I love my period. *Cut to me in a white dress running through a field of daisies holding a single red balloon.*
JK. I literally hate it. And I’d never wear a white dress during my period. But I digress.
I’m here to talk about ~menstruation~. When it comes to regular monthly expenses, it is really easy for the creators of budget-templates to casually leave off the fact that we have to spend money on cotton that prevents blood from getting on the couch for one full week (or however long your period lasts!) every single month. It is tragic, but it happens, and we have to talk about it more. People are menstruating everywhere, every day, and since I’m one of them (Right now! Hi! I feel like shit!), I’ve been thinking a lot about how we’re not getting together as much as we should as a *squad* to swap tips on how to make it a little easier, a little more comfortable, and a maybe even a little less expensive.
Aside from the fact that it obviously costs money to get the products we need to not ruin our clothes/our entire day, it is also important to acknowledge all of the havoc it wreaks on the body of The Menstruator (cool superhero name, or no?). A lot of people find themselves with painful side effects like cramps, nausea, and dizziness — sometimes so debilitating that they miss work, and can’t do the things they need to do every day. I’m endlessly lucky to not experience anything like this — the worst I get is cramping that can be kicked with a cup of peppermint tea and a fistful of Advil, an intense craving for Cheetos, and the inability to see anything wedding/marriage-related without heavily sobbing (whoops, that last one is actually me every day), but I’m incredibly sympathetic to those who deal with truly debilitating symptoms (especially because good old Trump won’t stop until he has all of our life-saving, symptom-quelling birth control in his grubby little paws).
But I want to open up the conversation here on TFD. Every time the word “tampon” is mentioned in a post, you all go hard in the comments and make my day by swapping tips about how you make your period a slightly more pleasant experience.
So, I did some research, I talked to some fellow menstruating pals, and I thought long and hard about what I do religiously to make the Worst Week Of The Month™ (working title) run smoothly. Here are some tips for making your period all-around suck less.
(Sidebar: What do you do to make your period suck less? Do you run through a field of flowers holding a balloon? Let me know in the comments — I’m always here for talking about the dot.)
1. Try a menstrual cup.
I’m always half-expecting Diva Cup devotees to start going door-to-door handing out brochures and pamphlets of information on menstrual cups because they are such a cult-product, and everyone who uses them seems genuinely obsessed.
I’m not one of these people yet — without going into TMI-territory, I’m just not sure I’m personally ready for the menstrual cup. But it is an awesome product — incredibly wallet-friendly, and great for the environment. (The environment could definitely stand for us to stop throwing away a shit ton of used tampons every day. Ugh — we’re working on it, environment. Sorry.)
2. Try store-brand products.
In a few desperate pinches to grab something in public once when I’d left my stash of products at home, I’ve grabbed store-brand pads and tampons to save a few bucks. To my surprise, they really don’t seem to be any less effective than the name-brand ones. In fact, I like Target-brand products more than almost any I’ve ever used, and they cost a few bucks left than the (admittedly beautifully packaged) shiny pink Playtex or Tampax ones.
Additionally — although this isn’t a store brand, it is a less-fancy and less-popular brand — I stand by o.b. tampons. They definitely take a little getting used to, but they’re so affordable, and also pretty discreet if that matters to you.
3. Buy your name-brand tampons/pads in bulk.
If you’re into name-brand products, the best place to buy them is somewhere like Costco or BJs. The $7-10 you might spend getting 24 pads at a grocery store will get you nearly a hundred at a bulk/wholesale store, which is totally worth it because you’ll always need them, and they won’t go bad on you. I do this and only need to restock on products a couple times a year, and it costs almost nothing.
Products like Midol are great, but I went straight to the source and asked Dr. Boyfriend what pain reliever really should work best for cramps, in his profesh opinion. Every time I ask, without fail, he tells me to take ibuprofen. The good news here: because Midol is sort of a niche, novelty, name-brand med, it costs a lot more than a bottle of ibuprofen. (You can get 24 Midol pills for five bucks, but probably 100 ibuprofen pills.) There are a few different kinds of Midol, ranging from ones that are literally just run-of-the-mill pain relievers with the name Midol slapped on them, to pain-reliever-plus-diuretic-plus-caffeine ones that target more than one period-symptom. But TBH, you can basically mimic the effects of any version of Midol for cheap by taking store-brand ibuprofen (or whatever pain-reliever tends to work best for you) and drinking a shit-ton of water along with it.
5. Don’t shell out for special cleaning products.
I’m not a doctor or a scientist or an expert, but I’ve read enough (and had the finger wagged at me by my gynecologist enough times, lel) to know that you don’t need to be doing anything special in terms of cleaning down-under. You really just need to use regular soap, and you shouldn’t be getting all up in there or aggressively scrubbing — it tends to do more harm than good. I’m not saying you should avoid the area altogether in the shower, or just let the soap drip down it and pretend it is enough — what I am saying is that the floral-scented $7 lotions and washes and sprays for your veej are unnecessary and quite possibly harmful, so just stick to gentle soap and water. (At least it’ll save you a few bucks!)
6. Low-impact workouts and long, leisurely walks are your best friend.
When I’m on the rag, I want to do two things, and two things only: sulk and snack. I get bloated, sluggish, hangry, lazy — basically all of the least-fun feelings. And feeling crappy is often a great excuse to treat yourself to greasy food cravings or random feel-good spending in an effort to bring yourself some joy. To avoid all of these bad habits, I have one (super annoying, I know) solution: get some exercise. When I feel yucky, I put on a cozy, stretchy pair of yoga pants and go for a long walk. The fresh air and exercise helps my mood and makes my body feel better, so it is doubly helpful. (It also prevents me from spending $20 on chocolate bars and eating them while crying and watching Say Yes To The Dress.)
7. Have a planned arsenal of ~Period Lewks~.
I’m actually not sure how universal this tip is, or if this is just something I deal with, but personally, I get 100% stumped on what to wear during my period. Nothing feels good on my body, and I always feel a little less comfortable in my skin — additionally, although I’ve gone a full 23 years without ever having a “leak” situation, I’m aware that they are possible, which limits the colors I choose to wear on the bottom.
In the past, I’ve found myself freaking out during that fateful week and running to the store in search of a pair of pants with the right amount of stretch in the waistband, or a dress that doesn’t cling to my body in places where I want no clinging whatsoever. I’ve definitely found myself getting my period before an event or occasion, and running out to replace my dress or outfit because it wasn’t Period-Chic™.
To remedy this, I’ve created a small capsule of ~lewks~ that are pretty period-specific: thick black leggings with waistbands that don’t dig into my sore tummy, loose-fitting cotton dresses that gently graze my body and flatter it even when I’m feeling a little bloated, and tops that go a little longer and cover the booty when every part of my body below the belt feels decidedly unsexy. I have different outfits in each category I may need — lounge outfits, work outfits, and occasion outfits — so I never find myself frantically searching for something that will feel comfortable when I feel like a balloon animal.
These tips might not be helpful for everyone — this is just what works well for me. (Bonus tip: a single sip of peppermint tea fixes my worst cramps every time like magic. I didn’t include that in the actual list because I’m aware that it is probably just a placebo thing and only works because I believe it works.)
However, if you have a tip that works for you — something you go back to every month to make sure things run smoothly — please leave it in the comments and let me know. We need to be here for each other in sickness, and in conversations on health for women (and all people with periods).
Image via Unsplash