The Ultimate Guide to Managing Your Menstrual Cycle

The Ultimate Guide to Managing Your Menstrual Cycle

Jessie Wallace
By Jessie Wallace
Every single woman has experienced the discomfort and annoyance of their menstrual cycle. Some have hormonal or health issues that prevent regular menstruation, but chances are they've still experienced it at least a few times. The painful cramps, uncomfortable bloating, rapidly changing mood swings, and messy period impact every aspect of our lives. It can be even more challenging for those with irregular cycles as it's impossible to plan around. There are countless products, all designed to alleviate the symptoms of this challenging time, many more focused on making a profit rather than actually working. When that time of the month hits, it can be difficult to find relief, but there are ways to alleviate some of the unpleasantness.


For a long time, people have used heat to relax tense muscles and it works for cramping period muscles too. Simply putting a heating pad over your lower abdomen will help to relax those spasms as they come. Many experience back cramping and aches as well, which heat will also work to alleviate. For when you still have to be on the go, there are adhesive patches that you can wear that warm up and stick to your clothing so you can bring the heat with you. You don’t usually put these patches directly against your skin, so wearing them on the outside of your underwear, but inside your clothing keeps them discreet.


Hydration is good for overall health, but medical professionals all agree that it helps alleviate period symptoms as well. During your period, your estrogen and progesterone levels drop. This causes water retention. You may be wondering why you'd drink more if your body is retaining liquid. That's because you want to flush your system to help stave off the gas and bloating that can result from the water retention. Avoid salty foods and try to drink 8 or more glasses a day. If you don't really like the taste of water, try alternatives that aren't sugary. Even enjoying a low sodium broth soup will help to hydrate you some.

Eating Right

Speaking of what we're consuming while on our periods, everyone knows we crave all things sweet and all those wonderful carbs. Unfortunately, eating too much of that stuff will only make matters worse. These foods, as well as fatty options like French fries, will increase inflammation which will lead to bloating and discomfort. Many fruits like cherries and blueberries will have the opposite effect though, and dark leafy greens and bell peppers also help. It's also important to eat enough. Often, women will skip meals since they feel bloated, or their hormonal levels increase the chances of them feeling self-conscious as though they need to diet, but while on your period you should make sure you're getting enough. There are some 1studies that indicate this time of the month may increase the metabolic rate in women, but even if that's not true it's important to feed your body right.

Herbal Use

Drinking calming herbal teas like chamomile and peppermint will help to reduce stress and relax your body, while using ginger or fennel is thought to reduce cramping. More than one 2study indicated the benefits of ginger root powder to reduce symptoms and fennel contains anethole which is linked to reducing spasms. Herbal use has been around forever and shouldn't be overlooked as a home aid to mild discomfort, but if you plan on using more than a usual amount for cooking you should always consult a doctor. Some herbs can have powerful results and you always want to be certain they won't interact poorly with medications you may be taking or even with each other.


Staying active, even when you feel like crawling under the covers and sleeping for a week, is important. Light to normal exercise will help with cramping and reduce the fatigue that many women feel during this time. There is a lucky number who have more energy during their period, but the majority of us feel sluggish and sleepy. Exercise increases our vitality, according to 2Everyday Health. It improves our heart and respiratory health, and helps get more rest at night. It will also increase our endorphin levels which will help to lighten the hormonal fog hanging over our heads during this time.

Stay Positive

While on that topic, that fog can really dampen our moods. The irritability usually hits the hardest just before our period starts and 4affects 75% of women. Everything, from a loved one's innocent comment to cloudy weather might agitate us. That negativity can impact our quality of life, and we have enough going on at that time. It's important to take time to do things that make us happy. Spend an hour reading or go for a walk. Focus on yourself a little bit more to combat the hormones. Even the busiest women can do something, like listening to uplifting music in the car or watching funny videos on your lunch break.


Being tired will certainly not help your mood or your overall health at this time either. As previously mentioned, menstruation can do a number on our stamina. We are used to pushing ourselves, but that's not something we want to do when it comes to getting enough rest, especially at this time while our bodies are working in their own way. In 2007, the 5Human Sleep Research Program released a study that indicates our menstrual cycles are intricately tied to our sleep patterns. Not getting enough sleep can negatively impact our cycles and cause problems for our reproductive and overall health.

Chocolate... Need I Say More?

We love the stuff and it turns out that dark chocolate, that is 60% or more cacao, is actually good for menstruation relief. The reduced sugar of dark chocolate and the Omega-3 fatty acids and magnesium can help reduce cramping, increase iron levels, and improve your mood. While you don't want to just eat chocolate all day long on your period (or maybe you do, but you shouldn't) it won't do any harm to allow yourself that sweet snack.

Breathing Exercises

A just as simple way to get you through this less than pleasant time is to practice some relaxing exercises. This is another great way to control your mood swings and to reduce the stress every woman feels during her period. Try some yoga or meditation. It doesn't have to be anything advanced or too in-depth, as long as it focuses your mind and slows you down a little.

Try Something New

Depending on where you live, most women use tampons or pads to stay clean while on their period. Many will even use both to prevent leaks, but there is a growing number of alternative options out there. Whether it's to reduce the amount spent on period protection or to try and limit waste, every woman should be willing to try other options. Probably the fastest growing option is the menstrual cup. This is a latex or silicone cup inserted inside the vagina to collect the blood and tissue. Women who use one say it's comfortable and reliable but can take some getting used to. After a lifetime of using disposable options, having to empty out the mess and figure out the right positioning may be daunting. Every woman's body is different and there are multiple cup options to cater to different shapes. Similar to the cup is the disc. It fits inside like the cup, and some even say it reduces cramps. It can be worn for any activity, including sex, but is harder to remove than the cup. There are disposable options and reusable ones. Period panties have also increased in popularity, giving women an option to just wear underwear. Some say it doesn't hold as much as a pad or tampon, and that when you have to change them it's awkward to carry around multiple pairs of underwear, especially when some are used. The nice side of these is the lack of the diaper feeling you get with pads and the reduced chance of TSS (toxic shock syndrome) that is possible with tampons and the cups or discs. There are even more options available from sea sponges to interlabial pads to washable pads. It’s a good idea to keep an open mind and see if there is another option that you actually prefer.

Over the Counter

As mentioned in the eating right section above, anti-inflammatory foods are a good option, but it's also okay to take some over the counter anti-inflammatory medications as directed. Sometimes you're stuck in a position where you can't use other methods and the only option left is to try ibuprofen or a similar drug to alleviate the discomfort. This should be used sparingly, and if you reach a point where even over the counter medication isn't helping it may be time to discuss your symptoms with your doctor. It could be something more serious, like endometriosis that may require a more prescribed or in depth solution.


While many would consider sex while on their period an unnecessarily messy affair, orgasms have been proven to reduce cramping and increase endorphins. There is some thought that the muscle contractions from sex will shorten your period as well, eliminating the uterine tissue faster. It's also been proven to reduce headaches, and half the women who suffer from migraines tend to have them on their period, according to 6Healthline. A word of caution though, many women know that there's a lower chance of getting pregnant on their period, but it's not impossible. Always use protection, no matter what part of your cycle you're in.

Keep Track

So many women out there do not keep track of their cycles. They learn to recognize the clues their bodies provide, but they wouldn't know if their period shifted or if something is becoming inconsistent. Knowing our own reproductive cycles helps us to know your overall health. Environmental and internal changes can have a bigger impact than just a shift in our cycle, and nature has provided us with a perfect resource to know if something is off. From the very beginning, we should be teaching girls to keep track using a women's health tracker. It's important to initiate self-awareness early on so that they grow up with the habits necessary to understand their physical well-being.

No Shame

While on the topic of teaching young girls, we should also mention the need to instill in them that their menstrual cycle is nothing to be ashamed about. This is also a lesson many adult women need to learn. Multiple cultures have maintained that this monthly reproductive cycle is somewhat taboo and not to be discussed openly. Girls should know that if something embarrassing involving their cycle does happen, it's not the end of the world and that they can go to an adult for help. We should be able to discuss this with our daughters so they won't be afraid to tell us or their doctors if something isn't right, or if they simply have questions. The way to improve women's health and to stop incorrect information is by openly facing it and working to improve it.

Our periods are a hassle. We've all dealt with the stains, the costs, and the aches, but our cycles are a gift as well. It indicates our overall health and can be one of the first signs that something might be wrong. Our reproductive cycle is what allows us to become pregnant and bonds us together as women. While it may be messy, we can take steps to increase our well-being and alleviate the downside to our menstrual cycles.

We are a dedicated one-stop destination for every woman who wants to either track or monitor health-related information across her years. We pride ourselves in being that one place where any woman can enter relevant information before, during and even after pregnancy…with a separate set of special trackers just for her newborn!
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