Periods! Let’s talk cramps, cravings, bloating, blood, backaches and the oh so fun mood swings. I used to think the period was [insert higher being you believe in]’s idea of punishment for not getting pregnant and fulfilling a woman’s “duty” to carry on the human race. Not. Cool. Higher Being.
Slightly dramatic, I know, but when you feel like a complete crazy person, are in so much pain you have to miss school or work and are breaking out with hormonal acne like a teenager when you’re 30 years old it definitely feels like some kind of cruel joke. And a lot of teachers, doctors, experts, etc. tell us that this is NORMAL.
As I became an adult, I became increasingly frustrated with birth control, PMS, buying boxes on boxes of Tampax and dealing with the shame that my period brought on every month (hello slipping a tampon up my sleeve and scurrying off to the bathroom before anyone could guess what I was doing). At some point, I decided to take matters into my own hands and I’m here to help you do the same.
Here are three steps to elevating your period game…
Step #1 – Education
Let’s face it, they don’t teach us sh*t in sex ed when it comes to our cycles and since our hormones are raging we’re really only paying attention to the sex part. Enter The Period Bible – “Woman Code” by Alisa Vitti. This book should be required reading in high school.
Turns out our cycles don’t have to be miserable! In fact, that’s typically a sign of imbalance. The biggest takeaway from this book is that our cycles have four distinct phases and our hormone levels (and thus our bodies needs) change in each phase.
Have you ever felt like WHY can’t I just stick to a routine? Why do I feel like I’m the hulk at the gym one week and the next I can barely make it through the warm-up? Well, that’s because you should be doing different workouts based on which phase you’re in! Mind. Blown.
This doesn’t just apply to working out either. It applies to nutrition, socializing, sex, creativity and the list goes on. “Woman Code“ is a roadmap for how to live your life in sync with your cycle. When you make this lifestyle switch, a lot of the unpleasant symptoms you experience during your cycle are lessened dramatically or go away altogether.
I will say this is not an easy adjustment. Our society is set up for the very linear, male biology so be graceful with yourself as you start to shift your habits.
Step #2 – Products
First, I just want to point out that we need to change the term “feminine hygiene”. For one thing, it tiptoes around the actual use of the products i.e. periods, menstruation, etc. and the other thing is it implies that our cycles are unclean, something that needs to be taken care of quietly and if you don’t do it a certain way then you’re dirty. Hell no. Just call the aisle “Period Products” @grocery stores of America.
Second, the tampon was invented back in 1929. There have obviously been updates made to its design but that was the last true innovation in period products up until a few years ago. We kind of just accepted that was as good as it was going to get. Luckily, we have a few women among us who decided that we could do better.
Ok, rant over. Let’s get to the goods.
Period Underwear (you read that right) – via Thinx
I know what’s going through your head… “Ewwwwwww, I stopped wearing pads in the 8th grade and have NEVER looked back!” Ladies, these are NOT pads, not even close. The product designers at Thinx are brilliant. They essentially took moisture wicking fabric and applied it to some surprisingly sexy underwear.
They come in a variety of styles for the different states of your flow (heavy, medium, light etc.) and they tell you how many tampons worth of blood each style holds. I love to wear these at night or on lighter days to allow my body to “free bleed” and it feels quite freeing (pun intended) and a little rebellious.
Bonus: This is the most sustainable option since they are reusable AND you have to wash them in cold water.
So what exactly is a period disc? It’s the best thing that has ever happened to your period. The brilliant founder of Flex, Lauren Schulte Wang, was tired of how icky tampons could feel and was not cool with the fact that they mess up your vaginas carefully balanced micro-biome. They absorb not only the blood but all the good stuff as well. Plus the inconvenience of having to change them multiple times throughout the day AND the threat of toxic shock syndrome are not the coolest.
Then there was Flex. These babies are made of a medical-grade polymer that forms to your body’s shape to form a leak proof seal. They can be worn for up to twelve hours and you don’t feel them AT ALL. The disc is not absorbent so it doesn’t mess with your pH.
The big adjustment with these is inserting and taking out. You’ve got to get very up close and personal with your vagina to wear these babies which I personally think is great because it breaks the stigma that your period is gross. Flex does an amazing job of educating you on exactly how to insert and take the disc out and is very helpful if you have any questions or concerns.
BONUS: This is yet again another more sustainable option because you don’t have to wear 5 a day, just one! Yay saving the planet. Also, they have a subscription service so you never run out.
If you take one action item from this article it would be this – buy organic cotton tampons. Seriously.
Our vaginas are SUPER absorbent and that means they take in the good and the bad. Have you ever wondered what is actually in a tampon? Me neither until two years ago and I was horrified. Even if it’s a 100% cotton tampon (which most of the name brands aren’t) you can still absorb all the pesticides and chemicals that were used in the growing and manufacturing of the cotton. Grody.
Luckily there’s Lola. The founder of this company had the same wtf moment when she found out what was actually in a Tampax Pearl tampon and decided to do something about it.
Bonus: You can subscribe! Yay, no more folding up toilet paper in your underwear while you run to Walgreens to pick up an emergency box of tampons. They also make great sex products, like condoms and lube, too.
Step #3 – Natural Remedies
Now, even with all this great knowledge and a wider selection of period products to choose from, you will probably still experience some of the usual PMS and period symptoms. Luckily the wellness industry has blown up with natural remedies, so we no longer have to go through an entire bottle of Advil or box of Midol during our cycles.
Most of you have probably heard of the latest wellness craze, CBD, but have you considered what it could do for your period symptoms? CBD comes in a ton of different forms and the two that I find the most helpful are lotion and tinctures.
I tend to get headaches and backaches the few days leading up to my period no matter what I do and CBD lotion is a godsend. I use it on my neck and back to help my muscles relax and then I’ll usually take a dose of the tincture to ease my headache pain as well.
There are a ton of CBD brands popping up but my favorite is Solid Green Remedies (full disclosure, I am biased because I’m their Creative Director BUT it also means I’ve used their products a lot and can vouch for their quality). Their mission is to make these natural remedies accessible to everyone so you’re getting the best price for the highest quality.
There are a million and one supplements out there and trying to figure out which ones you should take for your period and then going through an arduous trial and error process sounds like a nightmare. That’s why I love Hum.
They have a vitamin called “Moody Bird” specifically formulated to help with PMS symptoms. Hallelujah! And the best part is they offer a subscription so you never have to remember to order them.
You’ve officially elevated your period game! Now you can treat yourself like a QUEEN when you’re on your period. You get to wear your sexiest underwear. You get to nap every day. You can eat dark chocolate and filet mignon (the iron in red meat helps replace what we lose when we’re bleeding). And you definitely do not feel bad about skipping your workout for a slow jaunt in the park.