Periods are as unpredictable as the weather. You might expect a mild forecast, but then Mother Nature decides to shake things up. Suddenly, you’re left standing out in the middle of a monsoon — sans an umbrella and proper footwear — confused and frustrated AF. If you’re someone who never really knows whether they can expect rain or shine during that special time of the month, I can offer you this comfort: There are reasons why your period is worse some months and not others. Evidently, the root of the problem has a lot to do with your lifestyle choices, and everything to do with how your hormones respond to them (shocker).
Sometimes premenstrual syndrome, otherwise known as PMS, can feel like a puzzle you’re constantly trying to solve, but that’s not the case for everyone. Some people’s periods arrive like clockwork each month, with little to no surprises in the agonizing symptoms department. Others (myself included) are stuck navigating a scramble of symptoms every month, as if Mother Nature’s picking from a hat and dealing out mood swings, cramps, and migraines at random. But that’s just it, friends — nothing that goes on in the human body is random.
The truth is, there’s a rhyme and reason as to why the intensity of your period fluctuates from month to month, and it all comes back to hormones. During an exclusive interview with Elite Daily via email, Sandy Knauf, a U by Kotex partner and family nurse practitioner, says that PMS occurs when estrogen and progesterone are at their peak just before you bleed. While estrogen can trigger the onset of bloating, changes in sleep pattern, headaches, mood swings, and even cysts on the breasts, progesterone is responsible for hormonal breakouts, cravings, irritability, fatigue, and breast tenderness, Knauf explains.
Based on this information alone, technically you could write off your yo-yoing PMS as estrogen and progesterone just running amuck whenever they see fit, but your hormones only act out if they have a reason to. So why is your period worse some months, but pretty manageable the next? Here's what two experts in the space have to say about this kind of fluctuation.
You Haven’t Been Getting Enough Sleep
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times over: Sleep runs the freakin’ world. And as it turns out, getting enough quality shuteye plays a pretty major role in how you feel from the time PMS hits, up until you stop bleeding.
According to Dr. Jessica Shepherd, a women’s health expert, OBGYN, and U by Kotex partner, when you don’t get adequate sleep, especially during your period, you’ll likely feel annoyed and groggy — both of which are stressors on your physical body. A lack of sleep can also cause a change in hormones, making your periods irregular, she tells Elite Daily over email, so you really want to make sure that in the weeks leading up to your period, you’re following a similar wake-sleep cycle every day to promote a regulated sleep pattern throughout your entire cycle.
You’ve Been Eating A Lot Of Processed Foods
Personally, I can always tell when my period is close, because I’ll suddenly get hit with a deep desire to eat pizza, french fries, and bagel sandwiches. These foods might be comforting in those few first bites, but Shepherd warns processed foods pumped with white sugars and flours cause inflammation inside the body. And, in case you weren’t already putting two and two together, period plus added inflammation equals disaster.
“Eat more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables [during your period],” Shepherd suggests, adding that implementing probiotics into your diet can also help “decrease inflammation and normalize the pH of your body.”
Your Flow Is Heavier Than "Normal"
In an exclusive interview with Elite Daily, board-certified OBGYN Dr. Heather Bartos, MD, tells me that every month, your uterus "sheds" the uterine lining and blood as a way of “self-cleaning." Sometimes it sheds more, sometimes it sheds less. The more it has to shed, the heavier the flow. Make sense?
"The uterus is a muscle and 'contractions' push out menstrual flow," Bartos explains. Stress, hormone changes, being “late,” and normal fluctuations of hormones can all contribute to the change in flow, she says. Ergo, if your period is heavier than last month, there's a good chance your symptoms might be a little more intense, too.
You've Been Stressed AF
Have you been feeling stressed lately? Try your best to do everything you can to stay calm. This is much easier said than done, I know, but listen up: Bartos tells Elite Daily that not only can stress make your period feel a million times worse, but it can also make it disappear, so keeping stress levels on the down-low is crucial.
To destress and nip panic in the bud before it even has the chance to bloom and wreak havoc on your menstrual-stricken body, Shepherd suggests working off the anxieties with yoga sequences and sessions at the gym. "Exercises helps with stress," Shepherd explains, "triggering the release of endorphins with can induce 'exercise euphoria,' and altered pain perception which can help women with menstrual pain and cramps."
Sounds like a pretty good deal, right? Even if your period comes and your body is begging you for rest, simply taking a leisurely walk or doing easy stretches can help.