My period survival kit

This week is another period week for me. While trying to ‘normalise’ the new set of meds, I have to be slow in drawing the length between them back out to my normal, which is one every three months, keeping the total bleeding time within normal paramaters (no longer than 8 days) and hopefully over time seeing a reduction in all related symptoms – blood loss, both overall and moving from patchy to starting heavier then lessening to nothing, pain levels, length of the bleed, use of meds needed to control bleed, general feelings of dis-ease, etc. Its not a fun process, especially since this is the second time I’ve done this in my life, but over the last 15 ish years of period hell, I have developed quite a few coping mechanisms.

For blood soaking:

This year, I switched to organic pads. And yes, pads, not tampons – I’ve never been able to get them to work, especially at the worst of my blood loss, there wouldn’t actually been enough time to remove one and insert the next before getting my hands completely soaked in blood. So I use pads. That way, while I’m changing one for the next in my underpants, I can sit over the toilet and not have to worry about getting everything else red. I used to get some weird symptoms from what I now know was due to using commercial pads – itchiness, discomfort and pain. Since switching to organic cotton pads and liners, I don’t get any of those symptoms at all, so that’s one less thing to put up with. And the brand I use is just as, if not more effective at soaking up the blood and drawing loose stuff away from my body than the commercial options. If you’re unsure of the benefit of switching to organic pads or tampons, check out this video: If TOM isn’t available near you, I’d definitely recommend switching to organic options available in your area.

For pain:

One of the meds I no longer respond to is over the counter painkillers. I’ve just taken too many in my life for my body to be able to respond to the widely available option. So my doctors have kicked me up to taking panadeine forte. And even then, I can cope a bit better on them than you lucky normal people would – I don’t get as drowsy as quickly, for example. But I don’t like having to take them – not only does it mean that my pain levels have gotten pretty bad, but they also take quite a toll on your kidneys and liver, and I definitely don’t need additional abdominal discomfort or digestive upset when having a period. So my non-drug preferred options are as follows! Hot water bottles are awesome! I tried wheat packs when I was younger, but the smell made me feel nauseous and I just couldn’t get past it. Another fun fact for me – my usual highly functioning olfactory sense goes into overdrive on a period, so lots of normally inoffensive things make me feel really sick. Plus, my hot water bottle in much bigger than a heat pack and can soothe a larger area.
I rest on cusions and pillows quite a bit, and my latex pillow is great for this. Because latex conforms to the shape of your head/body, instead of compressing and shifting around it, I find it really supportive and comfortable to lean against. Even a lumpy or not-quite-perfect couch or chair can increase my pain and irritability, so I go with the best options I have.

Yep. I reconsider what I wear when I have a period, and this isn’t a white v black jeans argument. Most of my clothes are too tight and constricting when I have a period due to my pain and inflammation levels, so I switch to pjs and trackpants. In fact on Monday, sitting at work/ and I hadn’t even started bleeding yet, my normally comfy Cue suit pants have the top clip undone as my abdomen had already swollen up.

Only a couple of years ago I discovered a local merino wool brand, and since then I’ve exclusively worn their items when I have a bleed:


The waist band on their items is really soft and gentle, and stretches out with my inflammation without constricting my abdomen or putting any pressure on it at all. Pretty much all other clothing I’ve had or tried has put a bit of pressure on me which makes my pain worse. I also don’t wear stockings or leggings when I have a period because they cause me too much pain. My usually comfy wunder unders aren’t even close to making the list either. But my Smitten Merino tops and bottoms are perfect. I love the fleecy pants, because they also help keep me warm, given my body temperature tends to drop a bit when I bleed excessively, and they’re so soft on the inside. The un-lined yoga pants are great for summer, being a bit lighter I don’t overheat in them. These items have made such a change in my comfort levels, I can’t think of a big enough adjective to say how much better I feel with them. If, like me, your periods are out of control and you get really inflamed and sore, I’d check out Smitten. They ship internationally at no cost, so even though merino is quite expensive, they’re absolutely worth it.


For obvious enough reasons. I now am a bit more selective, either going for something mass produced but with good ingredients and around the 80% dark level, or making my own. Yes, I want something that tastes good and makes me feel better if only for a few minutes. Though apparently raw cacao happy hormone boosting powers, and god knows I could do with some of that!

I’ve only started this part recently, but I do my best to eat as clean (for me this means as close to Whole30 as possible) as I can while I have a period. Not consuming overly processed food means I don’t put any extra pressure on my body when its already experiencing a bit of stress, especially if I need to use panadeiene forte – my liver and kidneys will need all the support they can get. I make sure I have red meat and lots of green leafies to keep up my iron levels. I also try to eat and drink as much warm food and drinks as possible to sooth my cold constitution. Plus, warm food and drink is like an internal hot water bottle! My only exception is my green smoothies – definitely need more of that leafy green healing goodness!

I also need, and am getting much better at taking space and rest. I used to always push myself to keep going and not stop, thinking it was just a period, everyone else can cope. I’ve had to give myself permission to acknowledge that my body works differently, that my experience is worse, and medically recognised as worse. I’ve also learned that pushing myself to try to keep up to normal only intensifies my symptoms – my temper is shorter, my pain gets worse, my fatigue and nausea only intensify. So I’m learning to not feel guilty for taking the rest my body needs. Even now that still means time at home on the couch instead of keeping social dates, going to work, or exercising. The other area I try an ‘rest’ in is relationships – where I know a particular relationship isn’t easy or I feel the need to censor or be guarded at the best of times I simply avoid that person while I have a period. Especially when its family, or work colleagues, people I need to see regularly. I know I’m going to be wound up, in pain, and all sorts of moody, so any interactions are probably going to go south very quickly, its best just to avoid them all together.

And finally, there’s the ones I deliberately engage in. My lovely R takes care of me physically and emotionally, puts up with my inability to do anything, my bitchiness and my general illness. I couldn’t ask for anything more. Having people you can rely on when you’re chronically ill is so important.

So, there’s my list. What is in your tool kit for getting through ill periods?


About Jenna

Seeking a new way of working outside the standard 9-5. Writer for hire - blogs, internal procedures, social media posts, training manuals or anything else you an imagine.
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5 Responses to My period survival kit

  1. Pingback: On accepting imperfection | MyMissingFactor

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  3. rachelmeeks says:

    I’m a pad girl too. When I was a lifeguard, I tried tampons, but….well I learned two things – I can’t use tampons and I can’t be a lifeguard. 😉

    The only thing I can think to add to your list is the good old fetal position. Seriously, as silly as I feel curled up as tight as can be while watching TV, it allows for some serious pelvic pain relief.

    • Yep! There’s a list of things I can’t do because I can’t control my menstrual bleeds enough, like anything to do with water, or an actor or model or performer.

      I’m glad foetal position works for you, but for me it puts too much pressure on my back (by stretching it out) and on my abdomen (by cramping it up), only adding to the pain. I have to go with somewhere between stretched out and curled up!

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