Monthly Archives: February 2020

5 Ways to Ease Period Cramps

5 Ways to Ease Period Cramps



Period cramps are a recurrent lower abdominal pain, that can occur a few days before and during your period. The pain can range from mild to severe – especially during the first few days of your period – and at times, be quite debilitating.

The pain is usually dull and can be felt above the pelvic bone, around the lower back and mid-thighs. In some cases, the pain is accompanied by nausea, vomiting, dizziness, diarrhea or constipation and headaches.

It is often advisable to go see a doctor if the pain becomes more severe with each menstrual cycle, as at times, the pain can be due to other underlying issues.

So I googled this, and came across the term ‘dysmenorrhea’?

Dysmenorrhea is the medical term for period cramps. When the pain is only during your period, it is primary dysmenorrhea. When the pain is due to an underlying issue, such as endometriosis, PCOS, or fibroids, it is referred to as secondary dysmenorrhea.

If you have severe cramps, lasting for more than a couple days, and suspect that there may be an underlying issue – go see your doctor. They’ll ask you about your symptoms, menstrual history and possibly perform a pelvic exam. Some additional tests may be done if it is suspected that your cramps aren’t just related to your period.

But what actually causes these cramps?

During your period, your uterus is shedding it’s lining and contracting to help push the period blood out. Prostaglandins are chemicals that are formed, to help your uterus contract. These uterine muscle contractions can decrease blood flow and oxygen to the uterus, causing pain. The prostaglandins also contribute to the nausea and diarrhea some experience.

Cramps are highly common, especially amongst adolescents. They typically start within the first few years of starting your period, and often, decrease in severity with age.

Ok, so what can I do to feel better?

  • Pharmacological:

    – The most commonly used method is to take over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen, naproxen or panadol. Stronger, period-specific pain medications are also available. Always follow the instructions written on the bottle and in the case of any medicine-allergies, speak with your doctor first.
    – Some doctors may prescribe hormonal birth control pills that help to reduce pain while also regulating your period.

  • Use heat:

    – During the first couple hours of cramps, applying low-level heat has been shown to reduce pain significantly better than medications. Most use both methods of heat and medication to get quick relief. Heat can be applied by purchasing heat pads, a hot water bottle, or heat wrap. Follow the instructions on the packets carefully. Take caution to not to fall asleep with these on, as some can cause burns.
    – If you don’t have these items at home, try taking a hot shower, using a warm towel or ironing a piece of cloth and wrapping it around your lower back

  • Get moving:

    – Although the idea of squats, lunges and sprints while on your period may not sound particularly relaxing – studies have shown that even light exercise can help combat period cramps
    – Choose an exercise that you enjoy and helps you feel good. This can include anything from walking, running, swimming or more
    – Exercises that engage the core can be particularly helpful
    – Slow movements that involve deep breathing, such as in yoga, can also be alleviating
    – If you go to a gym or studio, ask a certified instructor for some tips!

  • Just take a step back, and relax:

    – Quality of sleep has been shown to effect the severity of cramps. Take this time to improve your sleeping habits or maybe just take a quick nap to help you feel more refreshed
    – Engage in a calming activity that helps you feel good, whether its listening to music, reading a book, watching a movie or hanging out with a friend. Don’t over-exert yourself!
    – A good massage is not only relaxing, but can also increase blood flow and therefore help against cramps. Applying some pressure, in a circular motion to the base of your thumb and big toe are some acupressure points that can help with cramps as well
    – Sitting back and sipping on some tea may be just what you need! Try chamomile, cinnamon or ginger!

  • Orgasm:

    – Whether it’s by yourself or with your partner – orgasms allow the uterus to relax and increase blood flow, automatically helping with cramps!

    In short…
    Cramps are a natural, albeit painful part of the menstruation process. Though uncomfortable, periods are not a ‘curse’ – far from it! They are NOTHING to be ashamed of.

    Talking about your period with trusted friends, can help in dispelling any negative thoughts and help you become more comfortable in your body.

    With the right tools, you can ease your cramps and make your period more pleasant. It’s all about finding what works for you!

    The Best Period Tracking Apps

FLO Period & Ovulation Tracker

FLO is marketed as the No. 1 Women’s Health App – a ‘true fertility friend’. The app includes a period tracker, ovulation and fertility calendar, as well as a pregnancy-specific mode. All you have to do is record your symptoms and the app does the rest by converting your information into super useful and easy-to-read graphs helping you to better understand your body. This app is especially handy for those with irregular cycles – the more you log in, the more accurate the app’s predictions! The app also does a neat job of sending relevant daily health insights and articles tailored specifically for you and your cycle. It’s the perfect app for taking full control of your health!

CLUE Period Tracker

Rated as one of the top free period tracker apps by the Obstetrics & Gynecology Journal, CLUE is here for all your menstrual health needs. In addition to the usual period and ovulation calendars, the app offers menstrual flow, products, fluid (discharge) and pain trackers as well. The more information you log in, the more accurate your reminders for your next period and PMS. The app also keeps tabs on your fertility and sex habits, as well as helping you set birth control pill reminders. Still not sure about what’s going on with your body? Head over to the app’s website for all your menstrual and sexual health related questions!

EVE by Glow

Want to own your cycle? Want to feel good in bed? Then EVE is the app for you! Marketed as an app to track your period and sex life, Eve covers all the bases with its sex, health and period logs. Your information is presented in eye-catching charts and a daily ‘cyclescope’ – a forecast of where you are in your cycle and the symptoms you may be experiencing. The app also offers some serious in-app support, with a community of users that you can chat with about your period and sex-related health – ‘no topic is off limits’! An added bonus are some sexy quizzes, sexplanations and articles – offering you the information you need to understand your cycle and body in a whole new way.

The youth vaping epidemic: Addressing the rise of e-cigarettes in schools

The youth vaping epidemic: Addressing the rise of e-cigarettes in schools


Last December, the U.S. surgeon general raised an alarm regarding the rise in e-cigarette use among the nation’s youth, saying it has increased “at a rate of epidemic proportions.” According to the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey, over 5 million youth are currently using e-cigarettes, primarily the JUUL brand, with nearly 1 million youth using the product daily. This substantial increase in teenage vaping is seriously impacting middle and high schools across America.

ast December, the U.S. surgeon general raised an alarm regarding the rise in e-cigarette use among the nation’s youth, saying it has increased “at a rate of epidemic proportions.” According to the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey, over 5 million youth are currently using e-cigarettes, primarily the JUUL brand, with nearly 1 million youth using the product daily. This substantial increase in teenage vaping is seriously impacting middle and high schools across America.

Banning the sale of flavored e-cigarettes would have hefty implications on vaping companies since they employ thousands of small shop owners and hardware designers. Banning the legal sale of flavored vaping products would also create a robust black market for e-cigarettes. A black market for vapes could be lethal for youth who find themselves smoking from cartridges cut with cheaper substances

We cannot know what will happen to e-cigarettes if the minimum age increases, but we can look to the experience of increasing the minimum age on alcohol for some suggestive evidence. According to the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 30% of youth drank some amount of alcohol while 14% of youth engaged in binge drinking. Though raising the age limit for purchasing alcohol helped reduce youth alcohol consumption, youth consumption of alcohol persists.

Beyond traditional tactics like monitoring bathrooms and hallways to confiscate vaping devices, states could also take a new approach to fighting the e-cigarette epidemic, like offering grants to schools to invest in on-site counseling. South Portland High School has been addressing teen vaping by offering mental health services and guiding students away from the social influences that encourage vaping. This school—and others, like Arrowhead High School in Milwaukee—have also been getting students involved in their anti-vaping campaign via peer-to-peer education.

The teenage vaping crisis calls for innovative solutions. In collaboration with federal and state action, local actors can look at the FDA’s Youth Tobacco Prevention Plan for insight on ways to initiate community-supported approaches that restrict access to vaping products, curb teenage-focused marketing tactics, and educate teenagers about the harmful, long-term effects of vaping.

Many women watch porn thinking it’s normal sex. It’s not

Many women watch porn thinking it’s normal sex. It’s not

How did you learn to have sex?

Not the biology of sex, or learning to put a condom over a banana, but how to actually do it.

Maybe you worked it out bit by bit with a partner. Maybe you talked about it with friends and got tips and tricks from them. Or maybe you watched porn.

If you’re under 35, it’s almost certain you’ve watched porn at least once, with surveys such as triple j’s annual check-in with young people finding 93 per cent of men and 58 per cent of women do.

“Adolescents are really wanting to seek out some information about: What’s normal? What should I do? How does this work?” says Sarah Ashton, associate researcher at Monash University.

The conversations around porn usage usually focus on men. But according to Dr Ashton, the founder and director of Sexual Health and Intimacy Psychological Services, young women are increasingly watching porn, either searching for it themselves online or being shown it by friends and boyfriends.

And a lot of young women are watching porn to find out information about sex that they can’t get any other way because talking about it is so taboo.

But with concerns that porn is becoming increasingly violent and debates about whether it’s addictive or not, is there a problem if women are getting off to pornography now and then?

What porn is doing for the women who watch it

Dr Ashton says for some women she’s spoken to in her research, porn was useful, helping them feel better about their own bodies and helping them explore their own sexuality more.

“It kind of normalised body diversity, it’s normalised different types of sexual acts, and sexual behaviour,” she says.

And she says some women told her they did learn about positions and got ideas of things to try in their own sex lives they might not have otherwise been exposed to.

But even when women reported they enjoyed porn, there were still worrying trends.

“When it came to pleasure, most women didn’t prioritise their own pleasure. And within the dynamics of their relationships, that was not something that wasn’t spoken about or prioritised with their partner,” Dr Ashton says.

“I think the biggest thing that stood out for me is that women didn’t know how to ask for what they wanted [with sex].”

Senior lecturer at RMIT Meagan Tyler says porn is increasingly seen as a “textbook” for sex and that’s creating problems.

“Porn’s the thing that everyone’s looking at like it’s normal, but it’s not normal, we know it’s not normal, it’s completely manufactured,” she says.

“[Porn] contains a lot of violence against women. It’s terribly racist. If you look at mainstream porn, it’s terribly misogynist.

“[Yet] pornography equals sex has become just such a cultural staple.”

Dr Ashton says in her research the women who enjoyed porn said they were put off if they thought anyone involved in the production wasn’t giving full consent.

Some said they tried to source “ethical porn“, but few were prepared to pay, preferring accessing porn for free online.

It’s not easy to verify how the porn you’re watching was made, especially if you’re not paying anyone for it. And Dr Ashton says some people “turn off” their ethics and moral thoughts when they’re engaged with porn.

“It may not be something that people are aware that the content that you’re actually consuming when you masturbate, and when you’re experiencing sexual pleasure, that’s actually pairing with a reward in your brain that will reinforce what you’re aroused to, and the sort of things that you associate with your sexuality, it actually has quite a profound impact,” she says.

Dr Tyler says while there is a lot of variation in porn, with producers catering to all sorts of kinks and subgenres, the vast majority is made with a straight male audience in mind.

This skews the content so that even when it’s ostensibly lesbian sex being shown, it’s being shown for a male viewer.

She says porn has been so normalised in our society that some people find it more embarrassing to say they don’t use it than admitting to accessing it, and the demand for “ethical” porn is part of that normalisation.

“Why is [there a] desperation for there to be an ethical porn, rather than the question of what would sexuality look like without pornography now?” she says.

“It’s not food, it’s not water, it’s not air, it’s not exercise.

“In a post-Me Too era, if we’re really talking about sharing equal sexual relations between men and women, I cannot see the pornography industry is part of that.

“You can’t say you’re pro-Me Too, and you’re pro women’s consent, and then still go and masturbate to material that fundamentally subordinates women.”

More open talk about sex could help

Both Dr Tyler and Dr Ashton believe more open conversations and better sexual education is needed so young people don’t feel they have to turn to porn to learn how to have and enjoy sex.

“We just need to equip people with knowledge and with access to information and support services, so that they can figure out how to be embracing their sexuality in a way that works with them, and having pleasurable, happy, consensual relationship,” Dr Ashton says.

Girls and women menstruate. Period

Girls and women menstruate. Period

Last fortnight, officials at a hostel in Bhuj checked residents so those who had their periods could be isolated. Such attitudes perpetuate gender inequalities.

Menstruation is a natural and essential part of a woman’s reproductive cycle. Without it, men, boys, women, girls would not exist. Yet, it is surrounded by myths, misconceptions and taboo.

Stigma related to menstruation reinforces discrimination and perpetuates gender inequalities. And while we know that these attitudes still prevail in some homes and communities, it is shocking to learn that educational institutions and leaders – those that are expected to bearers of light – still adopt extreme forms of shaming and blaming.

A United Nations Population Fund-commissioned photo essay in 2017 on girls’ experiences around menarche, the first occurrence of menstruation, revealed harmful practices girls are subjected to in many parts of India: Prohibition from entering the kitchen or the prayer room, being made to stay outside the house, being forced to eat in separate utensils, or not being allowed to touch certain kinds of food because they could get spoilt. These social norms isolate girls from friends and family, in turn impacting their reproductive and mental health.

Girls start considering themselves to be “impure” and “unclean” during their periods. And their trauma doesn’t end there: inadequate access to clean water, sanitation, affordable menstrual management means, and privacy, all serve to reinforce the stigma. They experience shame, fear and embarrassment. And as they grow up to be women, they internalise these gender inequitable values.

Adding to their woes, in some parts of world, including South Asia, puberty and especially menarche, are considered to signal that girls are ready for marriage and motherhood. In such contexts, parents may view child and early marriages as viable options to control girls’ sexuality or to protect against fears related to the “family’s honour”.

Breaking taboos

In 1994, during the landmark International Conference on Population and Development, and then again in 2019 during the Nairobi Summit to mark ICPD@25, the right to quality sexual and reproductive health services was squarely confirmed as pivotal to women and girls’ participation in family, community and national processes, as well as to the attainment of overall development goals.

The development goals include equal opportunity to education for girls and boys, by ensuring access to clean water and sanitation, medication to treat menstruation-related pain, and creation of safe spaces for girls.

If girls are to miss five days of school every month, how will countries attain that goal? And if women are to be confined during those five days, how will they participate in the labour market, politics, or any decision-making activity in their community?

The good news, however, is that today, India has several policies in place that address awareness about menstruation and menstrual hygiene. Many states have adopted and integrated life skills that include comprehensive sexuality education into their lower- and upper- secondary school curricula. Many civil society organisations promote girls’ education and work with parents and communities to break these taboos.

Thanks to these initiatives, the discomfort around menstruation and menstrual hygiene is beginning to gradually fade. It is now widely accepted that girls’ and women’s access to effective means of managing menstrual hygiene is strictly linked to realising their human dignity.

e must join efforts to break these taboos that have been built over centuries and are ingrained in people’s minds. Until we allow young girls to feel “normal” about menstruating, the best-intentioned policies will fall short of attaining the desired goals of equal participation of women and men.

Girls and women menstruate. Period.

Argentina Matavel Piccin is the India Representative at United Nations Population Fund or UNFPA.