PERIODS have an uncanny knack of starting at the most inconvenient times – especially if you have an irregular cycle.
About to go on holiday? Cue, Aunty Flow. Got a big meeting? Of course, that's when it starts.
Hormonal birth control is the obvious tool for managing your flow.
If it doesn't stop it completely, things like the Pill, the implant and IUD can significantly reduce the length and force of a period because technically, you're only having a withdrawal bleed rather than a genuine womb shedding incident.
While scientific research on the delaying or stopping of periods via more holistic methods is scarce, there are a few well-known things you can do to try to curtail the bloody window as much as possible:
1. Start exercising and eating well
A good hormone-free alternative is to try to eat a healthy, balanced diet packed with lots of fruit and veg.
Exercise is also supposed to help lighten your menstrual flow, and it's also useful for reducing water retention, bloating and cramps.
Obviously, no bloody experience is the same and exercise isn't always realistic if you suffer from really heavy, painful periods. But if you can, working out every day might help.
2. Up your vitamin C
Vitamin C, when taken in decent doses, may reduce your progesterone levels and that in turn, helps to break down your uterine lining more quickly – shortening your period.
But be careful; too much vitamin C can have unpleasant side effects like diarrhoea and insomnia, so don't take more than the recommended dose.
3. Drink red raspberry leaf tea
Raspberry Leaf is said to help ease heavy menstrual bleeding while improving egg quality…so it's a win-win for the present and the future.
It contains something called fragarine, an alkaloid found in raspberries, which is known to help tone and tighten muscles in the pelvic region (helping with cramps).
The tea is also high in tannins (a naturally occurring chemical found in wine) which is believed to strengthen the uterus and reduce heavy and irregular bleeding during your cycle.
4. Avoid using tampons
Tampons might be good for soaking up blood but they're terrible for the environment and apparently, can block menstrual flow from the vagina.
As a result, they can make your period last longer.
If you want to work through the process quicker, try using menstrual cups or pads to keep the area clear (a cup collects blood rather acting as an absorbent barrier).
It's worth saying that not everyone agrees that tampons do this (notably tampon companies), but you can't lose by trying out different sanitary products.
5. Have an orgasm
There's no real scientific evidence for this but hey, anything's worth a shot right?
Sex and/or masturbation that leads to orgasm can cause the uterus to contract – and that can result in more menstrual blood being pushed through the vagina.
You only generally only lose up to around 16 teaspoons of blood (normally a lot less), which isn't that much at all. It just feels/looks like a lot.
So anything that can get the uterus to exit blood faster is probably going to speed the process along.
Long-term, as we've already said, birth control is the most effective means of stopping or curtailing the flow.
If you want to put it on hold on a more long-term basis or heavy, lengthy periods are getting you down (which could be a sign of something like polycystic ovary syndrome or endometriosis), you're best off consulting your GP.
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