The Great Flow Giveaway

I’m participating in The Great Flow Giveaway over at The Book Lady’s Blog, to win a copy of Flow: The Cultural Story of Menstruation. Basically, the point was brought up that talking about menstruation is considered a bit of a taboo topic and so in order to “work” for a copy you have to enter into the dialogue about, well, your flow! So, if you are at all squeamish about this sort of thing I suggest you cut away right now, because here are some of my experiences, and a lot of tips for survival.

One of the great, and terrible, things about my period is it is very, very short. It lasts 24 hours exactly and I am done. That’s it! I am simultaneously an object of envy and pity because of it. Most women have a period that lasts three to five days or more, now imagine all of that crammed into one day. It hurts a lot.

Normally I am knocked out, big time: highest dosage of pain pills it’s safe to take, heat pad on high, and focusing on relaxing as much as possible. Normally the pain pills, mercifully, knock me out and I sleep on and off through most of the day. Being self employed has its perks! I’ve not always been able to have such luxury before, like when I was in school, and on those days I was very crabby because I hurt. Badly. Would normally put my head down on my desk and cry, when I wasn’t snapping at people trying to intrude on my misery.

The other thing about having such a short period is I was stuck having to use the diaper sized pads when I was younger. The ones where you have to waddle a bit in order to walk, and are visible through jeans from a mile away. I was so glad when I was able to make the switch to tampons. I have never looked back. I love tampons, they just make everything so much more hygienic. I like the plastic applicator kind though, not the cardboard. Got one of those by accident once and it was a) huge, b) cardboard-fer-crissakes and c) was just Not Happening. The butterflies on the packaging of such a monstrosity are just patronizing at that point. There is nothing delicate or ethereal about a cardboard tampon the size of a lincoln log.

Erm, anyway, my point of all of this is I’ve become something of an expert on getting rid of cramps. So, here are my tips for women looking to cut down on cramps (I’ve tried just about everything you’ve ever heard of) here are the things that did work for me:

Light Exercise

Works if you engage in it just as things are starting to hurt, if things are already doubled over, knife in your gut bad this isn’t going to do much. I play Dance Dance Revolution pretty religiously and normally will do some harder basic or easier difficult level songs, just a handful or so if I’m lucky enough to get the timing just right. (In other words about 15-20 minutes of very light jogging or fast walking, but to a dance beat.) Otherwise, forget it, it’s just making things tense that shouldn’t be.

Heat

Wet heat, dry heat, as long as it’s hot, use it. Invest in an electric heat pad, or a hot water bottle. I recommend the heat pad. I have one that auto turns off after 20 minutes, good for safety. Not always good though because I will feel the pain coming back and realize the thing turned itself off and I wasn’t done using it! Do not use if wearing jeans, the button above your fly will heat up and burn you, badly. If you need to work up something in a pinch get a washcloth damp with hot water and use that. Oh! And, those little sticky pad portable one-use heat pads that they advertise for athletes sometimes? They come out with ones for women, designed to be worn inside your clothes, that you can wear during the day. Good for when, you know, you have to leave the house and therefore come to the end of your heat pad’s cord length. Required menstruation supply for my purse as far as I’m concerned.

Calcium

Your body needs 1,200 mg a day generally, but making absolutely sure you get that during your period helps! For me, it wasn’t a miracle cure thing, but it did take the edge off, every little bit helps! You can get calcium chews in the drug aisle (take two with every meal, and you can get chocolate ones!) or just take two Tums (bonus, also helps with the nausea). I also take a general multivitamin as well, might or might not have an affect on things.

Relax Already!

Put on some light music, pop in a favorite movie, curl up with a book, lay back in a recliner and relax. Massaging the area between the bellybutton and the hips helps or just running your hand over while pressing down firmly a few times. Take deep breaths and just focus on unclenching all of your muscles. Relax and focus on the music/movie/book. This probably helps the most. Do not imbibe caffeine if you can possibly help it. For me this makes my cramps much, much, much worse. I try and take it easy on the sugar as well except for…

Chocolate

There are natural things in chocolate that help your mood when your hormones are going crazy. Eat a chocolate bar, but don’t go crazy with it. Too much sugar will wind you up and tense you up, that will just cause more pain.

Pain Medication

I’m not a doctor, so I’ll just say that what I do is take naproxum sodium. I can really offset a lot of early on pain if I take one the night before. I take two 12 hours later and then take one more if I need it the next day. My bottle of pills says not to take more than three in 24 hours, so this works out perfectly with a night in-between the third and the fourth. Sometimes I get busy and forget and don’t get that opportunity to take the pill the night before, I always end up regretting it.

Even after all this there is normally some pain with my period that just doesn’t go away. I just learn to distance myself from it and try and not move around a lot and aggravate things if I can help it. But, the one perk to having it all over and done with so quick? Being able to move on the next day with no pain, no tampons and no worries! Ha! Okay, all done oversharing now.

2 Responses to The Great Flow Giveaway

  1. Bitsy
    7:02 am on March 12th, 2010

    You know, now that I think about it my cat likes to lay across my middle over top of the heat pad during the worst of the pain. I let him, but always assumed he was just after the heat. Normally he is very sensitive if we are in pain and wants to offer comfort (if you show him a cut he will lick it very gently). But a purring cat and a low hum deep in your chest would both offer the same thing, a low vibration. Maybe that helps loosen muscles?

    I’ve tried menstrual cups, and it didn’t end up working out for me. I think my flow is too heavy or something, I found it unnecessarily messy. It was surprisingly comfortable though, if I got as good at inserting those as I do tampons might even be better. But, for me, my flow might just be too heavy for it. I normally go through something like 4-5 tampons during my one day.

  2. Eva
    5:36 am on March 12th, 2010

    What a helpful post! The first day or two of my period is incredibly painful (if I don’t keep taking pain pills, I can’t walk). I live by my heating pads, but I haven’t tried the calcium before!

    I read a book by a midwife about labour, and she mentioned that making high-pitched noises doesn’t help but making low-pitched noises does. So for the past couple of months, if I’m alone, I’ll keep up a kind of low hum, and I’ve found it to be much more effective than I’d have expected it too.

    Also, I recently switched from tampons to a menstrual cup, and it’s so much comfier for me!

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