5 important tips for menstrual hygiene3 minute
Keeping it clean
Washing your vagina
Pads or tampons disposal
Single sanitation method is best
Role of men in menstrual hygiene
Menstrual hygiene is an essential part of a woman’s life. This is not a once in a year phenomenon. It naturally occurs every month. Every woman bleeds almost half of their lives. That is why it requires utmost attention and self-care. Proper hygiene can prevent many vaginal infections as well as other physical problems.
They say that a healthy period is a happy period. That's why I have listed 5 hygiene tips you can follow and ace (or make better, at least) your period like a champion.
- Keep It Clean: When your menses start, your body slowly starts to release blood. When this happens, your vagina attracts various types of bacteria from your body in the presence of blood and a warm atmosphere. Bacteria multiplies exponentially which can in turn lead to unnecessary rashes, irritation or even a urinary tract infection. So changing your pad or tampon every 4 to 5 hours is the best way to stay clean and free from the risks of developing any infections.
- Wash Your Vagina: There are many myths and misconceptions around how to wash your vagina properly. After removing your pads or tampons, washing your vagina is the next important step. If you fail to do so, there might be an overgrowth of bacteria. I would like to remind you that you don’t need any kind of specific soap or chemical-based products to wash your vagina. The Vagina cleans itself and all you need to do is wash the outer part of it. If need be, you can use baby soap or Vwash to clean your vagina. But using lukewarm water is best and easiest way.
The best way to wash your vagina is to move your hands from your vagina towards the anus. Most people do it the other way. In doing so, the bacteria from your anus can reach your vagina and it lead to multiple infections.
- Disposing of Tampons/Sanitary Pads: The period is considered such an extreme taboo in India that nobody wants to talk about it, especially when it comes to the disposal of used sanitary pads. There are so many myths and misconceptions around the subject, especially in rural India. In some parts of India women still wash their used pads first then and then dispose it off because it is considered to be "a dirty affair". But keep in mind that these days pads and tampons are designed in a way that makes it easy to dispose off. Just make sure to wash your hands after disposing of it so you don't spread the bacteria elsewhere. Do not flush it in a toilet, only dispose of it in a garbage bag.
- Single sanitation method: Sometimes women tend to use two types of sanitation methods at the same time in case of heavy flow. For example, some use tampons and sanitary pads at the same time and sometimes some women use two pads at the same time. While this might keep your clothes from getting stained, a lot of blood accumulation might give rise to harmful bacteria. So it is better to use one sanitary pad and change it frequently.
- Role of men in menstrual hygiene- More often than not, men do not have sufficient knowledge or education about periods (especially in rural cities). Men need to be aware of menstrual hygiene. In Indian households, men are the decision-makers of the family, and this becomes a problem for women to maintain hygiene and speak about it openly. Studies show that majority of men neither bring out the topic of the menstruation, nor have they had a mature, logical discussion about it in the family.
Even today, men in rural parts of the country think that buying sanitary napkins is a waste of money and this is the reason most rural India women still use cloth pieces as sanitary pads. Neither men or elderly women of the family discuss about menstruation and its consequences with the young men of the family. As a result, these same young boys grow up to be as ignorant as their role models.
It is time for men to learn and discuss about the menstruation and its physiological changes on women. It is time for men to step up and engage in open conversation about it to become good fathers, brothers, husbands and lovers. Next time, do not hesitate to buy a sanitary pad for your sister, mother or wife.
So if you are a woman reading this, I hope the above mentioned tips help to have a healthy and infection-free period. And if you are a man reading this article, never be shy to discuss/ask about menstruation with women in your family.
Feel free to share your story the first time you encountered the word period.
PMS Cramps - 5 Common Myths3 minute
Our society forbids us to talk about certain issues in public. Issues like sex, periods, etc. especially are a taboo to speak about. Why are these issues treated as "Inappropriate" in our society? I wasn’t aware of PMS until I witnessed a person going through it. Not everyone gets a chance to share what they feel, not even with their own family. So it is time we start talking about it.
What is PMS(premenstrual syndrome)-
It refers to physical or emotional symptoms that women experience before their menses. 90% of menstruating women face these conditions.
Symptoms include mood swings, stomach cramps, tender breasts, food cravings, fatigue, irritability and depression.
There has been a lot of talk about periods. Now, women have mustered enough courage to talk about it openly. Sadly, the topic of PMS is still left out, and most are left uneducated. Most girls still interpret it is their time of the month but worry when they don’t bleed.
Let's look at 5 common myths associated with PMS -
- Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is all in the mind- This is one of the most talked about myths regarding PMS that it is not real. But you should know that it is real and it exists, and most menstruating women go through it. It has been indicated in many scientific journals that it exists. So, you don't need to feel that it is just in your mind.
- PMS and period are the same- It is straightforward, despite having the “pre” in PMS, most people confuse it with the period. They think that they are experiencing a period. But it is referring to the time before your menses starts. So never confuse your PMS with your period.
- There is a fixed definition of PMS- There isn't a standard definition of PMS in medical society because the symptoms are so vast that it is not possible to put it in a single definition, you should know that there are almost 150 symptoms that are associated with PMS. It is not only psychologically dependent but also culturally dependent. Some studies show that women from different cultures and origins have different types of symptoms. So, a woman in England and India may have different symptoms of PMS.
- It doesn't get more complicated- This is one of the biggest myths about PMS, that it's only about mood swings and physical pain, and doesn't get worse. But in reality, there is a phenomenon called premenstrual dysphoric disorder( PMDD). That causes such massive effects in the premenstrual period that it's considered as depressive disorders. Essentially, it releases a huge depressive episode in the premenstrual period. So the person with depression or a person with a family history of depression are prone to have it. Around 2-10 % of all women with periods, suffer from it.
- You have to live with It - It is also a widespread myth that there is nothing you can do about it and you will have to live with it. But this is not true. With proper care and precautions, you can ease and reduce the symptoms of PMS. You can avoid some specific foods which aggravate the symptoms. Food that is low in sugar, processed food and highly inflammatory food best be avoided. A healthy lifestyle will help you balance your hormones which can ease your PMS.
So these are 5 common myths about PMS we should bid goodbye to right now. There are few things you can try when you are PMSing that are believed to be effective.
Physical exercises help you overcome cramps. When you orgasm, your body releases "dopamine and oxytocin" which is a natural pain reliever. So sex and masturbation help you a lot during the period. Plus orgasms puts you to sleep.
Men around women having PMS can also be a support system for them, and this helps them to a great extent. So next time you witness that your partner or wife or girlfriend is PMSing, don't run away from her. Support her and help her get through PMS.
We would love to hear about your experience with PMS or tips that help you have a happier period, so feel free to share with us.
7 Period Hacks That Every Woman Needs To Know2 minute
It’s true that no one enjoys it when their period hits. It is like an email that keeps hitting your spam folder even if you do not want it. It keeps coming down until the sender decides to stop it. The sender being menopause. A woman bleeds for almost 2500 days in her whole lifetime! And sometimes it sucks to keep encountering it every month. You might already know a thing or two about periods and how to tackle it, but here I have put down 7 period hacks to make your period slightly more tolerable:
- Wear period friendly panties- Don't you just hate throwing your expensive blood-stained panties in the trash every month? You can look up some period friendly panties online. They are blood resistant and comfortable.
- Workout a bit- working out during period does help you a lot. It eases the period’s pain and also helps you with PMS. Go out for a walk or you can try some helpful yoga asanas.
- Get a heating pad- Not only does this make you feel warm, but it reduces the pain by stimulating the blood flow. You can check out the different types of user-friendly heating pads online. Fun Fact: A laptop also works like a heating pad in your lap. (but be careful while using it)
- Keep stock of water, dark chocolate and ginger- drinking a lot of water helps a lot because dehydration is one of the reasons for stomach cramps. When you are on periods, you get all sorts of cravings. But having some dark chocolate increases your serotonin level, which controls your food cravings. Ginger too, soothes your stomach and helps with inflammation.
- Have multiple orgasms- you must think that period sex is messy but believe me, it is not. I want to let the men know that it is nothing like you haven't experienced. It releases all kinds of hormones like endorphins and oxytocin which act as natural pain killers. And if you are single or your partner finds it messy then just ditch sex and masturbate. You WILL feel great!
- Avoid tight jeans- Your tummy is already bloated so don’t punish it more with tight jeans. Let it breathe during this time. Try some loose and comfy dresses. Believe me, you look wonderful in anything you wear!
- Track your cycle- download a period tracking app so that you have an idea of your upcoming period at all times. This way you will not freak out about when your last period was. It will also keep reminding you to change pads.
Keep these simple hacks in mind and you will have an easy and fun period. You don't have to keep yourself in bed all the time, if you don't want to. Go out, workout, have sex - period days are fun days!
If you want to share any more period hacks, feel free to comment below.
7 PMS Hacks To Remember For Life3 minute
PMS(premenstrual syndrome) affects almost 85% of women who experience periods. It is real and it exists. It has a number of symptoms and is still growing. Around the world, women experience it differently. The most common symptoms include bloating, joint pain, headaches, cramps, junk food cravings, increased anxiety, acne and nausea. It starts 3-4 days before your menses or can begin even a week before your menses. In some (rare) cases, it can also stay throughout the course of your period.
I have witnessed first-hand, that it is hard to endure and sometimes gets real bad. It feels like there is a world war going on in your uterus, so to offer help, I have jotted down a few PMS life hacks for you so that you can handle it all with grace and poise (Or not):
- Keep Moving- Moving yourself is the most effective way to help you with PMS. Take a walk, or just dance in your room, ride a bicycle. You can try some stretching exercises and you can find some yoga postures on YouTube which aim to help eradicate cramps.
- Keep some hand warmers in your pants- If you are just at home then you can try a heating pad around your belly or in the back of your waist area. But if you have to go to school or work, then stick some hand warmers in the waistband of your pants. They work like mini heating pads and help soothe the uterus.
- Let your pets take care of you- if you own a cat or a dog. Then let them curl up on your belly and rest. The vibration and the warmth will help you with cramps and bloating.
- Have some raspberry tea- It not only tastes good but helps you with cramps. It also helps in case of heavy flow. So whenever you feel uncomfortable during your PMS just brew yourself a nice cup of raspberry tea.
- Let orgasms help- Don't shy away from sex because having an orgasm during PMS helps a lot. It helps ease abdominal cramps and keeps your hormones in check. If you don't wish to have sex, you can always masturbate to ease the pain.
- A Hot bath- A hot bath during PMS always does the trick. Treat yourself to a nice bubble bath experience. You can add bath salts as well as chamomile in your bath. Just lie down and let it do the work for you. If water gets cold, make it hot again until the war inside your uterus disappears. This also helps with getting a good night's sleep..
- Eat healthy and find your go to ritual- Eat magnesium rich foods. Find your PMS ritual and stick to it. Like Netflix, food , hot bath or exercise. Because once your body and mind is adjusted then you don't have to keep fighting every month. You can just lay out the same plan every month.
( workout tip- during PMS and periods your breasts become super sensitive. So during exercise if your nipples are bothering you, just place some cotton between your nipples and your bra. Works like magic.)
It is in fact true that PMS is a part of your life and you cannot get rid of it. But if you try these PMS life hacks, you will have an easy and bearable period. If you know any PMS/period life hacks that help you, feel free to let us know in the comment section!
10 Period Myths That Must Be Broken5 minute
When I was in college, I was hanging out with some of my classmates, and I noticed that a girl was feeling uncomfortable. I asked her openly that are you on periods and everyone's face was like they have seen an alien. The girl took me aside and asked me how you can say something like this publicly. And that's when I realize that this is how we have raised our girls. We have made them so guilty about periods that they don't want to talk about it.
The period is such a taboo subject that we are even scared of saying it aloud. So we came up with code names like lady problems. It has been around since ancient times, and we can witness in our history as well as our scriptures. You will get to see mentions like-
"Go away from women during periods because they are not clean."
"Whoever will touch her during the period will be unclean, and if you touch her, then you shall wash your clothes and take a bath."
"Contact with period blood will sour the wine. The crops will become barren. The seeds will dry up." And the list goes on...
A woman has around 500 periods in her lifetime. If we put it in an average, they go on bleeding about 3000 days in their lifetime. Taboos around periods in India is way broader. They are skipping school. They are forbidden from holy rituals. They are excluded from sports. For a few days every month, their life on hold.
Around 20 millions of girls drop out of school as soon as they start menstruating in India. And only 18% of women have access to sanitary pads in India. It is shocking to see the figures, but it is the truth.
Taboos around periods-
In India, taboos around periods are like the mother of all taboos. Some are so stupid and illogical that if you think about it, you will just laugh about it. But we have failed as a society to overcome such stupidity because we have never tried. Let's talk about the 10 taboos on periods which you will usually encounter-
- Celebrated yet an outcast- In some parts of south India as well northeast India, when a girl gets her first period, gets presents and are celebrated for this occasion. And still, they are barred from household works for a period of 3 nights.
- A menstruating woman is not allowed to enter the temple- Being born in a Hindu family, I had witnessed it month after month. When my cousin sisters were on periods, they were not allowed to be a part of any holy rituals. Now you can imagine how much shame it will bring to the girl that she will think and believe that she is not even accepted in God's house. She will hate herself for it.
- Nobody should touch a menstruating woman- I have heard this numerous times while growing up that I should not touch a girl or woman while she is on her period. One time I touched the hand of one of my sisters, and I was asked by my grandma to take a bath. Even I felt so enraged hearing such stupidity. I refused to do so. I got some scolding, but hey this is how you all should start in your family as well.
- Her touch will rot the pickle- Yes, it is as ridiculous as it sounds that if she will touch pickle during her period, it will rot. And women follow it religiously. I still can't get my head around it and aliens must be laughing about it and what a weird mental virus we have.
- Don't go near the Tulsi Plant- The tulsi or basil is considered holy in Hinduism and woman cannot touch it while she is on her period. Even her shadow will kill the plant.
- Don't wash your hair and don't tie your hair- This is again one weird and illogical taboo that women should not wash their hair while she is on her period. She has to keep her hair open. There is no trail of this that what is the reason behind it but it is still get passed on by older women to younger girls.
- Living in exile- In some rural parts of India and Nepal, Girl lives in a shed outside the house while she is on her period. This practice is called "Chhaupadi". Sometimes it leads to the death of some women. In the first-ever case, there has been an arrest in Nepal for such practice in the first week of December 2019.
- A menstruating woman should not enter the kitchen- In Indian households, a woman cannot enter the kitchen if she is on her period. This is as stupid as it sounds. The food will become bad if she will touch them. This is so discriminatory. As she should be free to do whatever she wants while she is on her period.
- Virgins should not use tampons- India has so much preached about the virginity of a girl. In some rural part, there is still a virginity test before marriage to see that if a girl is a virgin or not. And that has started a taboo that if you use tampons, you will lose your virginity. Scientifically it is not true at all and tampons are not associated with virginity in any way. It is so absurd and shameful that we give so much importance to virginity.
- Buying Sanitary pads is embarrassing- There is so much shame associated with menstruation that women, as well as men, are embarrassed to buy sanitary pads or tampons. Even medical shops give it in wrapped paper or brown or black bags. Women never ask a male member of the family to buy them pads or tampons. This is how we have built our society.
It made no sense to me while I was processing these as a child, but Now I am an adult, and I can understand that these taboos are deeply rooted in our culture. It will not go away until we, as an individual will start opposing it. I am hopeful for the younger generations that they will not pass on these stupid taboos to the next generations. And the older women are also somewhat responsible for this and if they will start speaking up about it.
I believe these taboos will go away because it needs to go away.
Feel free to drop a comment on what type of taboo around periods you have witnessed while growing up.
8 Myths about period every woman has to face5 minute
Hey! Aren’t you on your period? Then how can you…? Yes! We’ve all heard a lot of these from our parents, relatives and friends. Periods, the name itself has a lot of taboos and myths surrounding it. Let’s take it from the start, periods are a very natural phenomenon that most of us are very hesitant to talk about. Many of us don’t openly talk about periods and that is exactly where the problem lies. We believe the myths surrounding them which aren’t even true and keep passing them on to the generations down the line. So, let us bust a few myths for you today:
- Periods is only a woman’s thing:
Menstruation is mostly considered as something that only a woman goes through, but here is something that we all don’t know. Menstruation doesn’t only happen to women; transgender and intersex individuals also experience periods. This is something that not many people know including women themselves, so the next time we’re talking about periods it’s not only a woman’s thing.
- Having sex during periods prevents pregnancy:
Most of us think that having sex while we’re on our periods reduces the risk of becoming pregnant. NO! This is a huge myth; it depends on the menstrual cycle of each woman. Sometimes women are least fertile when they are on their period but sometimes it can be the opposite and they could be ovulating at the same time of their period. This mostly depends on the length of the menstrual cycle which varies from individual to individual because each woman is unique in her own way Hence, the next time you want to have sex, it is best to use protection and not your period.
- Having a bath causes problem in your bleeding:
Who doesn’t love having a hot shower or a long bath in the tub? but having bath while you’re on your periods is bad because the hot water stimulates the blood flow and has ill effects on your health? Who-ever came up with this has no idea how relieving it is to have a hot water bath especially when you are on your periods and just need to relax yourself. There is no such thing that a hot water bath can cause, it is completely fine to have bath during periods, having mild fragrances and essences also help lighten the mood and obviously release your stress.
- Syncing periods:
Hey, you guys live together right? So, does that mean you both get your periods at the same time? In what world does living together mean getting periods at the same time? The concept of period synchrony- “synching of woman’s periods” first appeared as a scientific idea and was written in an article that women who live together or spend more time together tend have their periods synchronized. Initially they believed this happened because the woman who lived together exchanged Pheromones over time which led to this phenomenon, but later, studies were conducted again and this time the scientist failed to gather evidence for period synchrony and hence this became a myth.
- Exercising during periods:
How can you exercise when you are on your period? Doesn’t it increase the blood flow? Yes ladies! Periods can make us as hyper as a kid and can also make us a couch potato. Exercising while you’re on your periods have a lot of health benefits, it not only makes our body active but also helps in relieving the menstrual cramps and stress. We all assume that exercising on our periods can cause more cramps, but mild exercises and certain kinds of exercises helps to reduce the cramps. Exercising is good, but not straining your body through exercises because that might have a direct impact on your health. So, the next time you’re on your period make sure to exercise and most importantly relieve your cramps.
- Tampon causes loss of virginity:
Tampons definitely have a lot of myths surrounding it and one of the first and biggest one being that tampons will lose your virginity. The breaking of your hymen marks “loss of virginity”, and many people assume that by inserting a tampon can break the hymen. If that was the case, then we wouldn’t be menstruating in the first place because the hymen would block the blood from flowing, many of us don’t know that hymen is actually a thin membrane between the opening lines of the vagina. Tampons in anyway do not affect the hymen as it is very small and something that can be easily put inside for which you needn’t lose your virginity. To, All the ladies out there worrying about losing your virginity, ditch your pads and go for it.
- You can’t swim during your periods:
Going swimming during your period? Have you lost it? We all girls think about how awkward it is to go swimming because of the blood flow and release of bodily fluids in the water. Here is a thing that not many of us know, when we enter the pool or water it is likely to bleed especially because of the pressure in the water which acts as a barrier and stops the menstrual flow. Other than that, tampons and menstrual cups are preferred while entering the pool because it is also designed in such a way and it is also very comfortable. On the other hand, entering with a sanitary pad is something that you might want to re-consider. The next time someone questions you entering the pool while you’re on your period, Just Dive In!
- PMS isn’t a real thing:
For all you men or women out there who think PMS isn’t a real thing, you really haven’t been stabbed internally by your uterus every month! The pain is definitely real and we know how that feels girls. PMS, mostly known as the Pre-Menstrual Syndrome that happens to women before their periods and one of their common symptoms is bloating of the stomach and cramps. The cramps usually make women very cranky and moody throughout the day. Craving for an ooey gooey chocolate cake and in the next minute craving for a spicy biryani, we can be as happy as a little kid jumping around out of joy and within minutes feel like stabbing every next person we see. The cravings, the mood swings, the cramps are all PMS and VERY REAL. So, to everyone who think PMS is not real, No Uterus- No opinion!
Most of us would have heard or read about these things somewhere or the other, but the important factor lies in the part where you stop believing these myths. Periods are natural, it is a way a woman’s body functions and most importantly is a journey from a girl to a woman. So, the next time you hear anyone say things like this, try busting these myths from our side and enjoy their reactions to these myths as much as we enjoyed yours. Do write your reactions and any other myths that we’ve missed out which you want share with us right here in the comment section below.
Let’s keep it Glo-ing !
Re-Defining Menstruation3 minute
Your monthly visitor. Aunt Flo. Code red. For decades, learning the secret language of how to tell someone you’re on your period has been a rite of passage as much as getting your period itself. And the kids these days are getting creative. Ever heard of shark week? Arts and crafts week at Panty Camp? There are a million and one ways to tell our friends, family, boyfriends, and colleagues that we’re on our period. But why? Getting your period is a natural, normal thing, and we should be talking about it in clear, direct language.Here’s why you should say, and say it proud " I’M ON MY PERIOD"
What is a period/menstruation ? It is when blood and tissue from your uterus comes out of your vagina. It usually happens every month. During your menstrual cycle, hormones make the eggs in your ovaries mature. When an egg is mature, that means it’s ready to be fertilized by a sperm cell. These hormones also make the lining of your uterus thick and spongy. So if your egg does get fertilized, it has a nice cushy place to land and start a pregnancy.This lining is made of tissue and blood, like almost everything else inside our bodies. It has lots of nutrients to help a pregnancy grow. If pregnancy doesn’t happen, your body doesn’t need the thick lining in your uterus. Your lining breaks down, and the blood, nutrients, and tissue flow out of your body through your vagina. Voilà, it’s your period.
For millions of women worldwide, menstruation is seen as a mark of shame. Many are told not to discuss it in public, to hide their tampons and sanitary pads. The stigma is universal, rendering women and girls vulnerable to health problems and gender discrimination.The many stigmas around menstruation weigh heavy on female identity and are one of the core issues to discuss in regards to perpetual gender inequality.Menstruation stigma is a form of misogyny. Negative taboos condition us to understand menstrual function as something to be hidden, something shameful. It’s interesting that so much embarrassment, awkwardness, and shame surround a natural bodily function experienced by half the population at some point in their lives. We don’t hide toilet paper away, yet some women still get flustered if a tampon drops out of their handbag, or we might buy a floral-patterned tin to hide our sanitary pads.The stigma and its myths carry with it an oppressive notion that menstruating women are unclean. What perpetuates this are the hushed tones around menstruation, the euphemisms for it and the shortage of education and open dialogue about it.
While the global move to have sanitary pads easily accessible to the under-privileged shines a spotlight on the issue, and how it infringes on girls and women’s human rights, while demystifying sexual reproductive health and menstrual health management, there’s still room for a broader conversation. The stigma around periods and the lack of proper information means many girls rely on what their family or friends tell them, which is often inaccurate and can perpetuate menstrual myths. While we continue to keep silent on the subject of periods, women and girls will not be able to get the facilities and support they need to be able to deal with what is a normal part of life, hygienically and with dignity and hence, we all need to play our part in opening up the conversation.Speaking about an issue is the only way to combat its silence, and dialogue is the only way for innovative solutions to occur.Normalising menstruation as just a healthy, positive part of the female life cycle is really important.
Coronavirus Effects - How Your Menstrual Cycle Maybe Getting Affected2 minute
Periods are painful, unwelcome, and quite frankly just annoying when they intrude on a lovely day. But as much as you dread them, it’s way scarier to not have your period show up on time, is it not?
Turns out the stress and change induced by this deadly pandemic could be a reason your period is delayed.
Here’s the thing: The feeling of being united together in these stressful times of a world pandemic, especially with social media acting as “man’s best friend” right now, is very temporarily soothing to the mind. But this doesn’t mean you’re not feeling any stress. You probably are, without even realizing it.
A 360-degree change in your routine - right from work timings, to eating and sleeping schedules and even socializing patterns - all broken in a span of a few weeks. This is bound to bring underlying stress to your mind and body even if you don't consciously feel it all the time.
As a result of this stress, your body is bound to react - either in the form of breakouts, chest pains or even with causing havoc in your period cycle.
Let’s get science-y
Stress activates a hormonal pathway that allows the release of what is known as cortisol AKA the stress hormone. Now the excess release of cortisol tends to suppress normal levels of reproductive hormones. This, in turn, leads to abnormal ovulation that disrupts your menstrual cycle. This is also why doctors claim that birth control pills might not be so effective at stressful times (especially if not taken at approx the same time every day). Even trying to conceive a child with abnormal ovulation may become more difficult than usual.
Although these are some extreme consequences (and quite normal at these times), you may experience other, not-so-drastic changes such as heavy blood flow, longer cycles, or more intense pain than usual.
How to try and bring back things to normal?
If you’re a blessed soul with a cooperative uterus, good for you. But if you experience any of the above-mentioned abnormalities, acknowledge that it is mostly okay and not a reason to panic. You can use a period tracker like clue or flo to make note of your period dates, inconsistency in flow/cramps/duration, and set up a call with your doctor if the irregularities continue to remain even months after the lockdown.
Other than that, since you’re now aware of WHY your period cycle is affected, you can aim to reduce cortisol levels in your body and bring down that stress either by practicing deep breathing/yoga every day, ditching negativity brought by news channels, getting sufficient sleep at normal hours and simply focusing on self-care.
All That You Must Know About A Menstrual Cycle6 minute
As much as you dread your “time of the month”, periods are equally scary when they don’t show up. So embrace them, own them and wear your period like a trademark of being a woman.
Even with countless “sex education” seminars in schools and colleges, there are still so many unanswered questions that need to be attended to. Females grow up with periods and aren’t even fully aware of the things that happen in their own bodies. The lack of knowledge leads to a rise in doubts. Doubts convert to fears. And guess what? These very fears revert back to hormonal changes that (drumroll) messes with their period!
This article aims to cover all those unanswered questions about having your period in a concise “all you need to know about a menstrual cycle”.
Menstrual Cycle and ‘The period’ - Explained
Even though it might sound correct to use the words ‘period’ and ‘menstrual cycle’ as synonyms to one another in conversations, they don't actually mean the same.
While ‘a period’ is that part of a menstrual cycle when a female bleeds from her vagina for 2-7 days (on an average), a menstrual cycle is the time from day one of a female’s period to the day before her next. Depending on hormones, a new menstrual cycle begins every 28 days although some women’s cycles could last anywhere between 21 and 40 days.
It is important to note that girls are taught these as ‘facts’ in biology textbooks at very young ages and panic when their periods don’t live up to such accuracy. Reality: For the first few years of a young female starting her period, it is very normal for her period to come irregularly and stabilize in a couple of years.
What actually happens in the female body during a menstrual cycle?
First things first. At the start of a menstrual cycle, ovulation takes place, when the levels of a hormone called estrogen starts to rise and signals for an egg to be released from a female’s ovaries. You get your period after the ovulation.
During the process of estrogen rising, progesterone (another hormone) also rises and signals the wall of the uterus AKA ‘the womb’ to thicken. This is like signaling the uterus to be prepared to receive a fertilised egg. The egg travels from the ovaries through the fallopian tubes and right into the (now ready) uterus.
Under normal circumstances, two things can happen here on. One, is that the egg gets fertilised by a sperm which in turn, leads to a pregnancy. In case the egg doesn’t get fertilised by a sperm (within approximately 24 hours) then the egg gets reabsorbed by the body and everything else reverses. Levels of estrogen and progesterone fall back, the womb lining breaks and leaves the body through the female’s vagina - hence ‘the period’.
Periods are usually heavier on the first 2 or 3 days, during which the colour of the blood is red. As it lightens, the blood may become pink, brown or even black. (again, totally normal)
Periods usually last between two to eight days. The average age for a female to start her period is 11 years old, but of course, some start earlier and some later than this too.
Menstrual Cycle- Signs and Symptoms of Periods and PMS
Now that you’ve familiarized yourself with the very purpose of menstruation, let's get into the visible changes that occur in your body before and during your period.
If it were just the lining of your uterus flowing out as blood through your vagina, it would probably not affect your body and mental health as much. Maybe just an occurrence of physical changes in your body and that’s about it. But since this sadly isn’t the case, and changes much larger such as rising hormones (estrogen and progesterone) take place a couple of days before your period starts, females do experience symptoms - both physical and mental.
There are close to a hundred known symptoms attributed to menstruation and these might differ with each cycle and gradually even change over a period of time. Some women experience close to no symptoms, while some sadly experience too many and all at once.
The most common symptoms of a period include:
- Tender breasts
- Muscle pain
- Joint pain
- Trouble sleeping
- Bloating/Fluid retention
- Abdominal cramps
- Lower back pain
- Low energy/fatigue
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Weight gain
PMS (Pre-menstrual syndrome)
Since most hormonal changes in your body occur even before the egg enters the uterus, it is natural that changes start to take place in your body before you start to bleed i.e, before you get your periods. Most women get at least some signs of the arrival of their period (tender breasts and food cravings), but some suffer from rather severe symptoms or Premenstrual syndrome. The symptoms are similar to those of a period with added emotional and behavioural signs such as anxiety, depression, anger outbursts, mood swings, forgetfulness, loss of focus and feelings of overwhelm.
Given an option to unsubscribe from this monthly catastrophe that pops up like a calendar event - a lot of girls would cheerfully opt out. But that’s not how the female body works, is it? So it’s best to be prepared for something that you’re going to witness month on month.
Dealing with Periods and PMS Symptoms like a bawse:
There are a lot of known ways to manage your periods and reduce the pain and mental stress that come with it. Some of them that seem to work for most women, (and what you can do too) are as follows:
- Exercise for at least 30 minutes. Fun Fact: women who are sedentary and do not get regular exercise typically have heavier and more painful periods.
- Eat healthy meals consisting of whole grains, vegetables and fruits. Contradictory to popular beliefs of ‘giving in to your cravings’ and ‘pampering your taste buds’ during your period, eating a balanced diet helps with more than just fixing your mood at this time of the month.
- Hot showers and hot water bags do wonders to calm those abdominal cramps, even if it's just for a little while.
- Try tea therapy - Chamomile to relax your mind and peppermint to help with period bloating.
- Avoid alcohol, smoking and salt.
- Although this should be your last option (if all else fails), try over-the-counter painkillers like ibuprofen, naproxen or acetaminophen and be sure to follow the dosage instructions as mentioned on the label.
- Lastly, get enough sleep. A lack of restful sleep reduces your pain threshold and this is not what you want when you already have cramps attacking you in the middle of the day.
For more such interesting period hacks you can check out this article.
How do you know when there’s a possibility of a problem:
Normally, all the discomforts associated with getting your period should be manageable enough that you’re able to carry on with normal day-to-day activities. However, some females experience severe symptoms that make it difficult for them to carry out even the most basic tasks.
Even though most of these symptoms might seem normal, it’s better to consult a GP in case things seem to go out of hand:
Although mild pain caused by periods is normal, the kind that gets in the way of your daily life should be consulted with a GP. Period pain can be relieved with the help of exercise, taking over-the-counter painkillers, such as ibuprofen or paracetamol. If it’s the kind of pain that is intolerable, it might be a cause of concern (dysmenorrhea) and should be looked into.
Some women naturally have heavier periods than others, but for periods so heavy that they impact daily life, a GP should be consulted to investigate further into the abnormally heavy bleeding.
Irregular periods can be common during puberty or before menopause and can consist of a variation between time of periods (arriving early or late), the amount of blood lost (heavy/light), and the number of days a period lasts.
Stress too, acts as a factor that messes up your period cycle. A lot of women have been experiencing this now more than ever given the current COVID-19 situations and the nation-wide lockdown. If you’ve been experiencing the same, this pandemic might be taking a negative toll on your monthly cycle here.
Most of the time, irregular periods are nothing to worry about, but it’s best to get yourself checked nonetheless.
This is a very painful condition that occurs when tissue that is similar to the lining of the womb starts to grow in other places like the ovaries and fallopian tubes. Not all women who have endometriosis have serious symptoms but it could impact heavily on some females’ lives by causing painful periods, pelvic pain, pain while passing urine/excretion, nausea or depression. Although there is no cure to endometriosis currently, treatments are available to manage symptoms.
Problems that seem normal (but might not actually be)
Sudden changes like periods lasting longer or getting lighter, bleeding between periods, bleeding after having sex, or bleeding after the menopause NEED to be consulted by a doctor. There might not be anything wrong, but it should be investigated to rule out an infection, abnormality or in rare cases, cancer.
The Menstrual Hygiene War: settled once and for all
Sanitary pads, tampons, menstrual cups - which of the three is the better option for you? Although no single answer could be true for every situation, weighing the pros and cons of all these menstrual hygiene products can sure help you pick what personally suits you best.
The oldest of the three, sanitary napkins have evolved so much in the past years to become slimmer, get wings and turn liquid to gel to help you have an easy, stain-free period. Although they have a variety of pros such as no painful insertions (or any insertion at all), no risks of Toxic shock syndrome and no stains - because they happen to be the most absorbent of the three - pads have their own usage restrictions.
For one, you can't wear a thong, so bye-bye favorite party skirts. Swimming too, is really uncomfortable with a pad on. But besides this, sanitary pads are a cause of concern for many other reasons:
- Pads contain bleach that could increase the risk of cancer
- If not changed regularly, you’re at risk of developing an infection
- If you happen to be active, the constant chafing between your legs can give you a rash
- Pads take about 500 years to fully decompose(!) so they’re basically horror stories for the environment
Females who would rather suffer the initial discomfort on insertion if it means not having to feel a diaper stuck to them for 5 straight days, usually opt for tampons.
Again, tampons too have their pros and cons. It allows you to wear what you feel like (you can literally grab the most body-hugging dress in your closet with nothing to worry about), keeps the blood from getting outside your vagina, and is so discrete to carry around.
But just like pads, tampons come with a bundle of problems associated with their usage:
- Because tampons have the ability to soak up your vagina’s natural lubrication, there’s a risk that they may lead to TSS or Toxic Shock Syndrome
- Tampons, much like pads, contain bleach that could lead to cancer
- Inserting discomfort, or general discomfort associated with first-timers is an unavoidable problem (especially with societal stigmas like ‘loss of virginity’ stuck to them)
Beating the cons of both pads and tampons, more and more women are moving toward using menstrual cups in an attempt to go eco-friendly.
There’s no risk of TSS, it's a hundred percent chemical-free and requires very few changes. Menstrual cups are non-messy and don’t pose a threat to the environment like pads and tampons do, so they’re clearly in the win here.
If you are a new owner of Menstrual cup and are not sure how to use it, watch a few instructional videos on youtube, and you’ll be good to go.
We vouch by OrganiCup’s in-depth instructional video How to use a menstrual cup
Our favorite Youtuber Dolly Singh’s real take on Menstrual cups, in case you don’t want to do it the normal way: Dolly Singh's views on the menstrual cup
The only con of using a menstrual cup (besides the fact that some women might resist insertion) is that the cleaning of one is a little cumbersome considering it has to be sterilized after every change to avoid any chance of infection.
Now that you know the pros and cons of each of these menstrual hygiene products, making a choice is relatively easy. Although menstrual cups seem like they should be the winner, it's not a widely accepted product yet. People are still trying to find their ways to get comfortable with inserting something that is literally called a ‘cup’ into their vaginas and this switch is going to take time. Besides, if you’re already suffering from an infection, insertion of a tampon or a menstrual cup - not a great idea. In such situations, a pad is an ideal option.
Whatever you choose, place your comfort before any other factor. After all, there’s enough discomfort caused by your periods itself, so the products you use must be ones that make your period more bearable.
More on menstrual hygiene
FAQs on Menstrual Cycle
1. When do periods stop?
The menopause is when a woman stops to have periods and naturally becomes unable to get pregnant. Until this period of menopause, periods continue. (Bummer, right?)
The average age of menopause is 51, however, some women can reach menopause earlier or later than this (as early as 30s or as late as their 60s). Periods may become less frequent over a few months or years or may stop suddenly. 1 in 100 women experience premature menopause and will reach menopause before the age of 40.
Not all women experience menopause in the same way but many common symptoms include hot flushes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, difficulty sleeping, low mood and anxiety, reduced sex drive and problems with memory and concentration.
A GP can offer treatment and suggest lifestyle changes for severe menopausal symptoms that affect day-to-day life.
2. What are the reasons for a missed period?
However, some women will not have periods for many complex and diverse reasons. Just a few examples may be because of medical issues, some may undergo early menopause (when a woman stops having periods and becomes unable to get pregnant naturally), some may have had a hysterectomy (when the uterus is removed for medical reasons), some may be transgender, or some through complications because of eating disorders.
Stopped or missed periods: Some common reasons for why a woman may miss her monthly period include pregnancy, stress, sudden weight loss or gain, extreme over-exercising, an eating disorder, hormonal problems, pregnancy, breastfeeding and reaching the menopause, though there may be many more reasons also. Speak to a GP about stopped or missed periods.
3. Can I get pregnant if I have sex during periods?
It’s highly unlikely that you could get pregnant if you had sex during your period. Although, there's a small chance that the sperm survives in your body for 5 days. So it’s safe to say that it’s risky business to have unprotected sex towards the end of your period since you might be ovulating a couple of days after the end of your monthly cycle.
4. What are the benefits and drawbacks of period sex?
Unless it causes you discomfort or pain, there’s no reason to avoid having sex during your period. It's safe for both partners, although it can sometimes get messy. It is important to understand that while it is fine to have sex during your period, you would still need to use protection. You’re more vulnerable to STDs, and pregnancy is still on the list of possibilities. Respect your body and stay safe with your partner.
Pros of having sex on your period:
Reduced Menstrual Cramps: A natural way to get rid of that period pain as opposed to painkillers is having an orgasm. When you orgasm, the muscles of your uterus contract. Then they release. This brings relief from period cramps. Orgasms can also release endorphins that make you feel good about yourself. Boy, did you ever think sex was the answer to all your problems? Well, it is.
Natural Lubrication. When you have period sex, blood acts as a natural lubricant and is one of the biggest perks of having sex while on period.
Shorter periods: Having sex during your period can shorten its duration. (It’s true!) The contracting of your uterus during an orgasm could speed up the shedding period of your uterus lining.
More pleasurable sex: You’ve probably already noticed a change in your libido around this time of the month, so you might as well put it to good use!
Cons of having sex on your period:
Things can get (pretty) ugly: When you have sex while on your period, things could get messy real quick. There’s a chance that blood could get on you, on your partner, and the sheets. There’s also the fact that period blood can emit an unpleasant smell. So if you’re the kind of person who’s going to be living in constant worry of this ugliness, you’re probably not going to enjoy sex as much.
Possible risk of an STI: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, having sex on your period could increase your risk of getting or transmitting an STI, such as HIV. The virus may be present in your period blood. For this very reason, doctors strongly recommend that you use a condom to decrease the risk.
5. Will my hymen break if I use a tampon?
Tampons work just as fine for girls who are virgins as they do for girls who have had sex. And although using a tampon could occasionally cause your hymen to stretch/tear, it doesn’t cause you to lose your virginity because only having sex could do that.
6. Is clotting during periods normal?
Women often worry when they see clots in their menstrual blood, but it’s perfectly normal and very rarely a cause for concern. These blood clots are nothing but a mix of blood cells, tissue from the lining of the womb and protein in the blood that helps regulate flow.
7. What is PCOS?
PCOS or Polycystic ovary syndrome is a condition that affects how a female’s ovaries work. The three prominent symptoms of PCOS are irregular periods, excess facial/body hair due to high levels of testosterone or ‘male hormones’, and polycystic ovaries where the ovaries become enlarged and contain many fluid-filled sacs (follicles). There is no cure for PCOS, although symptoms can be treated.
8. What is Toxic Shock Syndrome?
Toxic shock syndrome is a sudden, potentially fatal condition caused by the release of toxins from an overgrowth of bacteria called staph, which is found in many female bodies. Toxic shock syndrome primarily affects menstruating women, especially those who use super-absorbent tampons.
While instructions on a tampon box encourage women to change their tampon at least every 8 hours, sometimes people forget to change them or occasionally even tend to lose them. Leaving a tampon in for longer than 8-12 hours increases the risk of infection or possible TSS.
With this, it’s also important to note that the availability of free information on the internet today does not necessarily give it a credibility stamp. A lot of it circulating might be false and misleading. Some of the facts put out on content websites are a result of age old myths that have existed but are utterly absurd! Some of these myths have passed on for generations and people just happen to blindly believe them. You can read all about these popular myths that are believed to be true even today on PMS myths & Period Myths
Be sure to look for information (especially) relating to women's health and menstruation only on credible sources to avoid ridiculous rumours that are only here to hoodwink you.
8 things to stop doing when you are on your periods!5 minute
Periods can either make you super hyper or either a couch potato, there’s no in-between. When we are on our periods, we usually crawl up in our beds with a hot water bag and definitely eat A LOT of food while we binge on our favourite shows. We have a lot of cravings and mood swings on our periods, but not many of us know about the few effects that some of these have on our health because of our period habits. Here are 8 things that you’re not supposed to do when you’re on periods:
Periods can either make you super hyper or either a couch potato, there’s no in-between. When we are on our periods, we usually crawl up in our beds with a hot water bag and definitely eat A LOT of food while we binge on our favourite shows. We have a lot of cravings and mood swings on our periods, but not many of us know about the few effects that some of these have on our health because of our period habits. Here are 8 things that you’re not supposed to do when you’re on periods:
- Avoid Salty Food-
This is the time when you crave a lot of food, especially things like chips, fries and mostly junk food. Most of us don’t know that eating salty food during our periods has an effect on our health. Eating salty food during periods will make women feel more bloated and also play a role in worsening the cramps than it already is. This is the reason why we should avoid salty food and eat healthy because we really don’t want to end up with really bad cramps and a bloated stomach.
- Unprotected sex? No way-
Periods can get tricky; you can go from don’t touch me at all to getting very horny. Having sex during periods is considered good for women because it reduces the cramps and obviously gives a lot of pleasure (until and unless your partner is comfortable doing it.) Since, most of us think that having sex during periods prevents chances of pregnancy which is a huge myth, but they also go in for unprotected sex. It is very important to have sex with protection because blood acts as a medium in transferring the virus and bacteria from the vagina to the pelvis, which is why having unprotected sex during periods can lead you to STD’S (Sexually Transmitted Diseases) and many bacterial infections.
- No to Dairy foods-
A bowl of Mac N Cheese or a cheesy grilled sandwich is all it takes for us to be happy. We all love cheese as much as you do… but you might want to consider this option while you’re on your period. Eating foods that have dairy in it can create indigestion and problems of gas, this discomfort in the stomach can make the person very annoyed. If you love a lot of dairy in your food, then you might want to skip it, especially during your periods because we don’t want you to have an upset stomach as well as an upset uterus.
- Coffee is not your Best Friend-
Our day doesn’t start without coffee and for all of you out there who loves coffee, we’re sorry to break your heart but coffee during periods is a NO! Coffee contains caffeine and consuming a lot of caffeine is bad but consuming a lot of caffeine during your period is even worse. The caffeine causes a lot of mood swings and discomfort, we tend to become very restless and irritated during this time. Cramps are something that we want to avoid and drinking coffee can worsens your menstrual cramps, maybe you can switch to something like green tea when you’re on your periods to feel less bloated and irritated. We all know how much you love coffee, but coffee can wait.
- No compromise on sleep-
Sleeping is something everyone loves to do. You’re bored? You sleep; You’re lazy, you sleep; You’re sad, you sleep and when you’re happy also, you sleep. We usually don’t give a lot of attention to our sleeping patterns normally and compromise on it, but pulling an all-nighter during periods is a big NO! We already go through a lot of hormonal changes during periods but staying up all night or sleeping for just a few hours might not only affect your hormones but also increase the severity of our period. All the girls out there thinking that it’s okay to skip your sleep and it’s no big deal, you definitely don’t want to stress yourself out and be in tremendous pain. So, SLEEP because sleep is the mantra to all your problems.
- No Smoking – especially during periods-
Smoking is a very big taboo for girls in most parts of the country, but today girls have come out open and tend to do what they wish. Smoking or no smoking is completely your personal choice, but smoking during your period is something we wouldn’t want you to do. Periods are painful and smoking makes it worse, girls who smoke tend to go through more pain than non-smokers. The cramps can last up to two or more days and can be very painful, which is why we recommend you to say no to smoking while you’re menstruating.
- Waxing will be a No! –
Waxing? What does waxing have to do with periods? Maybe if you want to get a bikini wax done then yeah… but still how? Waxing itself is painful and everyone who has got waxing done knows what we’re talking about, when you wax during your periods the pain increases because your skin becomes more sensitive and your pain receptors are heightened. This will increase the pain in your body and you will feel ten times worse than what you actually feel. There are other options which you can try out other than waxing, get yourself pampered with a spa treatment.
- Changing the pad or tampon-
This is one of the biggest mistakes that most of us do and need to stop doing right now! We all should understand how important period hygiene is and should start following it for our own benefit. Most often we forget to change our pads or tampons because of our work schedules or busy days. We should change our pads or tampons every four hours to avoid odour, bacterial infection and heavy bleeding. This way we can avoid infections and maintain period hygiene. Most of us do not follow this and should start doing it right away because no one is going to benefit from this except ourselves.
We all do so many things and most of the time it's wrong, or we don’t know how to do it and we don’t do it because we don’t feel like. Let us start by doing something right than repeating the same mistakes, starting from now. We would love to know what you feel about this and do feel free to leave your comments below and let us know your opinions.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): How To Treat It Naturally!5 minute
This article discusses everything you need to know about PCOS, how to treat it naturally, and the common myths surrounding it.
There’s so much conversation about PCOS (Short for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) today that it’s becoming quite a challenge to decipher what the facts of this condition really are. There are so many symptoms of the syndrome that are not easily identifiable or may seem unsurprising and knotted with symptoms of other conditions like PMS, menstruation, or various mental disorders.
Many women who have PCOS aren’t even aware of it. In a study conducted, 70 percent of women with PCOS hadn’t been diagnosed. This is primarily why a fact check on the topic is the need of the hour and we’re here to do it for you.
Read along as this article discusses everything you need to know about PCOS, how to treat it naturally, and the common myths surrounding it.
Doctors have been trying to fully uncover the symptoms of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) in women since the 1700s. Yet, here we are hundreds of years later with the underlying reasons for this common women’s health issue - has remained a mystery.
Although the subject still remains vastly researched, there is new evidence found by experts in endocrinology that help discern the causes of this condition and offer a great deal of direction to achieve a rather advanced cure.
What is PCOS?
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, popularly known as PCOS is a common hormonal condition (affecting as many as 1 in 10 women in their childbearing ages) that causes females to produce higher-than-usual amounts of male hormones. An imbalance in reproductive hormones causes problems in a woman’s ovaries - the organs that (almost) solely regulate a healthy period cycle. As a result, women who have PCOS tend to have irregular/missed periods and find it difficult to get pregnant. Irregular periods, besides being the leading cause of infertility, are also responsible for the development of small fluid-filled sacs called cysts in the ovaries.
Symptoms of PCOS
Earlier in this article, we spoke of how PCOS symptoms are a wee bit tricky to discern. So while some women start to notice symptoms around the time of their first period, some only discover they have PCOS after gaining a whole lot of weight or have a hard time getting pregnant. If you happen to notice any or most of these symptoms, it’s best that you get yourself checked as a precautionary measure.
Common Symptoms of PCOS include:
Heavy bleeding at the time of menstruation: Since the lining of the uterus takes longer than usual to build-up, it is likely that you will have heavier bleeding than normal.
Irregular (or no) Periods: The lack of ovulation prevents the lining of the uterus from shedding every month. While some women might have fewer than 8 periods a year, some don’t get their period at all.
Excess (Body) Hair Growth: Fueled by male hormones, females with PCOS tend to have excess hair growth on their face and body - a condition known as hirsutism.
Hormonal Acne: Male hormones result in the secretion of excess oil that is likely to surface as acne on your face and upper back.
Weight Gain: This is one of the most common symptoms of PCOS. Over 80% of women who have PCOS are overweight/obese.
Hair Loss/Thinning: While body hair grows in excess, the hair on your scalp starts to get thinner - again, as a result of all the male hormones.
Headaches: There are many hormonal changes that happen to women who suffer from PCOS which can trigger headaches.
Skin Darkening: It is not uncommon to find dark patches of skin in women who have PCOS - especially on the neck, groin, and under the breasts.
Who is likely to get PCOS?
Given how common PCOS is, it still remains undiagnosed and unmanaged in many women who have it. Of those who have it, about 7 in 10 may go undiagnosed - a soaring cause of concern.
PCOS affects around 5-20% of women (often) between the age of 15 to 44, i.e, women of child-bearing age. It can happen at any age after puberty. Although PCOS doesn’t target particular ethnicities or racial groups, obesity can increase one’s chances of developing the same.
While the causes of PCOS are still sort of vague, there is enough evidence to prove that certain factors do play a significant role in contracting the syndrome.
PCOS sometimes also runs in families. A woman with a family history of PCOS is often more likely to be at risk of developing the condition.
This suggests there may be a genetic link to PCOS, although genes associated with this condition have been identified.
- Insulin Resistance
Insulin is produced by the pancreas in order to control the amount of sugar in the blood. It’s the hormone that helps in moving glucose from the blood into our cells, where it's then broken down to produce energy.
Insulin resistance, as the name suggests, means that the body's tissues are resistant to the effects of insulin. In such a situation, the body would have to produce excess insulin in order to compensate. Higher levels of insulin lead to the production of excess testosterone which in turn tows with the development of follicles - preventing normal ovulation in women.
Insulin resistance may also lead to excess weight gain, which makes the symptoms of PCOS much worse because excess fat causes the body to produce even more insulin.
- Higher levels of androgens
Androgens, also known as "male hormones," are produced in some quantity in all women. They control the development of male traits, such as body hair growth, male-pattern baldness and back and chest acne. Women with PCOS have higher levels of androgens than what is considered to be normal. Higher than normal androgen levels in women can prevent ovaries from releasing an egg during each menstrual cycle and is a common cause for infertility in women.
PCOS and Infertility
Women who have PCOS often find it difficult to get pregnant. This is an obvious result of the condition since high levels of male hormones curb with the monthly ovulation process. But even though PCOS causes infertility, you can get treated for the same by eradicating a few of its symptoms.
With a combination of the following, you can aim to naturally increase your chances of getting pregnant:
- A change in diet that aims to decrease fat percentage in your body - even a mere 5% weight loss has shown significant results in women
- Healthy Eating
- Regular Exercise
- Monitoring ovulation timings to pre-plan sexual intercourse
If you’re unable to get pregnant by simply making these lifestyle changes, you can either get treated with medication, surgery (which includes removal of a small amount of tissue producing the excess male hormone) or Vitro Fertilisation (IVF). Although, in most cases of PCOS, lifestyle changes are sufficient to get pregnant.
PCOS and Pregnancy
While getting pregnant might seem like an easier battle to overcome for someone who as PCOS, pregnancy itself can involve a risk of complications that include:
- High Blood Pressure
- Premature Birth
PCOS is also shown to increase the likelihood of needing a cesarean delivery because the baby might be larger than normal for their gestational age.
Babies born to women with PCOS would also have a greater risk of dying at the time of delivery or being admitted to a NICU (Newborn Intensive Care Unit)
All of this suggests that you must talk to your doctor before considering pregnancy with PCOS to be aware of the risks associated and discuss ways to better manage complications as well.
Diet Do’s and Don’ts for PCOS
There are plenty of meal plans available online for women with PCOS today. Although, some basic do’s and don’ts as part of a PCOS diet are as follows:
Foods that are high in fiber help with insulin resistance by slowing down the process of digestion. This could be highly beneficial to women with PCOS.
High-fiber foods to incorporate in a PCOS diet include:
- Fruits like apples and berries
- Green leafy vegetables and cruciferous vegetables including broccoli, Brussel sprouts, lettuce and kale
- Sweet potatoes
- Bell peppers
- Beans and lentils
A good protein source is also important as part of a healthy dietary option. Aim to include lean protein sources such as:
Another category of foods that are underestimated are ones that possess anti-inflammatory properties to help women with PCOS. These include:
- Blueberries and Strawberries
- Nuts including almonds and walnuts
- Olive oil
- Fatty fish like salmon and sardines
What to Avoid:
Foods that cause inflammation and worsen insulin resistance best be avoided or completely cut-off if you have PCOS. Refined Carbohydrates not only cause inflammation but also exacerbate insulin resistance. These include:
- White bread or anything made with white flour
- Wheat pasta ( a good alternative is pasta made from bean or lentil)
- Sugary Desserts (Sugar, in general, is high in carbs and must be avoided)
- Breakfast Pastries like muffins or croissants
- Pasta noodles that are made of durum flour or semolina
- Sugary sodas or juices
Food labels to look out for: (To be avoided)
- High fructose corn syrup
Inflammation-causing foods to avoid:
- Fried food
- Processed meat or red meat
PCOS and Thyroid - Are the two connected?
There's a growing consensus in the medical research industry that hypothyroidism and PCOS might be closely linked - although this is not yet proven to be true. A popular research paper was published discussing the emerging relationship between PCOS and Thyroid disorders.
There are many overlapping characteristics of the two most common endocrine disorders. The issue with PCOS/PCOD and a thyroid disorder is that both of them often display symptoms that are very similar and many times, one may look like the other. After all, both are changes in hormones that result in common symptoms including weight gain, irregular periods, infertility and hair loss.
Often, a doctor will first carry out necessary thyroid disorder diagnostic checks to rule out any thyroid disorder while diagnosing you for PCOS. This also helps to find out if there is any sort of link between the two and assess the kind of treatment plans that are best suitable for you.
In case you happen to be tested positive for both, your doctor may suggest a treatment plan that includes lifestyle changes, such as following a proper sleep routine, choosing foods with a low glycemic index (GI) score, reducing stress, adding some form of exercise to your daily routine and prescribe supplements (or medication) if necessary.
Common Myths about PCOS- Busted!
Myth 1: PCOS is Rare
It is estimated that between 5-20 percent of women of childbearing age have PCOS, which makes it one of the most common hormonal disorders among women of reproductive age.
The only problem is, less than half of these women with PCOS are actually diagnosed, meaning that millions are still unaware of their condition.
Myth 2: You can’t get pregnant if you have PCOS
As mentioned earlier in the article, this isn’t true. Most women can treat symptoms either naturally or with medication/surgery in order to get pregnant. A number of medications stimulate ovulation - tackling the main issue that women with PCOS face.
Other fertility treatments for women with PCOS include assisted reproductive technologies like in-vitro fertilization.
On the other hand, if you’re not trying to get pregnant and you have PCOS, it is unsafe to assume that you don't need contraception. It might be harder than usual to get pregnant with PCOS but it is still very possible.
Myth 3: PCOS only affects women who are overweight
Although many women who have PCOS are either overweight or obese and this can make PCOS symptoms worse, the condition can also affect women on the leaner side.
The relationship between weight gain and PCOS is attributable to the body's inability to use insulin properly, hence it is recommended to get into the habit of eating healthy and exercising as part of most treatment plans.
Myth 4: Every woman grows hair where she doesn’t want it
A common symptom of PCOS is hirsutism, which is excess hair growth in women. Due to an excess of androgens, women with PCOS can spot unwanted hair on their upper lip, chin, or chest - but not every woman will have this as a symptom.
Myth 5: You don't have to worry about PCOS if you’re not looking to get pregnant
PCOS doesn’t just tow with a woman’s fertility, it has an impact on overall wellness for the rest of her life. More than half of the women who have PCOS also suffer from diabetes or prediabetes and are more prone to high BP, poor cholesterol, stress, anxiety, depression and endometrial cancer. Irrespective of whether or not you’re looking to get pregnant, if you have PCOS, you must seek to get treatment for the same.
Myth 6: Insulin Resistance causes weight gain
While this may sound just about true, in reality, even experts aren’t sure why women with PCOS are often overweight. Many people think that it is because of insulin resistance, but while weight gain may cause insulin resistance, insulin resistance doesn’t necessarily cause weight gain.
Myth 7: Women with PCOS can lose weight like others
While it might be possible to lose a modest amount of weight, women with PCOS don’t find it easy. They often would have to exercise more and eat less than most people even to maintain their weight. Unlike other people with no hormonal imbalances (where weight loss is as simple as calories in vs calories out), it is far more complex for women with PCOS since a whole lot of factors contribute to their weight loss.
Supplements for PCOS
Supplements recommended for PCOS are often ones that help with hormone regulation, insulin resistance and inflammation that in turn considerably reduce its symptoms.
Cinnamon: Cinnamon extract is shown to have a considerable effect on insulin resistance and also helps regulate menstruation.
Chromium: Chromium supplements improve BMI (Body Mass Index), which could help with PCOS. Moreover, they might also stabilize insulin resistance by helping the body to metabolize sugar.
Turmeric: Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric that is proven to be promising to decrease insulin resistance. Besides, turmeric also happens to be a popular anti-inflammatory agent.
Inositol: Inositol is a B vitamin that is shown to reduce insulin resistance and also help with fertility in many cases of PCOS.
Zinc: Zinc is a trace element that is shown to immensely boost fertility and one’s immune system. Excess hair growth can also be treated with zinc supplements.
Foods high in zinc include beans, red meat, tree nuts and some types of seafood that can be incorporated in a PCOS diet plan.
A combination of Vitamin D and Calcium: Both of these happen to be vital to a woman’s endocrine system. Most women with PCOS are found to have a Vitamin D deficiency and supplements of the two in the right amounts are proven to improve irregular periods.
Berberine: A popular herb in Chinese medicine, berberine too helps with insulin resistance along with ramping up your metabolism.
Evening Primrose oil: Primrose oil treats many symptoms associated with PCOS including irregular periods, cholesterol levels and stress.
Cod Liver Oil: Cod liver oil supplements consist of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D and A - all of which contribute to regulating periods as well as aiding fat loss.
The mentioned supplements are proven to help women with PCOS but you must speak to your doctor before taking any, as some of them might interfere with other PCOS medications.
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