When you’re living with fibroids, your painful cycle means you may plan around your period. That’s because those periods may be long and heavy. And really, really painful. In fact, periods can be so disruptive when you have fibroids that you might have no choice about planning your life around your monthly cycle.
Many women already do that, but for the wrong reasons. According to a Dutch study, periods make almost 14 percent of surveyed women miss work or school. And 80% of the women who show up on their period reported losing productivity because of the pain.
What did those painful periods amount to? Women lose about nine days a year because of their cycles, according to the study authors. Even worse? There’s a lot of shame about these symptoms. In this study, only 20 percent of women were able to tell their bosses or teachers that period pain was to blame for their sick days.
Now, our Houston fibroid specialists provide minimally invasive treatments so you don’t have to live your life around your period. But we did want to share one woman’s theories about planning your activities around your period, so you can see what that looks like. Check out what she had to say.
Should You Plan around your Period?
Recently, Mayella Almazan, a menstrual health educator in Northern Ireland, told the Daily Mail why women should plan around their periods. Her theory is that, if you really understand your monthly cycle and plan around it, you can reach your full potential.
And she divides each month into four distinct phases: menstruation, pre-ovulation, ovulation and pre-menstruation. Depending on the length of your cycle, she says, each phase should last between three and seven days. Of course, if fibroids have made your period longer, this would affect the length of each of these ‘phases.’
Still, it’s not the length of each phase that’s important, according to Almazan. What really matters, she says, is what you’re up for in each phase of the month. As Almazan explains, “So many women don’t understand their bodies and it’s such a shame. Most of us expect to feel tired or fragile on our periods, and we know about PMS, but that’s where it ends. Instead of seeing our periods as a barrier to our success, I’d love to see more women feeling empowered to use their monthly fluctuations to their advantage.”
Apparently, Almazan practices what she preaches. She says, “I organize my life around my menstrual cycle and it really works. I know when to take on a new project and push myself, and when to give myself a break…create a monthly chart and pin it to the wall. That way everyone [will know] what to expect!’
Almazan’s Four Distinct Menstrual Phases
These are the four distinct phases of your monthly cycle, as Almazan sees them:
DAYS 1-7: MENSTRUATION
Your cycle starts on the first day of your period, and typically lasts around seven days. During this time, your estrogen and progesterone levels are low. During this time, many women have cramps, back aches, headaches or even nausea. Sometimes, your energy levels drop during your period. And for women with fibroids, these symptoms are likely to be worse.
During this phase, Almazan says: “Day one or two of your period will be your lowest physically energetic days of the month, so give yourself a break and don’t feel guilty… You need lots of rest and self-care. But it can be active rest; it’s a great time for quiet reflection. You could bring those reports home from work to read, do some brainstorming and prepare for the month ahead so that when you enter the next phase, which is very productive, you’re all set to make the most of it. It could also be an opportunity to enjoy quality downtime with your family; snuggled up on the sofa reading or watching movies with your partner and kids. Go easy on yourself wherever possible.”
DAYS 7-14: PRE-OVULATION
During this phase, you’ve finished your period; your estrogen and testosterone levels are rising as your body prepares to release an egg. During this phase, many women feel a burst of energy.
That’s why, Almazan suggests, “This is the time of the month to go for it! If you’re an athlete, you will be at your peak…It’s certainly the time to begin or step up a training regime though. The number one issue women who come to me complaining of is exhaustion, so I tell them to make the most of this pre-ovulation time. If you can control your diary, this is the time to schedule your busiest or most demanding days. Your mental focus and analytical skills will be strong. It’s also the time you’ll be feeling most capable; so tackle things you find difficult now.”
DAYS 14-21: OVULATION
When you release your egg (ovulate) your discharge may look different and you may have pain in your side. Your estrogen and testosterone levels will reach their peak. Your Luteinizing Hormone (LH) will suddenly surge, triggering ovulation. And, immediately afterwards, your estrogen starts dropping as your progesterone rises. Your energy may wane again, and you may experience breakouts and breast tenderness.
Almazan says, “This is the time to do teambuilding or networking exercises at work, hold mentoring sessions or take a more listening, supportive role. ‘You may find you have a softer, warmer approach during this time, so it could be a great opportunity to try to solve problems and solve conflicts. It’s also a great time to socialize and cook for friends. If you have a partner, schedule a date night or two. If you’re single, socialize and strengthen your connections with friends.”
DAYS 21-28: PRE-MENSTRUAL
During this phase, your progesterone levels hit their highest point before dropping. Your estrogen will briefly rise, then drop again. It is this hormonal imbalance that can cause premenstrual symptoms such as irritability, anxiety, bloating, depression and mood swings.
Says Almazan: ‘We all know the negatives associated with PMS, but don’t write off this time completely. As your body prepares to shed the uterus lining, you may also find your observation skills are heightened and perceptions are more acute. ‘You can utilize these skills at work; now might be a great time to tackle the reading of a tricky report or something that requires discerning skills. Or at home you could make a list of things you would like to throw out or change. If you find yourself getting emotional, angry or frustrated, don’t dismiss these feelings. Pay attention to your thoughts and write down things that are upsetting you. Once you’re feeling calmer these journals can offer real insight. Some of your thoughts and feelings may have been overreactions, but others could be really useful, so don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. You can use your down time during your period to take stock of any issues thrown up during this pre-menstrual period and think of ways to tackle them. Then you’re ready to begin the cycle again.”
While this is an interesting approach to your typical menstrual cycle, there’s one thing you shouldn’t have to do: stay home during your period because you’re in too much pain to go out. If that’s what planning around your period looks like for you, it’s time to consider treating your fibroids.