Monday, May 12, 2014

Menstruation: Concerns and suggestions

One of the more annoying things I've noted among some segments of female preppers is that they are grossed out by their bodies and the cycles they go through. They get all heebie-geebie and green when you mention the monthly menses. Others cringe because they, like myself, can readily call that time "shark week" because everything looks like a chew toy for a couple days.

Guess what? You have a vagina, a uterus and ovaries.  Get over the fact that once a month your uterus sheds its lining in a manner of violence that would make Nero proud.   

How you can you use your menses to tell if something is wrong

Everyone with a uterus can tell you that irregularities regarding length and heaviness of flow are normal from time to time, but what happens when you have several that are back to back?  Is it stress, or is it your body trying to warn you that's there's something seriously wrong?  

Sources like Kotex bring up the point that poor nutrition can contribute to irregular periods.  (I know I haven't talked about nutrition nearly enough, but you can bet I'll be bringing it up several more times.) Eating right, even if you are having to ration food, is crucial for the health of your sexual plumbing.  Whether women like admitting it or not, those hormones can be our worst damn enemy if we're not careful.  Things like Magnesium, Iron and Vitamin D deficiencies are beginning to be finally be noticed by the medical communities as being a possible contributor to poor uterine health, severe PMS and Endometriosis.  

If you're an older woman, it could be a sign of menopause starting.  It could also be a sign of something worse.  

There are also those of us who've never had regular periods.  Does that mean something is wrong if they start being regular?  Only the individual woman can answer that.  This is one of those things that you should really be keeping a journal of.  Your menses can tell you a lot of information about your overall health, and you should really be learning how to read those signs now.

What is PMS?

(Author's note - IT'S HELL.)  

Here's a tidbit for the men:  no, doctors are STILL unable to figure out all of the exact things that combine into this misery-inducing problem.  Trust me, those of us who are female very much wish that they were farther along in that.

Symptoms of Pre-Menstrual Syndrome (from the Mayo Clinic website):

Emotional and behavioral symptoms
  • Tension or anxiety 
  • Depressed mood 
  • Crying spells 
  • Mood swings and irritability or anger 
  • Appetite changes and food cravings 
  • Trouble falling asleep (insomnia) 
  • Social withdrawal 
  • Poor concentration

    Physical signs and symptoms
    • Joint or muscle pain 
    • Headache 
    • Fatigue 
    • Weight gain related to fluid retention 
    • Abdominal bloating 
    • Breast tenderness 
    • Acne flare-ups 
    • Constipation or diarrhea 

    "Although the list of potential signs and symptoms is long, most women with premenstrual syndrome experience only a few of these problems.

    For some women, the physical pain and emotional stress are severe enough to affect their daily routines and activities. Regardless of their severity, though, the signs and symptoms disappear, for most women, as the menstrual period begins.

    But a few women with premenstrual syndrome have disabling symptoms every month. This form of PMS has its own designation - premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). PMDD is a severe form of premenstrual syndrome with signs and symptoms including severe depression, feelings of hopelessness, anger, anxiety, low self-esteem, difficulty concentrating, irritability and tension. A number of women with severe PMS may have an underlying psychiatric disorder."
    Yes, I know I did a copy and paste cheat on that one, but they wrote it up a lot better than I could. 

    Ways to deal with it

    Everyone has their favorite methods, many times passed on from mom and other female friends, all the while forgetting that human beings are not widgets.  We aren't made with a cookie cutter.  Each female should give themselves the time to figure out what works best in managing and getting through their time of the month.  Everything from heating pads, to midol, to working out, to binge eating.

    Personally, I prefer Aleve and Icy Hot patches.  The patches work like a heating pad, only I maintain my mobility.  Unfortunately, I've noticed among some women (myself included) that after a period of anywhere from six months to a year, Midol and Pamprin stop working to ease symptoms.  Find what works for you NOW, not later. 

    Non-traditional ways of dealing with it 

    There are a lot of home remedies out there, and a popular method is mint and raspberry tea.  Mint is actually a mild pain reliever; back when I had a bit more disposable income, I would get mint essential oil and rub a bit on my temples whenever the headaches would come knocking.  Drinking warm tea could very easily just be a placebo, but it's also comforting and the warmth loosens up muscles that might be cramping from the pain. (Hint to the guys: a good way to score brownie points is presenting a cup of tea, with a bit of honey.)

    A lot of women have to avoid caffeine, sugar and salt when it's coming up on that time of the month. Thankfully, I'm not one of these poor wretched souls.  You give me chocolate (preferably a mocha, that takes care of two things are once) and you get to live I mean uh, things will smooth out quickly.  

    Exercise helps a lot.  I know, I know, I hear your groans.  However, something as simple as beating the bounds of the your tribal area (going on a long walk) can be incredibly beneficial as it forces muscles in your pelvic region to loosen up and releases those feel-good endorphins.  Just take it easy on the gear, you don't need the SAW or nine tanto blades while you're walking, okay?  As for your buddy... best have them walk a few paces behind, not in front.  Give them a sporting chance of ducking after the make some smart-ass comment. 

    Foods and spices can help with a lot of the problems.  Common foods that help me are cherries, chicken and turkey, and they will be available (or should be, if you've prepped with things like this in mind) post-SHTF.  Spices that help are the ones that add an extra small kick like black pepper and cinnamon.  

    Ideally you want to combine all of these things, because seriously, who enjoys being curled up into a ball for almost a full day or two or three and feeling useless?  I sure as hell don't.

    Re-usable menstruation materials

    Now this part might make a few of you squelch.  After SHTF, especially in a long-term situation where things are being re-built, some... okay, a LOT of people seem to think items like pads and tampons are going to be running out.  Bad news: making re-usable tampons is a no-go, sister!  Good news: making pads seems to be a breeze.  Now there are other alternatives like this... cup thing you can use like a tampon.  I'm not linking to that as I think they are a very bad idea, but you need to do your own research into that.  

    When it comes to reusable pads,  I'll admit that I'm still working up the courage to switch over myself.  But I know that once I do, I won't regret it.  The amount of money I'll save us is worth  it (have you seen how much those things are starting to cost??!) and I have heard from a lot of women who have switched over that discomfort from PMS and Endometriosis symptoms have been reduced - in some cases, by one hundred percent!  (They suspect it's from removing from their bodies the artificial chemicals that are used in the commercial products. Again, do some research and decide for yourself.)

    Now I have a few sites here that have information and patterns for re-usable pads and even a couple Etsy stores that make re-usables.  For those of you who are adverse to sites with opposing political views, calm your hackles.  A SMART prepper appreciates information that's relevant to what she needs, even if she has to ignore the rest of the site.


    Etsy stores with already made pads:

    Feminine pads  

    For those of you guys who are putting back these, despite no females and with full knowledge that they will be good trading items... God(s) bless you!  There are a variety of types of pads and makers.  You have overnight, light days, etc.  Kotex, Stayfree and a few others.  Yes, you're going to get weird looks from people when you're doing your research, but it's worth it,  especially if you end up with teenagers around. 


    I personally advise against tampons.  They are a decent idea, but there's something called TSS that is frequently over-looked and unknown to a lot of people.  Toxic Shock Syndrome is no joke -  I'm prone to it. Ladies and Gents, this can kill you, even in our world today.  

    Again from the Mayo Clinic website: 
    Possible signs and symptoms of toxic shock syndrome include:
    • A sudden high fever
    • Low blood pressure (hypotension)
    • Vomiting or diarrhea
    • A rash resembling a sunburn, particularly on your palms and soles
    • Confusion
    • Muscle aches
    • Redness of your eyes, mouth and throat
    • Seizures
    • Headaches
    Most sites will tell you TSS a rare condition.  No, what's rare is when it's been properly diagnosed because a woman went "Hold up, something is wrong, I'm going to the doctor. " If you have had an abnormal fever after starting to use tampons in association with your period, guess what?  You've probably developed TSS. 

    I very strongly hope that you will do more research into this.  It's worth the time to make smart choices about your body, and you can't do that without doing some reading and some talking to other women.  Just keep in mind that if you thought the looks the men got from saying they're preppers were weird, brace yourself.

    Suggested supplies to have 

    1. Pads (Disposable - when buying your pads, keep an eye out for sales.  Buy two, and put back one. If you've gone the re-usable route, check out the scrap fabric pins at your local crafts stores.  You can pick up enough yardage at times for three and four pads.  Make a batch, put one or up to half of them back.)
    2. Icy Hot, or a variation thereof.
    3. A pain reliever that you know works - two types.  (For me it's Aleve and Excedrin Migraine for the bad days.)
    4. Hot Water bottle.
    5. Favorite type of tea or other comfort item.
    Menstruation is natural.  It's normal.  It's not something be ashamed of or afraid of.  Yes it's gross, but no grosser than kissing or sex.  Again, this is one of those things you need to make decisions about now and implement now, not later when SHTF.  It's also one of those things that you need to accept responsibility for as it doesn't affect just you, it affects everyone else around you as well. Be considerate to others in your tribe!

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