You may think dysmenorrhea, or period pain, is one of those inevitable parts of womanhood. But that’s not necessarily the case, and suffering can extend far beyond period cramps.
According to this article on period trauma, the majority of menstruators experience period trauma as a result of harmful factors like “a patriarchal system that stigmatizes menstruation, de-prioritizes period care, and otherwise discriminates against those who menstruate.”
Interestingly, this type of trauma affects one group of menstruators disproportionately: Black women, who are also more prone to conditions like uterine fibroids.
Trauma–of any kind–can affect a woman’s relationship with her body and mind in ways that may be surprising. In discussing the impact of trauma and menstruation, U.K.-based Somerset and Avon Rape and Sexual Abuse Support (SARSAS) explains how increased emotional volatility during periods can even cause mistrust of self.
The topics of menstrual trauma and pain are not new, but there are a wealth of new approaches to treating them.
On a recent episode of my podcast–Hey, I’m Listening!–I had the pleasure of hosting Christine Marie, a dedicated menstruation expert and holistic coach who creates profound shifts in menstrual alignment within women through an innovative framework.
What is menstrual alignment and its connection to period pain?
She knows from experience. Before discovering the power of her framework, Christine suffered from excruciating cramps, among other symptoms, and was diagnosed with endometriosis and put on birth control.
Pain medication and heating pads weren’t enough, nor was the excellent care she received from medical professionals. She was, admittedly, in a psychological state of learned helplessness.
A new approach to period pain
Many women suffer in silence for years. But, Christine chose to experiment with ways to end period pain based on the research and modalities with which she was familiar.
What happened next set the stage for her framework: she tuned into her body and hormonal cycle for guidance.
As she documents in her white paper, “Women have a 28-day hormonal cycle–forcing themselves to pretend that they do not have this biological fact causes chaos for the personal ecosystem, especially the hormones.”
Testing the framework on herself, she moved on to treating clients to much success.
So, how can you start this healing journey for yourself?
Using a holistic approach is key to diminishing and even removing symptoms associated with conditions like endometriosis, PMS, premenstrual dysphoric syndrome, fibroids and other menstrual pain issues.
I’ve compiled a list of five things you can do to end period pain, based on the tenets of Christine’s framework as well as my own research and experience.
What you can do to end period pain
1. Treat the cause, not the symptoms
A holistic approach doesn’t mean taking supplements or engaging in treatments that mask symptoms.
Consider all of the spiritual, physical, mental and emotional elements that play a role in your life, then examine how they could contribute to your discomfort.
It could be as simple as eating foods that decrease inflammation in the body to help relax your uterus and tame cramps. A low-fat, high-fibre diet also affects estrogen levels in a positive way. Similarly, drinking more water can reduce bloating and alleviate related pain.
2. Manage the stressors impacting the mind, body and spirit
The physical and mental impacts of stress are already well-documented.
Managing your stress is integral to reducing your menstrual pain. It’s important to consider all of the stressors currently affecting your mind, body and spirit, and counteract them with healthy practices like meditation, exercise and breathing exercises.
Once you’ve removed the roadblocks and stressors impacting your entire being, you can, according to SARSAS, start looking forward to your monthly cycle as “a time of deeper honesty with self and connection to [your] body.”
Be kind to yourself, and recognize it’s OK to feel frustrated with your pain. It’s also normal to step one step forward and a few steps back.
3. Take a menstrual leave
A recent study highlighted that menstruation-related symptoms were linked to almost nine days of lost productivity for women every year.
If your cycles are relatively regular, tracking and anticipating the arrival of your period can reduce the element of surprise when it arrives each month. It can also help you prepare for the potential impacts to your productivity or even a menstrual leave, if that type of leave is available to you.
Over the past few years, countries like Spain and Japan have made headlines for implementing policies that allow women to take time off if they experience painful periods.
Christine recommends a three-day restorative–a menstrual leave–every 25 days. As she states in her white paper, “This allows the body to receive the restoration it needs–a restorative equivalent to the hours of sleep that complete the final phase of the masculine 24-hour hormonal cycle.”
4. Seek support from others
While a holistic approach is important, you should also seek guidance from your medical and care team, which could include your primary care physician, OB-GYN, psychologist, counsellor, etc. Studies have shown that women’s health issues are often dismissed, so advocate for your health and wellbeing, and don’t be afraid to seek second or even third opinions if necessary.
Your loved ones can also be a source of strength and support when you’re experiencing menstrual pain. Many women try to power through pain or discomfort, but make sure to ask for help if you need it!
You can also consider exploring support groups as a safe space to connect with others about your menstrual pain.
5. Fully express yourself as a woman
Awaken your divine power by turning to your body. One of my favorite books that explain how to connect with your body on a deeper level is Wild Power: Discover the Magic of Your Menstrual Cycle and Awaken the Feminine Path to Power.
You can also learn how to feel safer in your body and reclaim your health and wellness with books like The Pain We Carry or The Body Keeps The Score or The Body Remembers. All of these are great resources for people of color, helping you reconnect with your sense of self.
Remember: You are worthy of a pain-free life. By treating the cause, reducing stressors, prioritizing rest, seeking support from others, and expressing your womanhood, you’ll be well on your way to reducing your period pain as you embark on a spiritual journey aligned with your menstrual cycle.
Disclaimer: The content in this blog post is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult with your doctor or a qualified health-care professional for specific concerns.