#Nowrongpath: Is University the right path for me?

#Nowrongpath: Is University the right path for me?

I remember getting into my last few years of high school and beginning to feel
this strange building pressure. Suddenly we had appointments with careers
advisors, classes on how to apply for university, tips on university interviews, the
list goes on. I realized quite early on that school definitely emphasized the
pathway of going to university. But what other options were out there? I began to
think I may not even want to go to university. I had subjects that I liked ,them
being geography and art but what could I do with these and what career would
these lead to? I took myself along to my schools career advisor for more
information… She chatted through my options- ‘with my grades I could definitely
get into university’…. There it was again …university…. That word. I sat politely
and listened. I began to think about why it was that I was unsure of university –
was it because I had no clue what I even wanted to study or was it something
deeper – the fear of not being good enough? Being totally honest with myself it
was definitely the latter. I was scared that I wasn’t good enough, that I wouldn’t
cope with academic life and lastly I was scared of failure.
Not long after I had a good chat with my mum and she asked me the best
question – she asked
“what makes you happy and what do you love doing at school?”
It didn’t take me long to answer it was and always had been art. After that I felt
much more happier and content… I decided I did want to go to university and to
go and study Art and Design. Now it wasn’t an easy process – I had to come up
with a portfolio of work , go to interviews etc. Pretty early on I decided I had my
heart set of the Edinburgh College of art. Their course was exactly what I was
looking for – plus I could stay living at home(at 17 I didn’t quite feel ready to
move out) After submitting my 5 applications to my chosen universities I waited
and waited. One afternoon I heard the ping of an email alert. I raced to open my
email and anxiously clicked open. It was from the Edinburgh college of art and
written in bold was Unsuccessful. I hadn’t got it. I was for a better word
devasted(sorry to be so dramatic) but when you plan and dream up what your
life might look like at this university its sad when you realise that dream is over. I
had a good week of crying and wallowing , with my mum taking me out for hot
chocolates to cheer me up(thanks mum) before I finally picked myself up. Not
long after I got another email this time it was good news! I had been offered an
unconditional offer to another university. It was not my first choice and probably
being honest not my second. But I had hope that this was meant to be. And now
looking back I can say it definitely was – this university was much smaller. It
meant I really got to know my classmates and got more hands on help from
lecturers. It turned out to be pretty perfect for me. I guess my story shows that
even though you might not get into the college or university you wanted,
something even better might be waiting right around the corner
Is my period pain normal?

Is my period pain normal?

Is my period pain normal?

Sadly pain is part of the package for people who have periods. Pain alongside tiredness, bloating, cravings, headaches and vomiting are some of the common side effects for people during their period. Balancing all of this with your day to day life and stresses is very impressive- at Lilypads we personally think recognition is needed! However, period pain is rarely given much attention. What pain level is ‘normal’ can be super confusing and many of us struggle to get the support and advice needed. Today we are going to dive into period pain, exploring some of the signs that your pain might be the sign of something else and providing you with some of our own experiences and tips to cope or explain this to a health professional.

Lilypads are not health professionals but are a team of people who all have different levels of period pain and experiences, this along with verified research has helped create this article.

Period pain

So first, what are period pains and what causes them?

There are 3 main factors all related which cause period pains directly…

1. The uterus contracts to help the lining shed

2. Chemicals (called prostaglandins) encourage the womb to contract more

3. An excess of these chemicals cause eaters to contract more strongly putting pressure on the blood vessels around the uterus and interrupting the blood and oxygen supply causing pain.

Of course the biology behind cramps is usually not what we are most concerned with.

The lived and felt reality of the pain is what we are most concerned with. Pain is not only felt in your stomach, it can be felt in the thighs, lower back and pelvis. It is also not an exact science, one month you might feel fine and the next not so great- this can be a bit annoying! Read our blog on coping with PMS: Cramps on our website for coping with general period pain! Sadly, there is not huge amounts of research on why cramps impact some people more than others and why this can change…the factors which have been explored include how heavy your period is, how early you start your period, some lifestyles, age and history of infections. All of these factors are generally uncontrollable and need further research!

Is this pain normal?

Knowing what pain is normal is tricky to determine as we can never experience someone else’s period. There are some guidelines which generally outline what is normal. We want to stress that you know your body more than anyone! If you are concerned or feel that there is something wrong you have the right to directly approach your GP with your concerns and ask them to investigate.

We want to give a general set of guidelines to give you confidence to investigate any concerns further. Generally, pain is seen as “normal” if the pain improves with normal pain medication, you can continue with daily activities and bleeding is within average range (under 80ml of blood per period- which is about 4 full menstrual cups, 16 saturated regular tampons or pads).

Signs there may be something else happening and you should see your GP…

  • Periods are irregular

  • Bleeding between periods

  • Pain during sex

  • Bleeding post sexual activity

  • heavy bleeding (above 80ml)

  • Cannot complete daily activities

  • Painful bowel movements

  • Period last longer than 7 days

  • Difficulty getting pregnant

Secondary pain, often visualised by some of the above symptoms can be the result of another health condition. Again, it is not defined rigidly and there is commonly overlap of symptoms which again can make it tricky to know what is normal and what may be the sign of something else. Who knew period pain could be so complex?!

Tips to approach your doctor…

If you are struggling with period pain and think it may be linked to something else a diagnosis from a GP is super important. However, we know how tricky this can be. It is sadly common for peoples experiences with periods to be dismissed, below are some of our own tips (some tried by our team themselves) to help you at the doctors. As a team we also want to say sorry if this is something you relate to. We think it sucks that period pain is so dismissed and we stand in support of those working to ensure that periods are taken more seriosly in healthcare!

1. Take a friend or family member: Taking someone with you can be super useful. Maybe run through what you want to say to them before you go into the appointment. By doing this they can support you, or remind you of things you wanted to say to make sure you explain the whole story. Having a third party can also make you feel more confident and they can ask additional questions if needed.

2. Diary: Recording your pain levels, symptoms and amount of blood lost during your period and during your entire cycle can be very useful to track any major changes. It can also highlight anything which you may have thought was completely normal and would not have raised otherwise. Things you should record include how long your period lasts for, how often you change your product, what product you use and its absorbancy (written on the packs), where in the body you feel the pain, does the pain go away with painkillers, does it stop you carrying on your day, can you stand etc

3. Try another doctor or a specialist: If you are getting no where with your local GP try someone else. Perhaps book an appointment with someone specialised in this area (you can ask your GP for this), or simply another doctor or nurse who maybe more willing to explore this option with you.

Incredible organisations and resources who know more than us!

Lilypads are not experts in this field- we are a team of people with real experiences of periods and a passion to research and learn. We have listed some of our favourite organisations and people that do incredible work to ensure that people with periods are listened to and can support those with specific reproductive disorders.

We love a chat

If you want to read our other blogs or find our more about our work (including our work against period poverty internationally and a comfortable period pad in the UK) 

Holistic ways to manage period pain

Holistic ways to manage period pain

If your keen to try a more holistic approach to tackling your period pain then there are some really exciting new alternatives coming into the mainstream right now. But also remember there is no shame in needing to use stronger pain medications to help deal with your period pain , always do what feels right for you!

Exercise- time to get that yoga mat out!

First up and this one might seem obvious but getting some daily exercise can be a huge pain reliver. We are all unique so finding what exercise works for you is key here. Some of us might love going out for a super long run when our period hits , others might prefer to chill out and stretch out those cramping muscles to help with our period pain. Need further convincing on the power of exercise for period pain? Well science backs it up too….

  • Results of a 2015 study by Trusted Source showed that doing 30 minutes of aerobic exercise three times a week significantly reduced the severity of menstrual cramps over the course of 8 weeks.
  • A study published in October 2017 in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies concluded that women who practiced yoga 30 minutes per day, two days a week, for 12 weeks at home had a significant improvement in menstrual pain and physical fitness over the control group.
  • Another study, published in January 2017 in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, found that Hatha yoga practice was associated with a reduction in levels of chronic pelvic pain in women with endometriosis.

Heat – and relax…

How many times have you reached for your hot water bottle when that first cramp hits? Hotwater bottles can be a lifesaver for period pain- the soothing heat helps relax those cramping muscles. Heating pads are another great alternative and there’s some pretty strong evidence to suggest heat really works for period pain!

There’s evidence that heat may be as effective as ibuprofen for relieving menstrual cramps. Simply place a heating pad on your lower abdomen for relief. Soaking in a hot bath can also really help with period pain. Why? well soaking in a hot bath soothes your lower abdomen and back. It’s also incredibly relaxing and a great way to relieve stress. So the next time period pain hits get those bath bombs out and some candles and sit back and soak in the bath!

Supplements- vits to get you through period

The evidence for supplements to treat menstrual cramps isn’t well established, but you may find something that works for you if you’re open to experimenting. Check with a nutritionally-trained practitioner before taking a supplement—like any medicine, they can have side effects and interfere with levels of other nutrients in the body. Here are the top-evidenced supplements for period pain:

  • Ginger, it seems, may be as effective as common painkillers. Two systematic reviews of ginger for menstrual pain found that the root was likely more effective than a placebo for reducing pain . Clinical trials of more than 100 students with moderate to severe period pain found that pain was similarly reduced in students taking ginger, as students taking the NSAIDs Ibuprofen or mefenamic acid.
  • Magnesium (and magnesium deficiency) may play an important role for some people in dysmenorrhea . A systematic review that included three studies on magnesium found that it was effective in lessening menstrual pain better than a placebo and may be helpful in limiting the need for pain medication Magnesium carries few side effects, but can cause loose stools, so you may need to ease into it. The three studies used different doses of magnesium, so you may want to talk to a practitioner to get a recommendation.
  • Zinc supplementation may be effective for a similar reason as magnesium, but more research is needed . In a randomized control trial of 120 women, the duration and severity of period cramps was significantly improved in those taking zinc, compared to those taking a placebo
  • Vitamin B1 has been shown to be effective in reducing period pain. One large trial found that people taking 100 mg daily had less menstrual pain than those taking a placebo.
  • Other dietary supplements have also been researched for a possible role in easing cramps, such as vitamin E, B6, and high doses of vitamin D, as well as agnus castus, and 3+ months of fish oil (1,20,34). Results thus far are promising, or mixed.

TENS Machine- the new kid on the block when it comes to period pain

A transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) machine may also help to ease symptoms. This sends mild electrical signals to your skin near the place you feel pain. These are thought to affect the pain signals that travel to your brain. TENS machines can be bought from your local pharmacy and are safe to use.

 Lastly stress and lifestyle choices can play a part. Eating healthy and doing whatever you can reduce stress can also hugely help with period pain!

Please feel free to share with us what’s working for you. We love to hear from our followers about any new and up and coming period pain relievers!

We love a chat

If you want to read our other blogs or find our more about our work (including our work against period poverty internationally and a comfortable period pad in the UK) 

Period pain – a personal perspective

Period pain – a personal perspective

Period pain: a personal experience

 

Period pain is something that happens to many of us. This is a video discussing our founder’s experience, how she managed the pain, what did and didn’t help for her, and possible causes.

We love a chat

If you want to read our other blogs or find our more about our work (including our work against period poverty internationally and a comfortable period pad in the UK) 

PMS : the lowdown

PMS : the lowdown

What is PMS?

Premenstrual Syndrome (more commonly known as PMS) reportedly affects over 90% of people who menstruate. It can be understood as a mix of emotional and physical symptoms, which occur after ovulation and before the start of menstruation. It is believed that PMS is caused by a significant drop in progesterone and estrogen when your body realises it’s not pregnant. Symptoms should pass after hormone levels rise again and balance out, once the period starts.

The most common physical symptoms of PMS are constipation or diarrhoea, cramping, headaches, tender breasts and bloating. While the most common emotional symptoms are struggling with sleep, mood swings, anxiety, food cravings and a drop in libido. None of which are great, we think that people who menstruate should get a medal (or a massive bar of galaxy chocolate) every month.

So, what can we do to help with PMS?

There are a few methods which can help relieve the symptoms of PMS,

  • Eating a healthy balanced diet and avoiding caffeine.
  • Taking regular exercise throughout the month.
  • Managing stress (yoga and mediation are a great way to start on this).
  • Top up on calcium and vitium B6.
  • Ibuprofen and Paracetamol for pain relief.
  • Getting a regular 8 hours sleep.

Everyone’s body is different it may be a case of experimenting and finding what works for you.

What does this mean for you?

It’s not all doom and gloom, for most people PMS tends to fluctuate, so while one month may be awful, others may be hardly impacted. When PMS hits bad – don’t be afraid to book out some ‘me time’ in your schedule and remember that what your feeling is completely valid and isn’t trival. Look after yourself and try some of the above methods. Binging ‘Ru Paul’s Drag Race’ in bed is also fully endorsed by us as a PMS prescription. However, if you find that PMS is having serious effects on your daily life then please check in with your doctor for advice. No one should be disadvantaged because of their period.

We love to chat, who doesn't?

We’ve got lots of other blogs or if your interested in our other work – including a reusable sanitary pad designed to banish leaks click here