How do I manage period pains & PMS?

Being in competitive sport for a long time has given me a bit of fear around periods.  When I was a teenager they made me pretty unwell, and at the time I was competing in swimming at National level, so taking time out of training wasn’t seen as an option.  I went onto the Depo injection to stop my periods and I forgot about them for over 5 years.  I’d read about possible effects on bone density with long-term use, so decided that I should stop having the injection, and went onto the pill, with my GP’s promise of lighter periods, and being able to time them around competitions.

I noticed an adverse change in my mood from being on the pill, but it did give me light periods, with hardly any pain, and I could time them around competitions, so it worked well for me as someone regularly competing in triathlons.

When lockdown hit, like so many of us, my mental health took a turn for the worst, I became consumed with anxiety and couldn’t sleep.  With no competitions coming up, I thought it would be a good time to try coming off the pill, and see how my body responded.

The first few months, the pains were back with vengeance, and my emotions were all over the place the few days before, and the first 2 days of my period.

I spoke to Lucy Self, one of my uni friends, who had just launched an amazing product, Save My Knickers, which removes blood stains from clothing.  She’d done a lot of research on period-relating topics as a part of her product launch, and between us we started looking into PMS, period pains and how to manage the symptoms.

I’ve tried a few things over the past few months, and I realise everyone is different, but here are the things that have helped me:

  1. Eat chocolate and lots of veggies – weirdly I crave both, and I feel better if I don’t deny my body either
  2. Do gentle exercise – I feel better for doing Pilates, yoga, walking, and easy jogs, but feel worse if I do HITT or intense runs around this time of the month
  3. Breathing exercises – they help keep me calm and in control of my emotions
  4. A hot water bottle helps sooth pains and cramps
  5. Exercising regularly and consistently throughout the whole month – the months I feel better are those where I’ve done a mixture of Pilates, strength training, and cardio

I’ve also made a video of my favourite Pilates exercises to help with period pains, which I’ve uploaded to my YouTube channel – please feel free to have a watch and join in to see if you feel better for doing these exercises too!

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