We’ve all been there. Bravely suiting up so we can appear normal at work when our bodies’ literal lifeblood is seeping out of us. And if your periods are typically quite heavy, you know it’s only a matter of time until those lovely cramps show up and you feel a tidal wave of fatigue or fluid… Or both! So, let’s talk about how to deal with heavy periods at work. Or any other time you can’t curl up on the couch and watch a movie til it passes.
What Is Menorrhagia?
Knowledge is power! So, before we begin, here are some things you should know about your heavy period.
The technical word for a period considered heavier than normal is Menorrhagia, pronounced like: men-er-ay-jee-uh.
According to the CDC, you may have Menorrhagia if:
- Your period lasts longer than 7 days
- You change your pad or tampon every hour or so
- You pass large clots, an inch or more in size
- You experience exhaustion or uninterrupted lower back pain during your period
Because untreated Menorrhagia can cause other health issues, it’s important that you notify your primary healthcare provider, if this sounds like you.
How to Deal with Heavy Periods at Work
We’re going to cover all the bases here. First up, we’ll share actionable tips for how to deal with your heavy period at work right now. After that, you’ll find some holistic suggestions to help make your next period more manageable at work.
In the moment, dealing with your heavy period can feel frustrating and discouraging. But you can do plenty of simple things today to help make it more manageable.
Let’s deal with this one off the top. Of course, you can take medication to help you manage the pain. For many women, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen are the go-tos. Sometimes you can even find the two sold together in one pill.
They’re effective but are ultimately a band-aid solution and can cause damage to your liver if you consume too many in 24 hours, or if you consume them regularly. So, it’s usually best to use pain medication sparingly.
Alternatively, you can try moderate exercise. Extra movement for period pain?! Yes! It may seem counter-intuitive, but movement can help ease pain from cramps. The Endorphins released by your body during even gentle exercise are actually a natural form of morphine, which help with pain management. At work, this could mean going for a walk on your break or opting for the stairs instead of the elevator.
If exercising on your period feels impossible, or it’s just not realistic for you at your job, there is also some anecdotal evidence of the benefits of stretching and yoga for menstrual pain. Focus on any stretch that targets the lower back, glutes, or core that can reasonably be accomplished in your workspace. This could include:
- A full-body stretch while standing
- Side bend stretches, done while standing or sitting
- Toe touches, can be done while standing or sitting
- Torso twist, try either standing or sitting
Lastly, have a look through your office’s kitchen or pop out to get some herbal tea on your lunch break. While no evidence directly links herbal tea to reduced menstrual pain, tea can help calm the body, which can help take the edge off your cramps. Peppermint, chamomile, ginger, and green teas can help you relax and may help to reduce some of the pain.
For the best possible results in a pinch, combine two or more of these suggestions to help you make it through your workday. And remember you don’t have to live with severe menstrual anything. Please consider seeing a healthcare professional if cramps, heavy bleeding, or pain regularly affect your ability to function.
No one likes feeling or looking like a zombie on their period, especially at work. But it makes sense when you think about it. Your blood carries oxygen and nutrients to all the other cells in your body. You lose a significant amount of blood when you have consistently heavy periods. And less blood means less oxygen. So, it’s no wonder you’re feeling sluggish!
Staying hydrated is one simple way to keep your mental and physical energy up. Remember: All liquids are not created equal. Try to stick to clear, sugar-free beverages, with the best choice being plain old water. As mentioned before, tea can also work, as long as you don’t get too crazy with the milk and sugar.
Some women find that keeping warm can also help prevent fatigue. When you’re cold, your body spends more energy trying to keep you warm when that energy could be better spent elsewhere. An extra layer, a hood, or some gloves could really make all the difference.
Lastly – and we have to mention it again – exercise. As crazy as it seems, you need to use energy to get energy. When you exercise, you force your body to take in more oxygen, and oxygen is part of what gives you energy. So, take a lap around the office or go for a 10-minute walk with a co-worker, your dog, or a new podcast episode.
We’ll be honest. There’s no immediate fix for this one, but there are some things you can do to stop the bloats getting worse.
We know how tempting it can be when someone brings treats to work, but don’t do it! Yes, it will be delicious and you’ll feel better briefly. But high-sugar, processed foods along with drinks like coffee and alcohol can make your bloating worse. Try to steer clear of the break room and stick to whole foods, water, and tea.
The other thing you can do is – say it with us! – exercise.
Preparing to Deal With Heavy Periods at Work
Now that we’ve dealt with the immediate need for relief, let’s talk about some proactive tips for how to deal with heavy periods at work.
Your period is just one part of your menstrual cycle. So it’s connected to everything that happens during the rest of the month. Which means that what you do in the three weeks before your period can have a direct impact on your actual period. And one way you can take care of your body and prepare for bleeding is by paying attention to your nutrition throughout the month.
While there is some anecdotal evidence about the effects certain foods have on hormones and your menstrual cycle, the scientific evidence is only just starting to emerge. If you want to keep things simple, aim for whole foods. And that includes things like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds, all month long and as often as you’re able to.
As regular Hormonas will know, we’re big advocates of supplements, in particular for those with periods or hormone imbalances. And that’s because they’ve been proven to help some women manage their cycles and prep for their periods.
Several studies published over the past 11 years have shown a correlation between lower levels of Vitamin D and irregular periods. And a 2021 study found that “participants who received Vitamin D experienced significant reductions in pain intensity.” So, vitamin D supplementation and a little extra sun exposure could do you some good.
And then there’s Oral Magnesium. A daily dose can help reduce bloating and mood swings when taken appropriately. The catch is that it doesn’t work immediately. You may need to take it for a month or two before you’ll see any noticeable changes. And, you need to make sure it won’t interfere with other medications you may be taking.
For immediate relief, you can try taking a warm bath with Epsom salts, which contain magnesium. This works on the entire body and can relieve uterine cramps after a rough day at work. So, be sure to stock up before your next period.
Low iron levels are common in women with heavy periods and are associated with low energy and fatigue. However, too much iron in your blood is also dangerous. So, as with any supplementation, consult your primary healthcare provider before adding extra Iron to your diet.
The kinds of products you use can make or break how you deal with heavy periods at work. No one wants to make bathroom trips every hour. And, sometimes, even that’s impossible! We feel you, teachers and healthcare professionals!
The good news is you have options beyond the typical disposable pads and tampons. Some of these options include:
- Menstrual cups and discs: They hold more than the average tampon, and there’s no risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome. They can also help track how much blood you are actually losing each month, which can be vital information to share with your doctor if you have Menorrhagia.
- Reusable pads: You can buy them pre-made in basic shapes. Or, you can have them custom-made in fun patterns, colors, shapes, sizes, and absorbancies to suit your body and flow.
- Period underwear: They typically hold more than the average pad and won’t leave you feeling wet. With different styles, sizes, and absorbancies, you can feel protected and dry all day.
We won’t sugarcoat it. There is an initial investment and a learning curve to using and caring for each of these reusable options. But they’re easy enough to store at work, so you’re always prepared. And many women report that they’re more comfortable and reliable and that the long-term savings are worth it.
Yes, you can plan for pain management. And no, it doesn’t have to involve a bottle of pills. Here are a couple of drug-free examples:
- TENS machine: Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation works by sending a very mild electrical current through the skin to stimulate the nerves and interrupt pain signals. TENS machines have been used to treat pain in all areas of the body for years, and recently some women have experienced success in using them to treat period pain.
- Heating pad: There’s something so comforting about a heating pad. And why shouldn’t you bring a little comfort to work, especially during your period? Pro tip: Cover all your bases. Have one heating pad for home and one heating pad for work. Also, did you know they make wearable hot water bottles now?
Having different pain management options available will make dealing with your heavy periods at work more manageable and comfortable. But make sure that they will actually work when you need them to by giving them a go at home first. Once you’ve figured out what works and what doesn’t, consider packing a small bag and leaving it at work or in your car, so you’re always prepared.
There is some trial and error involved in figuring out how to deal with heavy periods at work, so give yourself some time and grace. And with some simple strategies, a little preparation, and some patience, you’ll be able to find what works for you.