. I read it and thought how strange it was that there would be someone with a name so close to Ellen Barrett. It took a minute to connect the dots.

  159. Wonderful blog post! My favorite things to do during my moon time include hot baths, spending time alone in the woods, and drinking warm beverages. When I experience discomfort my go to herbs are cramp bark, wild yam and motherwort.

  160. Great article! I really want this book because I have some pretty serious cramps that send me home from work every few months…possibly due to my sugar addiction. They’ve gotten quite a bit better since cleaning up my diet and removing gluten and grains, but the chocolate, gah. It still gets me! Coping mechanisms: Midol (this is literally the only medication I take now), a heating pad, and my bed!

  161. Ah! Is that why I was into pizza, pizza, fig newtons, and staying up late last week? It is the new moon today… Hence this post!

  162. Before kiddos I never had pain or anything……then after kiddos —- YIKES! OW! OH NO, I Hate my cycle!
    Use lots of Motrin and rest. Would LOVE to get off that Motrin!

  163. Before I had my babies, I would only get mild cramps on day 1. Occasionally I needed to take an ibuprofen, but not every month. No cramps at all now. I still crave something salty on day 1 though! I practice NFP and that book looks very interesting!

  164. Shared on Facebook.
    Love these details! I have read a number of books on this topic but I haven’t read this kind of detail.
    Thanks so much!

  165. Thank you for this post! I have been seriously considering surgery because my periods are so horrible. I don’t have the pain I had before children but I have heavy, heavy bleeding for about 5 days and then light bleeding for another 5 days. I have been hypoglycemic my whole life so that is particularly interesting information. Two months ago I stopped eating refined sugar and carbs but I wonder if not eating any honey and fruit would help even more.

    Should I be doing my stretches on the first day of my period? I will definitely be doing more hiking this summer to see if that improves things. I also bought your DVD package and LOVE IT!!! I’m very mad at myself for not getting it 6 months ago when I started reading your site. Thank you for all your hard work Katy! I’m so grateful that my children won’t have the same health problems that I have suffered with my whole life.

  166. This is so interesting to me because I had issues with my period for the first 10 years. Four different doctors over the decade were unable to explain what was wrong with me, finally having my son seemed to generate the hormonal balance I was missing – or maybe not – after reading this post I wonder if it was just co-incidental

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  169. Hi Katy and everyone. I know I’m a bit late but just got into an argument with a MALE bodyworker about the normality of menstruation pain. I tried to go through the reference about Doppler but only got the abstract. However, it says:

    Results. Women in dysmenorrhea group had significantly higher uterine blood flow indices than healthy controls in all three measurements periods. This includes all vessels studied on the first day of the cycle, the radial and spiral arteries during the follicular phase and the arcuate, radial and spiral arteries during the luteal phase.

    Conclusions. We found that women with primary dysmenorrhea have elevated Doppler indices in uterine arteries not only on first day of the cycle but throughout the whole cycle. Therefore we postulated that primary dysmenorrhea is not only the disorder of menstruation but also a disease of a menstrual cycle as a whole.

    So Katy you say that the blood flow to uterus is more restricted through the cycle but the abstract says there is a higher uterine blood flow. Is there something I’m misunderstanding (because I only see the abstract?)? I’d like to get this straight for the douchebag.

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