Hav­ing a period will always be an extremely sub­ject­ive exper­i­ence, which no two people will share exactly. Because of this, self-care on your period has to be indi­vidual and not all tips will work for every­one. In gen­eral, most strategies for self-care dur­ing your period are imple­men­ted after they are recom­men­ded by friends or fam­ily, rather than upon med­ical advice. A 2017 study showed that loved ones can have a great impact as well: cog­nit­ive-based beha­vi­oural ther­apy was more suc­cess­ful with couples than in 1-1 ses­sions.  For most people, cramp­ing lessens depend­ing on age and how long you have been men­stru­at­ing for. But some con­di­tions such as endo­met­ri­osis, ovarian cysts and fibroid tumours can cause fur­ther prob­lems and deserve med­ical attention.

When and where self-care dur­ing your period is most important

The cycle of your period is split into four phases: the fol­licu­lar, ovu­lat­ory, luteal and men­strual phases. The last two are the rel­ev­ant ones here. The luteal phase is where the egg remains in the uterus and you feel pre­men­strual symp­toms like irrit­ab­il­ity and crav­ings. Mean­while the men­strual phase is the phase most often dis­cussed, where the uterus lin­ing is released, and you begin bleed­ing. This is where self-care dur­ing your period cycle is most import­ant, and I’ve put together a list of eight meth­ods below which can help.

How­ever, it is vital to note that indi­vidu­als’ exper­i­ences of their period can be tied up in their social situ­ation. There is only so much within your con­trol. Until the taboo around it fades, there will still be inher­ent dif­fi­culties, such as not being taken ser­i­ously by health­care pro­viders. These meth­ods for self-care dur­ing your period can­not change the world, but they can — hope­fully — change your per­sonal exper­i­ence for the better.

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Self-Care Dur­ing Your Period Through Reg­u­lar Exercise

Sur­pris­ingly, see­ing as the men­strual phase is the one where you have the low­est energy levels, exer­cise can help a lot! Walk­ing, gentle run­ning, or other activ­it­ies have been known to make cramps more bear­able. And even if those are out of the ques­tion, some people recom­mend light yoga — any­thing you can man­age may help. This won’t be ideal for every­one — in my own exper­i­ence, exer­cise only exacer­bates my cramps— but it may well help you.

Self-Care Through Nutrition

You can adjust your diet to improve how your body reacts while you’re on your period. Foods which are rich in mag­nesium and iron (like chocol­ate, as long as it has a high per­cent­age of cocoa!) are extremely help­ful. Fur­ther­more, avoid­ing foods which con­trib­ute to inflam­ma­tion, like dairy, caf­feine, red meat or alco­hol, can also dimin­ish some of the neg­at­ive effects of men­stru­at­ing. For more detail about foods for all stages of the cycle, as well as why they help, see the art­icles linked above.

Self-Care Through Heat

Heat, espe­cially applied to the abdo­men, works won­ders. Many people swear by a hot bath or a hot chocol­ate when they’re on their period to help them relax. Even if you don’t have a bath, there are other options: hot water bottles, heat­ing pads or warmies. Hold­ing one against your abdo­men is sur­pris­ingly effect­ive, and pos­sibly my favour­ite form of self-care dur­ing a period. If you don’t have a heat­ing pad, they’re not dif­fi­cult to make your­self. You can fill an old sock with rice and microwave it for a few minutes to get some­thing that works just as well.

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Self-Care Dur­ing Your Period Through Medi­cines

If needed, there are also plenty of things from a phar­macy which can help. Dif­fer­ent forms of paink­illers will have dif­fer­ent effic­acy for dif­fer­ent people but find­ing the right one for you can work won­ders. Speak­ing to a doc­tor about your options is also use­ful. When I did so, I was able to get med­ic­a­tion for my pain levels and flow prob­lems, which helped enorm­ously. There are plenty of things that could help, even if it may take a while to find what is right for you, so don’t be afraid to try.

Self-Care Through Vigilance

The sub­title of this one might sound scary, but it is a very simple thing to do. As I’ve emphas­ised so far, know­ing your­self and how cer­tain things work for your period is key to improv­ing your exper­i­ence. So, if you’re try­ing to indulge in self-care dur­ing your period, pay­ing atten­tion to your own body is the most use­ful thing you can do. Keep­ing a journal of which tac­tics work is a lot of effort, but it provides a lot of advant­ages as well. If you notice a cer­tain food exacer­bates your cramps, take a note of it so you don’t make the same mis­take twice!

Even if you don’t want to par­take in any­thing as struc­tured as a journal, being attent­ive to your own needs will always be use­ful. Have chocol­ate for when you feel down. Have a spare pair of clean under­wear for when there are inev­it­able leaks. No mat­ter how well you know your­self, pre­par­a­tion never hurts.

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Self-Care Through Hydration

Hydra­tion is of course import­ant all month round, not just in the week of men­stru­ation, so it’s import­ant to hydrate in gen­eral. But on your period it can be espe­cially use­ful, and I have con­sist­ently noticed the pos­it­ive effects of it myself. It serves a num­ber of func­tions, like fight­ing bloat­ing and cramp­ing as well as replen­ish­ing flu­ids. So while calls to hydrate more are often ignored in day-to-day life, they should espe­cially be heeded when you’re menstruating.

Self-Care Through Sleep

Let’s face it. Some­times, when you feel tired all the time, one of the best things you can do is sleep. Much like hydra­tion, sleep is another thing that’s import­ant all the time, but espe­cially so dur­ing your period. And not in the least because that’s when you will be more tired! Naps dur­ing the day may feel unne­ces­sary, but they can genu­inely help. And while a full night’s sleep is hard to come by for many reas­ons, its import­ance should not be under­es­tim­ated either.

Self-Care Dur­ing Your Period Through Self-Love

Finally, I come to what must be the most import­ant tip for self-care dur­ing your period: be nice to yourself.

Your period is not some­thing to be ashamed of. Nor should you be ashamed for things you may not be able to do while men­stru­at­ing. At the end of the day, it is a week out of your month spent bleed­ing, with some­times unpleas­ant side effects. Being hard on your­self is the very last thing you need. You do not need to love your­self or your period, but it is import­ant to be gentle with both. If you are unin­ten­tion­ally irrit­able with someone, apo­lo­gise and make it up to them, but don’t stew in guilt about it. If you don’t reach your fit­ness goal for the day, try not to worry too much. You are only a per­son, you are a per­son going through a very dif­fi­cult week, so be nice to your­self. You’re doing your best. And you don’t need to do any better.

Illus­tra­tion by Mag­dalena Otterstedt / Kop­füber Design for Vul­vani

Ailsa Fraser, writer, Texterin, Vulvani
Ailsa 
Stu­dent & Writer | + posts

Ailsa lives in Eng­land and stud­ies in Scot­land. She spends her time writ­ing, day­dream­ing about fantasy worlds and won­der­ing about the future of our own. As a stu­dent of his­tory and polit­ics, she is espe­cially inter­ested in think­ing about how the exper­i­ences of women, LGBTQ people and other minor­it­ies fit into all three – espe­cially when the topic of men­stru­ation is involved.