GOT PERIOD PAINS? // Harriet Brown reached out to a Gold Coast Women's Health Dr. for advice ❤️
We recently shared Harriet's blog post on 'What all female athletes should know about their cycle' which opened up an important conversation and gained a lot of interest from our JOLYN girl gang! Off the back of this, we were eager to find out what questions you wanted answered in relation to your menstrual cycle, and Harriet was able to answer some of these questions for you on an IG live.
In the process, we discovered that there are so many of you struggling with symptoms such as cramps and heavy bleeding that are impacting your training, so we thought it was necessary to continue this conversation and get some professional advice. Harriet decided to reach out to a Gold Coast based GP specialising in Women's Health for more information.
This blog post was written by Harriet Brown who received health advice from Dr. Alice, a Gold Coast based GP with a specialisation in Womens' Health. Please reach out to your GP for more information if you're struggling with the following symptoms.
We asked and you shared!
77% of you said that you experience menstrual cramps, and 54% of you have had your period stop you from racing or training. These are the results from a recent Instagram Q&A with JOLYN followers. Do these stats surprise you? They surprised me, so I started exploring more about reasons why girls have to stop training due to their period and what we can do to help.
More than half of elite athletes have reported that their menstrual cycle and hormonal changes have negatively impacted their training and performance. It’s so common for females to experience cramping, headaches, nausea and heavy bleeding. However, it’s not all bad news. There are things you can do to help. I decided to reach out to an expert to learn about how we can manage and minimise these symptoms and help breeze through our next period or at least be able to train and function better without hunching over in pain.
77% of JOLYN girls experience menstrual cramping. This is right in line with the statistic that painful menstrual bleeding affects 50-90% of women. Athletes who experience painful menstrual cramps that are impacting their ability to train and affecting their everyday life should consult their local GP. But why? Isn’t cramping normal? I spoke to a Female GP specialising in Women’s Health, Dr. Alice, to find out more.
Dr. Alice explained that when you see your GP they will go through a series of tests. Painful periods could be a sign of something more serious. If any major issues have been excluded your GP will discuss treatment options for your painful period. The treatment is either hormonal or non-hormonal.
Non-hormonal treatment for painful bleeding includes:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication which reduces period pain, these medications can be taken 3 x a day, starting ideally 48 hours before your period starts and continuing for the first 3 days of your period (total treatment 5 days).
- Heat pack on the belly or lower back.
- Exercise to release endorphins (gentle training, whatever you tolerate without being too painful).
- Relaxation/meditation with rest or warm baths.
- Magnesium supplement.
Hormonal treatment for painful periods include:
- Combined oral contraceptive pill, taken continuously can minimise withdrawal bleeding and pain.
- Mirena IUD (intrauterine device) the most effective treatment for pain from the uterus.
HEAVY BLEEDINGWhat about heavy bleeding? Many of you asked what to do when experiencing heavy periods. As water sport athletes, heavy bleeding also known as menorrhagia, can be pretty frustrating to deal with. Some JOLYN followers are having to stop training due to such a heavy flow.
So, I asked Dr. Alice's advice for what to do about heavy bleeding. Any girl who experiences heavy menstrual bleeding that is impacting their training and everyday life should see their GP. Your GP will likely order a blood test (checks iron levels etc.) and request a pelvic ultrasound if needed. Your GP will discuss treatment options for heavy bleeding which are either hormonal or non-hormonal treatments.
Non-hormonal treatment for heavy bleeding includes:
- Tranexamic acid which reduces bleeding by stopping clot breakdown and is taken 3 x a day for the first 3 to 5 days of each cycle. This can reduce blood flow by 50%.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication reduces blood loss and treats period pain, this can be taken 3 x day the day before your period starts and for the first 5 days of each cycle.
Hormonal treatment for heavy bleeding include:
- Mirena IUD (intrauterine device) which is the most effective medical therapy for heavy bleeding, and provides contraception as well. The Mirena thins the lining of the uterus and can reduce blood flow by 95% after 12 months.
- Combined oral contraceptive pill can reduce blood flow by 50%.
- Oral progesterone tablets can reduce blood flow by 30%.
For most athletes, hormonal contraception is not recommended. Having a natural menstrual cycle ensures athletes can keep track of if they have a healthy regular cycle or are struggling with low energy availability (absence of period or irregular). However, there may be some instances when taking the oral contraception pill is necessary to reduce menstrual cramping, bleeding or other issues. Every girl is different. If you are experiencing painful periods or heavy bleeding, you’re certainly not alone. Discussing the best option for you with your doctor is definitely the way to go. Hopefully there is something that will help reduce your pain and bleeding which will help you feel better and train more consistently.
Resources & further information for:
Menstrual cramps/painful periods:https://www.jeanhailes.org.au/health-a-z/periods/period-pain
This blog post was written by Harriet Brown who received health advice from Dr. Alice, a Gold Coast based GP with a specialisation in Womens' Health. Please reach out to your GP for more information if you're struggling with these symptoms.