The symptoms you should expect when your period is coming, according to an expert

If you have a vagina, you might have a period. Whether you’ve been menstruating for years or weeks, it’s important to pay attention to the period symptoms your body sends you when Aunt Flo is coming to town. Knowing what to expect when your period is on its way can help you to avoid the many inconveniences that come along with menstruation. Pay attention to these tips and you’ll never bleed through your pants again. (Well, fingers crossed.)

Dr. Mary Jane Minkin advises us to split our period symptoms into two separate categories.

Cramps & Physical Discomfort Symptoms

The first category of period-related symptoms is the crampy, achey, physical stuff. This category involves your standard period cramps as well as any other physical discomfort you may experience before your period begins. Dr. Minkin says the best medicine for cramps is “staying in excellent physical shape — regular exercise helps just about everything.” If hitting the gym doesn’t relieve your cramps, she suggests a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (also known as NSAIDs — like Motrin or Aleve).

Dr. Minkin says,

"The cramps are usually associated with the uterus making a chemical called prostaglandin — and NSAIDs basically block the making of more prostaglandins. So taking them early is helpful — when you feel some cramps, start taking them."

Premenstrual Syndrome or Premenstrual Disphoric Disorder

The second category of symptoms is what we generally refer to as PMS. While the exact cause of PMS/PMDD is not known, we do know many of its symptoms. Things like irritation, breast discomfort, and sleep disruption fall under this category. Dr. Minkin suggests exercise again as something that can alleviate these symptoms, but she also has a special vitamin cocktail she recommends to her patients.

Don’t start a vitamin regiment without consulting your doctor first, but next time you’re at the OBGYN, ask if this might work for you. Dr. Minkin’s daily vitamin recommendation is: “Vitamin B6, 100-200 mg a day; Vitamin E, 200 units; and the ‘secret’ ingredient, evening primrose oil, 2 capsules (500 units/capsule).”  Dr. Minkin also suggests “avoiding caffeine and salt” to relieve some of the symptoms of PMS.

Of course, everyone’s premenstrual symptoms will be different. It’s important to listen to your body and identify patterns. Using a period-tracking app (my favorite is Clue) is a great way to keep a log of the symptoms you experience before, during, and after your period. If something doesn’t feel right, see a gynecologist or visit a free women’s clinic in your area if you don’t have health insurance.

Your period doesn’t have to rule your life. By listening to the signs your body gives you, you can form a better relationship with your period. Since she’ll be with you for a some time, folks, you might as well get to know her now.