Sometimes your period can make a surprise appearance. We’ve all experienced it: a rogue period shows up out of nowhere to mess up a big day, a major event, or put a huge damper on a backing packing trip up to Machu Picchu. In fact travel, in itself, can also affect your period, throwing everything for a loop. Even the most predictable of periods can, for a variety of reasons, suddenly become unpredictable. Stress, alone, is definitely one of those factors.
“Normal fluctuations in hormones during the menstrual cycle alter neurotransmitters that are responsible for a variety of functions, including mood, libido, appetite, anxiety, emotion, pain, and pleasure,” Sara Twogood, MD, FACOG, tells Bustle. “The changes and relative levels of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone throughout the menstrual cycle, including during the period itself, are also responsible for many of the changes women notice (such as breakouts, breast tenderness, etc).”
But you shouldn’t let something like your period ruin your big vacation. So to avoid the potential menstrual cramps, pain, headaches or any other symptoms you may have, here are seven travel hacks, according to a doctor, to help you deal when your period decides to join your party in the Maldives.
If You’re On Birth Control Pills, Try To Avoid Having Your Period On Vacation
As Dr. Loanzon points out, and is something I’ve experienced first hand a few countries in Southeast Asia, there are certain cultures in which menstruating women aren’t allowed in sacred areas. They even have signs stating this in multiple languages. It’s something worth considering — although, it’s ultimately your choice.
“Check with your health care provider if your specific birth control pill can be used for this,” Dr. Loanzon says, “or if you can take a progesterone based medication to avoid your cycle while traveling.”
Opt For The Menstrual Cup
In the past few years, the menstrual cup has become really popular. It’s not just environmentally-friendly, because they’re reusable, but you end up spending pretty much nothing on feminine hygiene products every month because of this reusable factor.
“While you still have to heed the recommended length of time for use of a menstrual cup, these are wonderful options to not have to deal with changing tampons or pads,” Dr. Loanzon says. “Make sure to try out this method before your trip so you feel comfortable during your vacation, and also make sure research whether you’ll be able to cleanse the cup for sanitation appropriately while on your trip.”
Even if your vacation is supposed to be all about you sitting on the beach doing nothing, exercising while you have your period is a great, if not, fantastic idea.
“There has been evidence that exercise can reduce menstrual symptoms,” Dr. Loanzon says. “Yoga … may be helpful, but make sure to speak to check with your yoga instructor about which positions to avoid (for instance, it’s generally recommended to avoid inversions).”
So maybe it’s worth packing that yoga mat too.
Have Sex Or Masturbate
According to Dr. Loanzon, sexual activity may also be helpful when it comes to reducing period-related symptoms. When we orgasm during our period we get two major benefits: a natural painkiller and the ability to shorten our period due to the internal contractions that come with an orgasm that tend to push out more blood than if there wasn’t an orgasm being had.
Basically, whether you’re traveling alone or with a partner, feel free to bring your favorite sex toy.
Make Sure You Bring Your Own Pain Relief Pills
“Use of NSAIDS (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as Ibuprofen can aid with painful menstrual cramps,” Dr. Loanzon says. “Uterine cramps are caused by a release of prostaglandins and medications like Ibuprofen help to present the prostaglandin release.”
In addition to always having your own painkillers that you’re familiar with, Dr. Loanzon says you should take those pills before your period starts — that is, if your period is fairly regular and you know when it’s about to begin.
“Taking a medication like this the day before your cycle starts can also help decrease blood flow when your period does arrive,” she says.
Bring Herbal Supplements
If you’re someone who doesn’t like to take medication like Ibuprofren, then herbal supplements are your next best bet. Especially if you’re traveling to countries where Ibuprofren might not be available.
“Use of a natural herbal supplement like Black Cohosh or the equivalent of a natural menopausal supplement,” Dr. Loanzon says. “These are sold over the counter in pill form and can be a natural plant based way to treat cramps without debilitating your travel excursions.”
However, as Dr. Loanzon points out, you should definitely talk to your doctor about these meds before taking them. Just because they’re herbal, doesn’t mean they can’t have an adverse effect on other medications or increase risk for other medical conditions.
Always Pack Something Along The Lines Of A Heat Pack
“Heat has been shown to be as effective for relief of painful periods compared to Ibuprofen (Advil) and Acetaminophen (Tylenol),” Dr. Loanzon says. “You could bring along some instant heat packs or those bladders that can be filled with hot water.”
While a hot bath can also do the trick, sometimes, when traveling, we either end up in a room that only has a shower or in a hostel where, well, just forget about the bath all together.
“While traveling with these items may be cumbersome to lug around as they take up a lot of room in a suitcase, on the plus side they’re effective and don’t pose any side effects,” Dr. Loanzon says.
Your period, no matter how inconvenient, should never stand in the way of you wanting to do what you want to do. With these seven hacks, your next vacation, should your period show up, will still be a blast.