Have you ever been caught off guard — in your favorite white pants — a few days before you expected your period? What if your bleeding was so heavy you ran through all your tampons in half the usual time? Or maybe your cramps were so bad that curling up in bed is all you could do all day.
For some women, these may sound like nightmares. But for many, it’s their monthly reality. If this is the case, you need tricks up your sleeve to get your period under control. Rather than letting your cycle rule your life, take charge of when and how Aunt Flo comes to visit. Try these six tactics to help you put your period in its place.
Yes, birth control is intended to regulate your hormones, so you don’t get pregnant. It works exceptionally well — up to 99% practical, in fact — but it can do even more for you. Hormonal birth control options thin out the lining of your uterus, the tissue that sluffs away and causes menstrual bleeding. A thinner lining equals less bleeding and less painful cramps.
Even if you’ve had a negative experience with one form of birth control in the past, it isn’t a one-size-fits-all option. You can choose from pills, patches, rings, shots, or even implanted intrauterine devices (IUDs). Remember that this period-patrolling method isn’t a side effect–free. You could experience weight gain, headaches, nausea, sore breasts, mood swings, and (ironically) spotting between periods.
This medication may have a funny name and sound a little strange. It can be your best friend if you have hefty bleeding. Available via prescription, this drug stops your body from breaking down clots. Doing so reduces your menstrual flow by more than half, making it more manageable.
You can only take the medication a few days a month, so hold on to it for your heaviest days. Losing less blood helps you avoid anemia, and you’ll be less likely to bleed through tampons or pads. Like birth control, though, it has possible side effects, including muscle cramps and headaches.
Don’t worry if you can’t get a prescription. Other options are available that can help. Over-the-counter medications (NSAIDs), such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or aspirin, can lighten your flow. If you have heavy bleeding, you likely have a higher level of prostaglandin, a hormone that slows clotting. NSAIDs have been suggested to help lower levels of prostaglandin, restricting your flow.
OTC methods don’t work as well as prescriptions, however. They’re also not a long-term solution for heavy periods. The longer you use them, the higher your risk for kidney disease, stomach ulcers, and blood pressure problems. But, taken correctly, they can offer relief from cramps without needing an Rx.
You’ve probably heard the warnings about talking with your doctor before taking any supplements. That’s true. When it comes to your period, though, a few additions to your daily intake can prove helpful. Still, chat with your healthcare provider before you start using anything.
Consider taking a daily iron tablet, as heavier bleeding can lead to low iron levels. If you do, add some vitamin C to your daily regimen. It can help you absorb the extra iron. Adding something sweet to your diet may also help with period control. Blackstrap molasses, a sugar byproduct, is a good iron source and has been shown to improve anemia.
Going in for surgery shouldn’t be your first choice. If medication isn’t working for you, though, and your period still affects your daily life, you have several procedure options. Talk with your doctor about your specific situation. It’s important to discuss any underlying causes, symptom severity, and whether you want to have kids someday.
Procedures range from simple to complex. If uterine fibroids are causing your heavy flow, focused ultrasound can noninvasively shrink them. Want your period to disappear? Discuss endometrial ablation, a procedure that uses a laser to remove your uterine lining (and your pregnancy chances). It’s also possible your doctor could recommend removing your uterus (a hysterectomy) if your symptoms are severe.
Take a deep sigh of relief — some tricks are available! Maybe medications and surgeries aren’t your things. Or, perhaps, you’re still trying to find the period control option that’s best for you. Until then, you’d like to limit the impact of a heavy cycle.
Consider wearing period panties that work as a second line of defense when you bleed through a tampon or pad. This absorbent underwear can soak up two tampons’ worth of blood without any problems. Menstrual cups are another option. These reusable silicone cups fit your vagina and can hold more blood than pads or tampons with fewer leaks. As a bonus, both options are environmentally friendly, too!
Until you reach menopause, your period will be a fact of life. That doesn’t mean it gets to control your schedule or upend your daily routine. Putting your period in its place is possible with a bit of help. Try these strategies, and you could worry less about the next time Aunt Flo comes to visit.