Looking after myself helps me

photo of family taking a stroll
PantherMedia / Cathy Yeulet

Andrea, 48 years old:

“Almost everything gets better when I get my period. I sometimes still have a headache on the first day, but all of the other symptoms quickly disappear. It’s such a relief when that happens.”

Until I turned 40 I just had symptoms during my period – they weren’t that bad, but they were there. I have very heavy periods so I keep getting anemia. During those days I often feel like all of my blood is being drained away. I don’t remember exactly how old I was at the time, but at some point I noticed that I was starting to experience symptoms on the days before my period too.

I started experiencing more headaches, breast tenderness and mood swings

I often have headaches, and have done for quite a while. For a long time I didn’t see any connection to my period. At some point I realized that I almost always have headaches about two days before I get my period and I sometimes still have a headache on the first day of my period too.

I started getting more symptoms after around the age of 45. About three or four days to one week before the bleeding starts, I’m in a very bad mood. I just used to feel a bit cranky at first, but over the last two years I’ve really started to feel slightly depressed. I am quick to cry and easily break out in tears over the slightest things. I don’t only get into a bad mood, I also feel down and don’t feel like talking to anyone.

Plus, my breasts start feeling extremely tender. But that just started about a year ago. At first I even thought it might be a tumor, because I didn’t know what else it could be.

My symptoms have gotten more difficult to cope with and more extreme over time. They bother me more than they used to.

I noticed the connection by keeping a diary

My menstrual cycle is completely irregular and lasts anywhere between 24 and 45 days. It’s not easy to be ready for it, and I never really kept track of it. About six months ago I started keeping closer track of my cycle. I have migraines now and then and was never sure whether they were period-related or not. So I tried monitoring things by keeping a migraine diary. That’s when I saw that the headaches usually started about two days before my period. And recently it’s even been about a week before. As well as keeping notes about the headaches, I also kept track of when I felt depressed. Then I saw the connection between my symptoms and my period. Now that I’ve realized that, I can deal with them a lot better.

Almost everything gets better when I get my period. I sometimes still have a headache on the first day, but all of the other symptoms quickly disappear. It’s such a relief when that happens.

Once  I had realized that there was a connection between my mood swings and my menstrual cycle, it felt like quite a revelation. I had an explanation and that helped me a lot.

My mood can change suddenly

Sometimes my mood can change quite suddenly, even while doing things like just sitting at a café with friends. I could never understand why. But it was a relief to find out that it had to do with my period. When I talked with my girlfriends they all said that they experience similar mood swings. It was really good to talk. I didn’t feel alone with my problem. Some of them said they feel like that too and even cry sometimes.

My partner is very understanding

My partner has dealt with in the past and we can talk openly about these kinds of things. Sometimes I just burst into tears for no reason. He used to put it down to my general disposition. Now it’s also easier for him to understand because he knows that it’s related to my menstrual cycle. I feel like he takes good care of me.

Looking after myself helps me

Recently he told me that we’d have to make sure I do something nice on the days when I’m feeling down. That’s his way of approaching things. But most of all I have to look after myself. Sometimes I can do with a little distraction – like curling up at home and watching a good film. I try to avoid having serious talks when I feel that way. Sometimes I don’t want to talk at all, and sometimes I don’t say a word for hours at a time. That can be uncomfortable for others. Then it’s often better if I’m just on my own. I don’t want to put others in a bad mood too.

Fresh air is good for me when I’m feeling bad, and eating healthy and getting a lot of sleep always helps me anyway. I’ve been careful about that for a while now. Sometimes I don’t go jogging for the first couple of days after my period has started if I don’t have the strength. It does drain some of my energy. Then I do everything at a slower pace. Especially in the few days before my period starts and on the first day of my period, but then everything gets better very quickly. I keep going to work as usual, though. But I’d stay at home if I ever felt really bad.

Acknowledgment

Our real-life stories summarize interviews with people who are affected by the medical condition. Our interview partners

have given us permission to publish their stories. We would like to express our sincere thanks to them.

The real-life stories give an insight into how other people cope and live with a medical condition. Their opinions and comments are not recommendations by IQWiG.

Please note: The names of our interview partners have been changed to protect their identity. The photos are of models.

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Please note that we do not provide individual advice on matters of health. You can read about where to find help and support in Germany in our information “How can I find self-help groups and information centers?

Updated on June 15, 2017
Next planned update: 2021

Authors/Publishers:

Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG, Germany)

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