By now, you've probably grown accustomed to the goings on of your period. You feel it coming, utilize your choice of sanitary product, get plenty of sleep to combat fatigue, and then move on with your life. But according to your OB/GYN, did you know there still may be some things not to do during your period you may not know about?
As it turns out, we could all be doing more to stay healthy and well during the ol' menstrual cycle. And for the most part, that just means making a few minor adjustments, since it's always possible to be more comfortable. "In the end, you know what is best for your body," Dr. Sheila Loanzon, OB/GYN, tells Bustle. "However I would encourage not making choices that could cause detriment in the future." Such as skipping the placebo week of your birth control pills, for example. (See more below.)
OB/GYNs obviously know what's up when it comes to having the healthiest period possible. So, what might some of their tips and tricks be? And what else do they wish we'd stop doing? Here are a few of the major culprits that can make a period more difficult than it needs to be, as well as what experts say to do instead.
1Leaving Your Tampon In Too Long
It's so easy to insert a tampon, go about your day, and totally forget it's even in there. But this is something health experts wish you'd stop doing.
"Each tampon size is designed to absorb a particular amount of blood," Dr. Loanzon says. "Do not to leave a tampon in longer than recommended to prevent a serious septic infection called Toxic Shock Syndrome." Usually, it's recommended that you change them at least every eight hours. (Reference the info on the side of the tampon box, to be sure.)
"The risk of TSS has decreased significantly with the change in tampon materials, however women who develop TSS are more likely to have used tampons with high absorbency, used tampons continuously for more days of their cycle, and kept a single tampon in place for a longer period of time," Dr. Loanzon says. So remember to change it regularly.
2Not Drinking Enough Water
What you eat and drink in the lead up to your period, as well as during it, can really affect how you feel in terms of annoying period symptoms. So do your best to drink plenty of water, while also eating less of foods that are high in salt and sugar.
"Menses is a time of hormonal fluctuations and increasing these types of food during menses can lead to water retention, increased cystic acne, bloating, constipation, worsening of mood disorders, and a whole host of other issues," Dr. Loanzon says. "By making healthy choices in diet, exercising regularly, and drinking plenty of water, a women can combat some of these issues naturally." Pretty cool, right?
3Waiting Out Your Cramps
"Cramps are a common part of menses," Dr. Loanzon says. "It is your uterus contracting that helps to decrease bleeding. Often patients complain of painful periods however have not tried any methods."
Instead of taking something for the pain, many women try to power through, and go through the day doubled over in agony. But it doesn't have to be that way. "Try using a heating pad and Tylenol or Ibuprofen (NSAIDs [or] non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) which work best to combat prostaglandins, which is released from the uterus when mild to moderate cramping occurs, to treat cramps," Dr. Loanzon says. Doing so can make you comfier, and make it easier to go on with your life.
4Ignoring Uncommon Period Symptoms
It's not uncommon for us ladies to ignore different period symptoms than we're used to, and chalk them up to a fact of life. But if anything seems out of the ordinary, it's always a good idea to bring it to your doctor's attention.
Take a super heavy flow, for example. "There can be endometrial polyps, fibroids, [or] endometrial/uterine cancer that can [cause] heavy bleeding and should be evaluated by a health care provider to prevent increased blood loss causing symptomatic anemia or missed opportunity to diagnose cancer," Dr. Loanzon says. By speaking up, you are looking out for your health in the most proactive way.
5Not Tracking Your Cycle
There are so many good reasons to track your cycle, and yet so many of us just leave it up to the gods. Sure, there are apps for that, and pills that can make periods more predictable. But knowing how your cycle works, and when it'll strike next, sure can come in handy.
Like when babies are involved. "If someone is trying to get pregnant, it is important to start counting the days of your period with the first day of heavy flow as 'day one,'" Dr. Loanzon says. "This is important when tracking periods to determine when you are ovulating to increase chances of getting pregnant. If there is a small amount of spotting the day before the heavy flow, the spotting does not count as the start of the period, the heavy flow day does count."
Tracking your period can also be useful if you're trying not to have sex on your ovulation day, or if you simply want to be prepared — and maybe run out and buy more tampons — before it arrives.
6Forgetting To Restart Your Birth Control Pills
You know what you shouldn't do, when taking birth control pills? Forget to restart them.
"Often women will skip the placebo week of their birth control pills; that fourth week of the pill pack," Dr. Loanzon says. While these placebo pills usually just have iron and sugar in them, and thus aren't actually "doing" anything, they do serve as a reminder to restart the next week.
"The placebo week is a placeholder to remind patients to restart their pill," Dr. Loanzon says. "Remember to set an alarm on your smart phone calendar to restart your active pills so you are covered in terms of contraception and menses control."
7Having Unprotected Sex
If you want to prevent against pregnancy, it may not be a good idea to have unprotected sex during your period — even though your ovulation date is so far away, and the chances of getting pregnant are incredibly low. But it's also important to remember that the risk of catching an STI is still always present.
"It is important to discuss STD history with your partner, use condoms regularly, and be aware," Dr. Loanzon says. "Some STDs are lifelong and it is important to be aware of what risks you may be exposing yourself to when being sexually active with someone."
By keeping these things in mind, and always putting your health first, you'll be better able to avoid little mistakes, and thus sail through your period with ease.