Words and imagery by Natasha Richardson.
I have a mild love obsession with periods. I think they’re a great way for women to check in with their wellbeing each month. It’s not surprising to me when my patients complaining of anxiety or depression say their periods are also a problem.
I’ve noticed a real pattern in my peri-menopausal patients who have been serial-givers, always giving to the ones they love, never expecting anything in return. They tend to have heavy flooding periods, as though they are leaking away their energy as they shift towards menopause. It’s a time that these patients come to realise that they need to find themselves again. Redefine who they thought they were and learn how to do things that are just for them. But imagine if the next generation of Mum’s mastered looking after themselves long before they got to menopause. Perhaps we’d see a serious drop in mental health problems among parents.
The Menopause is often a time we are able to reflect on our lives as parents and seek to change the rules and expectations our families have about us. This was made clearer to me than ever when a patient who had cervical cancer was thrust into menopause relatively early in life. She realised that her family expected her to feed them, expected her to clean the house and generally manage household jobs. Despite the family unit having changed so much over the years it is still common for the matriarchs to run the show. My patient with cervical cancer found that setting new boundaries and delegating more to the family was integral to her healing. In the end, she made a full recovery and has a better family dynamic to boot.
We remain the matriachs. But, what if we challenged ourselves to delegate more? To let go of the ‘standards’ we think no one else can achieve? Perhaps we’d buy ourselves some time alone? Time to gather our thoughts and nurture our bodies.
As I said, mental health problems are often intertwined with our periods. One may come before the other but in the end they are so interlinked you can’t help improve the other by treating either one of them. I had very serious period pain for many years of my life. It took me a long time to realise that stress was a big contributor to my pain. The pain I had was accompanied by anxiety, anxiety about the pain slowly spiraled into anxiety about the week before the period and before long I had anxiety most of the time. It took me years to connect my stress levels to my mental health and menstruation. But hopefully this article will mean you don’t have to spend years to find out the same!
Missed / Irregular period
If you’re missing periods there are a few possible causes; stress, low body weight, travel, breastfeeding, fibroids, polycystic ovarian syndrome and perimenopause. The most common reason periods are missed is stress. When we get stressed the body chooses to stop us from ovulating so we are protected from pregnancy during an impractical time. You can’t have periods unless you’re ovulating and you can’t ovulate if you’re super-stressed. I should say now, you don’t have to feel emotionally stressed or overwhelmed for your body to be stressed. It’s quite normal to adjust to high stress levels over a long period of time. But the effects show in your wellbeing instead. If stress is making you miss a period I’d recommend taking Ashwagandha and perhaps Chamomile tea for instant calming.
Niagra falls period
In the UK most of us use pads but even so, sometimes we aren’t sure how much blood is too much? Essentially, if you’re having to change your pads every hour, or are wearing a tampon and a pad, two pads on top of each other or have actually leaked through a pad/tampon through to your clothes then it's too much. Any blood loss that the individual finds inconvenient is too much in the eyes of health professionals. If you’ve noticed you are flooding each month you may want to consider; anemia, lethargy, endometriosis, fibroids and perimenopause. The more blood you lose, the less iron you have, the less iron you have, the more you bleed! So if you’re suffering with heavy periods be sure to take an iron supplement regardless of the cause. Once you’ve checked with the gynae it’s not endometriosis or fibroids you can look into your herbal options. Even if you don’t know what’s causing it, Raspberry Leaf tea and Shepherd’s Purse will help to stop heavy bleeding after taking 2 cups of tea each day for a month (in fact, I once had a patient who had been bleeding for 3 weeks straight and found these herbs stopped her period immediately, she was perimenopausal).
My periods were debilitatingly painful back in the day. I was the part of the 20% of women taking time off work and medication for their pain. It took me years to realise my pain levels directly responded to my stress levels. If you have painful periods it’s worth considering; stress, endometriosis, adenomyosis and fibroids. The only way you can know for sure if you have endometriosis is by having a laproscopy. But I didn’t want one of those so I treated my pain with stress relief and good food and found my pain massively reduced. I’d recommend taking Feverfew, Crampbark or Chamomile for pain. Or all of them in a blend if you fancy! You can read more about those here.
If you have problems that you think are related to your period the best place to start is by keeping a record. Simply write down every day how bad the problem was on a 0-5 scale. After a few months you’ll be able to see if it is a monthly thing or not. You can use period Apps to do this but I find paper works just as well.
Having records like this is immensely helpful to your GP when you go to see them about it. It’s always good to rule out more serious illnesses as the cause before seeking out natural help. And remember, there are many things which herbs can help with that GP’s don’t have many options for. So don’t feel hopeless if you are presented with treatments from the GP that you’re not interested in.
When we view the body holistically it becomes clear that disturbances to the hormones will knock us off our emotional centre. After all, our hormones affect our mind, body and soul every day. It’s time we learned to look after them because if we do, they’ll look after us!