In my post last week (All About Periods pt 1) I went over what the menstrual cycle is, different phases throughout the month, PMS and PMDD, conditions like PCOS, menopause, and more; definitely check that out to get a general overview of these topics. I think it’s always nice to get different perspectives so this post will focus on personal experience + tips and tricks that help my fellow Tulhoma writers and me with our cycles and symptoms.
Collection Methods (our thoughts on menstrual cups)
Most people have formed their opinions on pads and tampons but period underwear and menstrual cups are newer products on the market and have some mixed reviews. None of us have tried the former, but we have all had our own experiences with menstrual cups.
Alexys: Before quarantine, I was very hesitant to use a menstrual cup because I spent so much time out of the house. The thought of changing it in a public place really put me off. However, I do like that it is a sustainable option and can be convenient to use on days spent around the house. I also think it is a more economical option if you do like using a cup because tampons and pads can (unfortunately) get pricey. After doing some reserach on different brands I decided the Lunette cup would be the best choice for me, but I haven’t used it enough to form an opinion.
Taryn: I’ve tried the Lena (normal flow size) and have mixed feelings about it. When I got it in place, it was really comfortable and I didn’t have to mess with it all day. I liked using it on my lighter days because I was less worried about it leaking. I drink a lot of water (so I pee often) and using a cup versus tampons was so nice for that. However, I didn’t think it was easy to get in place. When I was at home setting it in place, no big deal. But I had to do it at work once and it just felt so awkward (we have a small bathroom and it’s right by the main office. I just prayed that I remembered to lock the door). I also couldn’t imagine the stress or difficulties of changing it while traveling. Like taking it out, cleaning it, and putting it back in place in a public bathroom, scary. I’m sure plenty of people have the method down and I think the cup I bought wasn’t as easy to use as other brands.
Bethany: I switched from tampons to menstrual cups because I wanted a more sustainable option. I have tried two brands, Blossom Cup and The Honey Pot, and I have likes and dislikes for both. Both come in two sizes – large and small – I prefer the small because I have never had children and my periods are pretty moderate. When I tried the large it was a bit uncomfortable trying to insert and get into place. With the blossom cup, I did have a little bit of difficulty getting it in place and I sometimes had to readjust it throughout the day. The honey pot went into place with one try almost every time. I also find that it is easiest to insert a menstrual cup while in the shower. Before I first tried the menstrual cup I watched YouTube videos to find out the best folding method for insertion and to listen to reviews for different brands. I have used tampons a couple of times since and I really notice a difference in comfort. I now notice how uncomfortable tampons can be and it’s really annoying to have to change them several times a day. With the menstrual cup, I only empty it about 3 times a day.
What we do for cramps
This is one of the most common symptoms that come with having a menstrual cycle, and although it affects every person to different severities, it can still be a monthly inconvenience for many.
Alexys: I’ve taken OTC medication for cramps, but the thing that helps me the most, even more than the OTC stuff, is a heating pad. I have a small electric heating pad which is nice for day time, but not something I want to fall asleep with on, so I have a microwavable hot/cold pack that I can use at bedtime if needed. I also adjust the temperature in my house if I get too hot or cold; any small thing I can do to maximize comfort is nice.
Taryn: I rarely have cramps now, but I did when I was younger. Warm baths and a mild pain reliever usually does it for me.
Bethany: I’m very lucky that I don’t cramp very often but when I do my go-to relief method is ibuprofen and a hot corn sack. I will usually lay the corn sack on my tummy when I get in bed to go to sleep because that seems to be when I notice the most cramping.
Supplements are recommended for hormonal health left and right and it’s hard to know which claims to trust.
Alexys: I took evening primrose oil capsules several years ago and did actually notice positive improvements; lighter periods, less cramping, and it also helped my cystic acne. However, I am much more cautious when trying anything OTC or DIY remedies now.
Taryn: I also tried primrose oil a few years ago for acne and I liked it. I also tried maca powder after a friend told me it helped her with her hormone imbalance. I was trying anything I could to get my skin under control. Although I don’t think I took it long enough to see major differences, I never had any bad side effects. But mostly I just drink extra water on my periods. It helps with bloat and fatigue.
Birth control, in relation to menstrual cycle.
Some of the most common questions and concerns involving birth control are how it will affect the menstrual cycle, side-effects, weight gain, etc. This is something you can discuss with your doctor to find out what is best for your individual health, but it does help to hear about other women’s experiences.
Taryn: I’ve taken birth control on and off for about 11 years. Without birth control, it wasn’t abnormal for my period to last over a week (heavy for 2-4 days, medium for 1-2 days, light for 1-2 days). Birth control helped knock down the days to about 5. I also used birth control to help control my acne, but that was hit and miss and wasn’t as effective as I hoped. The stronger the birth control, the better my acne was and the lighter my periods, but I always had a mental block of not wanting to pump my body full of hormones, so I liked the lighter birth controls. I never had serious issues, like personality changes or major weight gain, but know several friends who have experienced those issues. It’s important to realize how even a mild hormone change can completely affect your body.
Bethany: I took birth control for about 9 years and I never had any issues. When I stopped taking it I didn’t have a period for 7 months straight. I was a little worried that something may be wrong so I went to the gyno and she had me take medication to induce a period. It did work and I did have a cycle but then I went another 3 months without. My doctor said everything was fine, I was healthy and as long as I wasn’t trying to get pregnant I didn’t really need to have a period. So, I enjoyed a few months without a period and eventually, my body finally got back to normal and now my period is very regular. I know exactly which week I will start and if my last cycle was gentle then I will expect the next to be slightly heavier. Another issue I had after I stopped birth control was anemia and major weight loss. I’m sure a lot of you are thinking weight loss doesn’t sound like a problem but I lost around 20 pounds and I weighed around 110 pounds at one point. That’s smaller than I was in middle school. My doctor even asked if I had an eating disorder because my weight loss was so drastic but I can assure you that is not why I was losing weight. My diet was not at all healthy; I was eating fast food most of the time. It took about 2 years to finally start putting some weight back on and now I’m finally at a healthy weight that I am happy with.
Alexys: I briefly mentioned this in part 1 but I think using a tracking app or just paying more attention to your cycle throughout the month can bring to light useful information, especially if you experience any irregularities or disruptive symptoms. My favorite is Clue, but even keeping notes on your phone to tracking symptoms throughout the month on paper can be a great tool to take to your doctor’s appointments or just get more in tune with your health.
DISCLAIMER: This post is intended for informational and entertainment purposes only. This content is not meant to be a replacement for professional medical advice or treatment.