Have you ever wished away your period because the pain is too much to handle? Missed work or school because of your period symptoms? I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to live like this. Contrary to popular belief, periods are not meant to make us suffer. There is so much taboo around “period talk” that it’s hard to know what is “normal” with periods when you only have your own experience to go off. We are our own best advocate and knowing when to go talk to a health care professional about your period concerns can save a life of suffering in silence.
The simplest way to decide if you need to see a doctor for your period is by asking yourself two questions. First, “are the symptoms of my period affecting my ability to live day to day life” (eg. Missing school/work, unable to get out of bed, missing out on things you enjoy)? Second, “is this part of my period affecting my relationships with people/those I love”? If the answer to either is yes, it’s worth a trip to your health care professional to talk about possible causes and management. But let’s get down to the nitty gritty of our periods.
We’ve all been there, you’re on the toilet mid period, you go to wipe and are met with a wild looking clot on the toilet paper. “Did that just come out of me?”. It can be an alarming moment figuring out what’s going on. Small clots are normal with our periods; it means our body has the proper response to clot large amounts of blood coming out! You may even notice bits that look like tissue coming out when you wipe, this is because bits of our endometrial tissue from our uterus lining can detach and sneak out. When a clot is cause for concern is if it is larger than a quarter in size. If your large clots are accompanied by very painful cramping, it’s also a good idea to get things checked out. Don’t stress though! Many of us will regularly pass clots with our periods, the key is keeping an eye out.
Period cramps are trickier to monitor with the question of “how much pain is too much?” because we all perceive our pain differently! If question 1 or 2 from above are answered yes (it’s impairing daily living/relationships) then it’s worthy of speaking to your healthcare provider about. We aren’t meant to suffer through intense period pain every month. Period pain can also lead to other symptoms such as nausea and vomiting which are also indicators to seek help. Similarly, it can be difficult to determine when emotional symptoms are “too much”. There are syndromes that exist regarding extreme mood imbalance specifically because of periods! If you’re finding you don’t have the will to get out of bed, lashing out at loved ones, or experiencing heightened anxiety stopping you from living daily life around your period, there is help. Speaking about mental health can be tough, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel!
Talking to your health care provider about periods may feel awkward or scary. But what if there is relief? What if there is help? Breaking the silence and talking to someone about how you can help manage your periods can be so freeing. Whether it’s a medical doctor, naturopathic doctor, period coach, or nutritionist, there is lots of supportive ways to manage your cycle. Many family doctors are able to work with you and your cycle however all you need to do here in Canada is simply ask them for a referral to a gynaecologist if you feel your issues are beyond their capacity. A wait for a referral can take time which is why having other support options is helpful. Instagram is a beautiful place to find holistic practitioners by looking through the hashtag, #periodcoach. Google can be a tricky place to find resources, but the period health network is very interconnected and once you find one person, they can give you a recommendation of other practitioners offering menstrual services. All of us in period centred care want the best for YOU, even if that isn’t working with us individually.
Everything starts with YOU. You are your own best health advocate and you get to decide how you take control of your cycle, not anyone else.
ABOUT THE AUTHOUR
Victoria Alexander is the face behind The Elephant in the Womb, a space centred around reproductive health education and menstruality. With extensive post secondary education in anatomy, pathology, and menstruation she provides period coaching services for those seeking to mend their cycles and find balance in their hormones. Victoria strives to further stand up for inclusive menstrual equity and actively works with local government to achieve LGBTQ+ centred period and pregnancy care options. She currently has a small clothing line and has been utilizing the profits to supply Indigenous communities of northern Canada with period products while we fight for their right to accessible products. Her goal over the coming years is to navigate deeper into the political system to achieve menstrual equity for all in Canada and have our voices heard.