Every month women experience something completely natural and if it didn’t happen none of us would be here! However, periods aren’t talked about enough and there is still a stigma that goes along with them. I asked Naturopathic Doctor, Sarah Penney some questions about periods! You may find the answers helpful if you suffer from PMS or experience irregular periods!
How do I know if my period is not regular?
An irregular period is defined as a period that comes less than every 21 days or more than every 35 days. Some women can go over 90 days without having a period, and this is called oligomenorrhea. Variations in the timing of periods is common in girls who have just started their period and women who are approaching menopause. Women in their childbearing years (teens-40s) who notice their periods come outside of this time frame should visit their healthcare provider for more investigations. Irregular periods may not have any serious underlying causes, but other times this irregularity could be a symptom of certain health concerns,
What can cause period irregularity?
A common cause for irregular periods is a condition called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome which causes an imbalance of hormones and delayed periods. Often times periods can be months apart in women experiencing this condition. There are lots of other causes for delayed periods as well. The use of hormonal birth control can make periods very light or cause some women to skip cycles, which may persist several months after stopping the pill. Other women find that their period is delayed after a month of high stress or after a time zone change during travel. Intense exercise or eating disorders like anorexia can also cause period irregularities.
How can we treat period irregularities without going on the pill?
Treatment for period irregularities is often very specific to the individual woman and their hormone balance. Sometimes irregularities can be caused by a change in estrogen levels and sometimes a change in progesterone levels. These two hormones are responsible for cycling normally and the keeping the timing of our period regular. Your hormones can be tested through bloodwork to see if there is an underlying issue. As a naturopathic doctor, I commonly use herbal medicine to help balance hormones through herbs like vitex or black cohosh.
Acupuncture can also be used to help regulate hormones throughout the cycle. If periods are irregular due to PCOS, it is important to look at other changes that happen in the body like blood sugar irregularities and weight management issues. Sometimes addressing these factors can help regulate the period too.
How can we treat cramping symptoms naturally without taking medication?
Cramping is very common before the period and happens due to muscle contraction in the uterus a rise in inflammation while your body is causing your period. Studies have shown that exercises through the cycle can help with cramping during the period. Herbal medicine can be effective for relieving cramping – a herb called crampbark can be taken in tea form in the second half of the cycle to help prevent cramps. Other women find magnesium helpful as a muscle relaxant before the period in preventing cramps throughout their cycle. From a traditional Chinese medicine perspective, cramps arise because of stagnation of energy, so acupuncture can help to address cramps by moving energy although several sessions are often needed throughout the cycle.
Sometimes severe cramps accompanied by vomiting or pain throughout the whole cycle can be caused by a condition called endometriosis. This is a condition where the uterine lining can grow outside of the uterus and cause severe cramping and pain. This is addressed in naturopathic medicine by helping the body balance estrogen levels which promote the growth of the uterine lining and might help some women!
Hopefully Dr. Penney helped answer any questions you may have had about periods if you experience irregularity like me! Now that you know why period irregularity happens, how to treat it and how to treat PMS symptoms naturally you might ask:
“What’s the safest and easiest way to handle the actual period when it’s happening?”
The answer is easy period, a subscription service that deliver organic cotton tampons and pads right to your door every two, three or four months. You choose the frequency the boxes are delivered and you are able to customize your subscription to what you prefer either pads, tampons, liners or a mix! Easy was founded in Toronto by Alyssa Bertman, she donates 5% of her yearly profits to ZanaAfrica Foundation and includes a chocolate bar in every box. To get $5 off use the ‘LisaKiss‘ on your first purchase!
We welcome you to share your thoughts about periods and how you manage them in the comments below. We would love to start a conversation with you!
Peace and Love,