Are Periods Supposed to be Painful?
It might surprise you to know that a lot of women don’t actually know what a normal period is. I am not talking about what is common (because it is way more common than it should be for women to be suffering each month), I am talking about what is normal.
I never get used to hearing is a woman describe her period as “Oh just normal, I get pain for the first few days but I just take a few pain killers and I am fine”. They accept pain, irregular periods or a whole host of other symptoms as something that is just part of having a period.
And what makes it even more confusing is that many women have been told by well meaning family or medical practitioners that pain, flooding or irregular periods that come every 3-6 weeks (or more) are all “pretty normal”.
So what is a normal period?
A ‘normal’ cycle should be 27-29 days long (28 ideally) and the period should start in the morning on waking with a good flow and no spotting. The blood should be fresh with no pain or clotting. If you have to change a tampon in 1.5 hours or less, or 2 hours for a pad, it is too heavy. A menstrual cup should need one change a day. On the other hand, if in the first few days of your period you only have to change for freshness, it is too light!
Also there shouldn’t be any pre-menstrual symptoms such as headaches, bloating, cravings, breakouts, loose bowels, nausea or any of the other lucky-dip of symptoms that women can experience.
Ovulation should be on Day 13-15 (ideally Day 14), painless and with fertile mucous that is obvious enough that you can detect a slipperiness on wiping after going to the toilet. You should not have to go hunting for evidence of fertile mucous.
How do I know this? Because when a woman gets healthier, deals with her hormone imbalances and other issues that can impact (such as gut health, nutrition, inflammation, stress, etc.) this is what happens. The healthier a woman is, the better her period is, and so the period becomes a report card for what has been going on internally for the month.
Some women start behind the eight ball with genetic disorders such as endometriosis or they have conditions like PCOS, hypothalamic amenorrhoea etc, but even then, significant positive changes are very possible, it is just not talked about as much as it should be.
When a young woman first gets her period, it is normal for it to fluctuate. It may take a couple of months to become regular, but if it takes longer than this, if there is any pain or the period is heavy (having to change pads or tampons in under 1.5-2 hours, or even double up to make sure she doesn’t bleed through, then she should seek some help from a practitioner with a wholistic approach. Young women who are put on the pill to ‘fix’ problems like this can find this has devastating effects on their general health and their fertility down the track.
But here is the important thing. Although this is the IDEAL, there are times it will fluctuate. Stress, travel, illness, eating more sugar than normal, or lack of sleep are just a few reasons your body might be under a little more pressure. The more your body has to deal with, the more symptoms you are likely to experience, so one cycle might look a little different to another. It should all be pretty manageable though, without pain-killers!
It can be really helpful to do some charting to keep track of your cycle. You will learn what a typical cycle looks like for you, what triggers impact on you, what symptoms you might experience and when you typically ovulate or have a period. Having a healthy cycle and being familiar with your body is really important if you are trying to figure out your fertile window for either avoiding pregnancy or trying to conceive.
When women are experiencing pain or other symptoms that are affecting their quality of life, their ability to relate to friends and family, perform in their jobs, contribute to their families or enjoy the things in life that they love, that is certainly NOT OK.
The more we talk about what a period should be, the more women will understand when and how to seek help. And if periods were less of an ordeal then perhaps we could once again see them as something to be respected and held in awe rather than something shameful.
The female menstrual cycle is pretty damn amazing… it gives the ability to conceive and grow a life and has been recognised as the source of intuition and cyclical power for a very long time … now that is worth embracing.
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