Menstruation: Tips to Manage Your Menstrual Cycle, Pain and Other Symptoms
Premenstrual syndrome, amenorrhea, menorrhagia, dysmenorrhea: stay with us to find out all about periods. How can you reduce menstrual pain naturally? Can you trigger menstruation? Where should you massage to soothe menstrual cramps? We answer the most common questions.
What are periods?
The first menstrual period occurs with puberty, usually between the ages of 10 and 16.
The beginning of a menstrual cycle is marked by the first day of menstruation and ends on the first day of your next period.
Every month from your first period onwards, your uterus will work hard to prepare more uterine lining - called the endometrium - to accommodate a fertilised egg. If the egg has not met a sperm before the end of the cycle, it will decrease its production of hormones. As a result, the muscles of the uterus, under the effect of the prostaglandins*, will shed the endometrium which it no longer needs. This process causes vaginal bleeding for a period of 3 to 7 days depending on the individual.
The period of bleeding occurs on average every 28 days in people who ovulate, but can vary between 21 and 35 days depending on the individual. Ovulatory activity ends at menopause, usually between the ages of 45 and 55. There is no longer an egg supply in the ovaries, so menstrual cycles with periods stop.
Prostaglandins: Substances produced from essential fatty acids by most of the body's tissues and organs. Their action in the uterus is to induce contraction of the uterine muscle.
Why are periods painful?
The muscles of the uterus are responsible for destroying the lining of the uterus, in order to evacuate it and end the cycle. To do this, they contract to tear the uterine wall and drain the blood.
If you experience excessive pain, we advise you to see your doctor or gynaecologist to determine the cause. They will be able to suggest a treatment to reduce the pain.
How to relieve PMS symptoms?
Premenstrual syndrome (or PMS) is a series of physical and psychological symptoms that start anything from a few hours to several days before the onset of menstruation and disappear shortly after bleeding begins.
PMS is caused by prostaglandins that are diffused across the body by the blood and cause any or all of the following symptoms:
- pronounced fatigue
- sensitive and swollen breasts
- swelling of the lower abdomen
- abdominal bloating
- stomach pains
- headaches and migraines
- heavy legs
- mood swings and irritability
Hormones are produced by the endocrine glands and regulate the functions of the organs. If their concentration in the blood is too high or too low, disorders can occur. This makes hormone balance essential for everyday health so monitoring it is important.
These symptoms may not seem serious, but they can be very unpleasant and even disabling. According to ISERM, premenstrual syndrome affects 20-40% of those with ovulatory activity, with symptoms of varying intensity. For a third of them, it disrupts their social, professional and family life. In 5% of cases, it represents a serious handicap that impedes their day-to-day functionality.
To alleviate premenstrual syndrome, add 1 drop of Cypress essential oil and 1 drop of Clary Sage essential oil to a neutral tablet. Take this tablet 3 times a day until your period arrives. You can also massage the stomach with the same essential oils, mixed with 4 drops of neutral vegetable oil such as Sweet Almond or Macadamia. Recipe for adults only.
To alleviate premenstrual syndrome, dilute 5 drops of Clary Sage essential oil in 10 ml of Macadamia vegetable oil and massage the abdomen with this mixture in the morning, for 1 to 2 weeks. For those aged 15 years and older only.
How to relieve painful periods (dysmenorrhea) naturally?
Painful menstruation, also known as dysmenorrhoea, is defined as pain that occurs during menstruation. The pelvic pain is variable and may appear at the start of the period or be triggered 1 to 3 days before. The pain before the period is called Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS). Pain usually peaks 24 hours after the start of the period and eases after 2-3 days.
The pain is caused by prostaglandins which are diffused around the body through the bloodstream and cause any or all of the following symptoms:
- migraines and headaches
- feeling of discomfort
These pains torment almost half of young women and lead to a sometimes significant consumption of medication. The antispasmodic and emmenagogic* properties of plants such as basil and tarragon are recognised alternatives that have been used in medicine since ancient times.
Emmenagogue: a substance that induces or regulates the menstrual cycle.
Recipes for pain relief:
With Basil essential oil
In massage :
Massage the lower abdomen with 2 drops of Basil essential oil diluted in a small amount of Macadamia vegetable oil. Repeat as necessary. Recipe for adults only.
With Rosemary Camphor Essential oil
Massage the stomach 4 times a day with a mixture of 3 drops of Rosemary Camphor essential oil and 4 drops of Macadamia or Sweet Almond vegetable oil. For those aged 12 years and over only.
With a mixture of essential oils
Mix 3 drops of Lavandin Super essential oil, 2 drops of Cypress essential oil*, 3 drops of Clary Sage essential oil in 10 drops of Macadamia vegetable oil. Massage the lower abdomen with the mixture at the onset of pain occurs. For those aged 12 years and over only.
ADVICE FROM A PHYSIOTHERAPIST
Painful periods are no doubt related to the hormonal changes in the cycle, but they can be aggravated by fatigue or stress. To counteract this, gently apply your aromatic massage oil to the areas that "pull", usually the lower abdomen and lower back, while also stimulating the pain points: on the abdomen and just above the ankle, as many times as necessary during the day, for at least 3 minutes at a time.
- Recommended essential oils: Basil, Tarragon
- Recommended vegetable oils: Sweet Almond, Apricot Kernel, Macadamia + Jojoba
How to cope with heavy periods (menorrhagia)
Menorrhagia is a common occurrence, affecting about 15% of those between the ages of 30 and 49 who menstruate. Common causes of menorrhagia include puberty and the menopause.
Menorrhagia occurs when the menstruation period is longer than normal (3-7 days) or when hypermenorrhoea occurs – which is when the blood flow is no longer controlled by sanitary protection such as tampons, cup, pads or period pants, and exceeds 80ml per cycle.
There are many gynaecological causes of menorrhagia:
- hormone drop
- some chronic conditions and diseases
- no ovulation or late ovulation*.
- placement of a copper IUD
- anticoagulant drugs
* Be aware that if menstruation is delayed by more than 15 days and is accompanied by heavy bleeding, this may indicate miscarriage. Take a pregnancy test, which in the case of miscarriage will be positive, and seek advice from a health professional.
We recommend that you consult your doctor or gynaecologist to determine the cause of menorrhagia. Heavy blood loss can lead to severe fatigue and anaemia.
Essential oils can help regulate menstruation and reduce the fatigue that accompanies it.
Mix 15 drops of Yarrow essential oil and 15 drops of Geranium essential oil in 2 tablespoons of Sweet Almond vegetable oil. Massage the lower abdomen with 6 drops of this mixture, twice a day. Recipe for adults only.
Can you kick-start your period during amenorrhoea?
Amenorrhoea is an absence of menstruation in adolescents, or a temporary disappearance in adult women.
It’s called primary amenorrhoea when it occurs in an adolescent who is yet to have their first period. Secondary amenorrhoea is when a person who is already menstruating and non-menopausal experiences a pause in menstruation for at least 3 months.
The absence or disappearance of menstruation can be caused by various factors including stress, depression, illness, excessive effort, intensive sports, certain medications and excessive weight loss.
Lack of oestrogen can also cause menstruation to stop, and Clary Sage essential oil is oestrogen-like* and can be a great help in regulating your period.
Amenorrhoea usually resolves itself when a healthy lifestyle is restored, but essential oils can help you get back to regular cycle.
*Oestrogen-like : has the same effect in the body as natural oestrogen
To encourage the onset of a menstrual period
In massage :
In a container, mix 5 drops of Cardamom essential oil, 10 drops of Clary Sage essential oil and 10ml of Camelina vegetable oil. Massage the lower back with 4 drops of this mixture, 3 times a day for several days. For those aged 15 years and older only.
To regulate the cycle
Mix 15-20 drops of Clary Sage essential oil in a neutral vegetable oil such as Macadamia, Jojoba, Sweet Almond. Massage the mixture into the abdomen each morning for 1-2 weeks. For those aged 15 years and over only.
In the absence of menstruation
Dilute 5 drops of Clary Sage essential oil in 10ml of Macadamia vegetable oil and massage the abdomen with the mixture in the morning for 1-2 weeks. For those aged 15 years and over only.
Discover more tips on natural remedies:
How to relieve the feeling of heavy legs?
How to limit allergic rhinitis naturally?
To learn more on essential oils:
The 8 spheres of action of essential oils
My little essential oils health kit
For any therapeutic use, consult a doctor or a pharmacist. Refer carefully to the contraindications and precautions for use of each essential oil. In case of doubt, consult a health professional.
Extracts from the books "Aromatherapia, tout sur les huiles essentielles" and "HUILES ESSENTIELLES, HUILES VÉGÉTALES & HYDROLATS : Mes indispensables", by Isabelle Pacchioni, published by Editions Aroma Thera and the book "Automassages aux huiles essentielles, guide visuel" by Isabelle Pacchioni, published by Editions Leduc.s.