Quiz | Are your periods ‘normal’?
First up today, let’s talk about periods. For many women, periods are a personal topic, and often, the nitty-gritty of this monthly event is not talked about.
It’s good to know that when it comes to periods, there is no such thing as 'normal', and no two women have the exact same experience. What’s more, many women can experience changes month to month; of the more than 15,000 respondents to our recent national Women’s Health Survey, more than half of those younger than 51 had recently discussed, or said they needed to discuss, changes in their menstrual cycle with their doctor.
It’s important to know that periods can both reflect and affect your health and wellbeing. So check in with yourself and find out if your periods are on the right track, or if you need some extra help.
This quiz is designed to be informative and educational. We will not collect personally identifiable information about you.
Painful periods are common, but does your period pain get so bad it stops you from going to school or work, or generally going about your day?
Period pain is often felt in the lower abdomen (belly) and lower back. Does your period pain ever shoot out or radiate to other parts of your body, such as your legs or arms?
When you have your period, do you get pain when you go to the toilet? When passing stool (poo) or urine (wee)?
Does your period pain get so bad that even over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen or paracetamol don’t help?
Length of periods can vary a lot among women. Does your period usually last longer than 8 days?
Heavy period flow can be hard to manage. During your period, do you have to change a maxi/super pad or a super tampon every hour or less, or have to get up in the night to change your pad?
Are your periods so heavy that on some days they stop you from doing usual activities, such as going to work or school, or playing sport?
It’s common for women to feel more tired in the days leading up to, and in the first few days of, their period. Is your energy so low that you often have to stay in bed or at home all day?
Emotions can go up and down in the days before and around your period, and it’s pretty normal to feel more moody, angry, worried, sad or stressed. But do these feelings get so intense that they interfere with your life, affecting work or school, your social life and relationships?
You answered 'Yes' to out of 9 questions
If you answered ‘Yes’ to 1 or more of these questions it is important to talk to a trusted GP about your periods. While each woman has has their own period experience, it sounds like your periods are getting in the way of you going about your life – and you don’t have to put up with that. Help and support are available.
If you answered ‘Yes’ to 0 of these questions but are concerned about your periods or health for other reasons, we encourage you to seek advice from a trusted GP. Periods are a normal (and big!) part of women’s health. Let’s start talking about them!
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'Motion is lotion' for period pain
Painful periods are an issue for many women. About one in three women aged 18-35 who completed our national survey said they had recently discussed, or needed to discuss, painful periods with their doctor. In respondents aged 36-50, it was almost one in four.
The last thing you might feel like doing when you’ve got period pain is to get up and move. However, Jean Hailes pelvic floor physiotherapist, Janetta Webb, uses the phrase ‘motion is lotion’ to describe the effect of regular physical activity on pain conditions. “Movement can help to lubricate joints, improve your mood, increase pain tolerance, improve blood flow to the area of pain and may help to calm the nervous system,” she says.
“To get these benefits, find activities you enjoy and do them most days of the week. And make sure you’re including aerobic exercise – that gets your heart beating faster – as well as stretches to improve muscle length and flexibility,” says Janetta.
While physical activity can have a positive effect on period pain, if the pain is severe you may still need to see your doctor for further help.
Spotlight on... heavy bleeding
Soaked pads, stained clothes, flooding and fatigue... heavy periods can be hard to manage. More than one in four women younger than 51 had recently discussed – or said they needed to discuss – heavy menstrual bleeding with their doctors, according to our national survey. But how do you know if your bleeding is too heavy, or what you can do about it?
Listen to a personal story of a woman who had heavy periods for more than 25 years, and hear what Jean Hailes Medical Director, Dr Elizabeth Farrell, wants all women to know.
Listening time: 9 mins
Are you getting enough iron?
Periods, especially heavy periods, use up a lot of iron. Blood contains iron, so blood loss equals iron loss.
Pregnancy also increases your iron needs. Growing a baby, a placenta and producing more blood for your own body can drain your supplies.
Iron helps to keep your energy levels up, your immune system in check and your cells supplied with oxygen.
Think you can solve it with an iron supplement? Yes, if your iron levels are low and only after they have been checked by your GP. Making a start by eating rich and varied sources of iron is a winning idea.
Iron-rich vegetarian recipe
When it comes to iron, it seems not all sources are created equal. Good sources of iron include red meat, chicken and fish, and it’s also found in plant (vegetarian) foods such as spinach, lentils, beans, nuts and seeds. The twist is, iron from animal sources is absorbed much better by the body than the iron found in plant foods.
But all is not lost for vegie lovers. There’s a few tips and tricks to getting more iron from these sources; for example, combining them with vitamin C-rich foods improves iron absorption, so add lemon juice to salad, or red capsicum to bean dishes.
Also, avoid eating foods that are high in calcium (such as dairy) with vegie-based iron, because when eaten together, calcium can decrease iron absorption.
Whether you eat meat or not, many of us need to be upping our vegie count anyway, so here’s an iron-rich vegetarian recipe ... happy meat-free Monday!
Tina McCarthy, Women's Health Week ambassador and Wheel Women founder
“It can be so hard to get motivated when it’s cold outside, or all you can see in the mirror is the body you don’t want! But remember, nobody else is worrying about how you look because they are all worried about how they look! So get your comfiest and happiest gear on – even if it isn’t ‘active wear’! Meet a friend for coffee, a walk and a chat. Walk or ride your bike there… as soon as you get active, you’ll be lapping everyone on the couch! Go get 'em!”
Hosting an event today?
Here are some quick tips to help make you the ‘hostess with the mostest’, and for those looking to join a Women’s Health Week event in your local area, search here.
A gift for you
Give your health a voice. Spread good health and self-care this week by downloading this e-Card as our gift, and sharing it with friends on your social media channels. Don’t forget to use #myhealthfirst #womenshealthweek
Extra reading & resources
‘Understanding endometriosis’ booklet
This Jean Hailes booklet is a trusted resource for women who have been newly diagnosed with endometriosis and want to learn more about the condition.
How to cope with a complex condition
Complex health conditions have many layers. Often the focus is on a person’s physical symptoms, but many conditions can also affect mental and emotional wellbeing.
Period pain & symptom diary
Track your period pain and other symptoms with this diary. Simply download, print and fill out. It’s especially useful when explaining your symptoms to your doctor.
‘The vulva’ booklet
To help get you talking about this important area of health, we made an information booklet all about the vulva. Find out what’s normal when it comes to vulval health, what causes irritation, how it can be managed and handy health tips to keep in mind.
STIs: call ‘time’ on the silence
Many women find it difficult to discuss sexually transmitted infections (STIs) with their partners or doctors, or worry they may be judged. However, sexual health is a vital part of a woman's wellbeing, so it's important to call 'time' on the silence.
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Jean Hailes for Women's Health is the organisation that proudly presents Women's Health Week every year in September. Keep up to date year-round in the world of women's health by subscribing to Jean Hailes' email updates. You'll receive a monthly wrap-up of interesting articles, the latest research, recipes, videos and more.