7 Ways You're Unknowingly Making Your Period Worse

Your cycle sucks enough.

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All the bullsh*t from your Ashley Madison-cheating ex, your boss who thinks 1:23 a.m. on a Friday night is an appropriate time to send emails, and your fist from punching the wall after hearing [insert former celebrity couple] broke up probably can't compare with the annoyance and pain that is your period. So why the hell would you want to make it worse than it already is? Hate to break it to you, but you could be making that time of the month extra grueling by committing one of these (menstruation) sins.

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1. You've skipped the Pill (more than once).

What's the biggest cause for kill-me-now PMS symptoms? An unbalanced change in hormones, says Sherry Ross, M.D., a Los Angeles-based gynecologist. Since the Pill is *all* about playing with your body's systems (love you, mean it, estrogen...), forgetting more than three doses can lead to irregular spotting and bleeding. Also, a note about birth control and your cycle: all methods (except, well, condoms) can affect your period differently, so make sure you talk to your doctor.

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2. You're so incredibly stressed.

Seriously? It's bad enough that stress is killing you like secondhand smoke, but it can also mess with your period. Stress causes your body to release cortisol—the fight or flight hormone—and that constant state can change your menstrual habits, and in many cases, cause irregular or a loss of menses, says M.D., author of V Is for Vagina.

3. You don't have a normal sleep schedule.

We know, we know: Eight hours of sleep just isn't always possible. Buuuut, one study published in the journal Health Care Women International suggests that sleep disturbances—taken from data working with nurses and their ever-changing shifts, so you know it's legit—can cause menstrual irregularities. In a nut shell—without enough sleep, you could experience longer periods. Ouch.

4. You chug coffee.

UGH. One big emotional downer to PMS is that it can cause things such as anxiety, tension, insomnia, and irritability. And when you drink nature's answer to getting out of bed and *actually* functioning, you increase the likelihood you'll experience these symptoms, says Dweck.

5. You're always traveling.

It all comes back to your sleep schedule—especially if you're flying, sailing, teleporting (just kidding, but why isn't this real yet?!) internationally when your melatonin production levels are off their normalcy, says Ross. Your body will adjust to your location, but in the meantime, expect delayed periods.

6. You go overboard at happy hour.

Alcohol—great for celebrating the end of a hell-ish week, terrible for your period, adds Dweck and Ross. Experts suggest that too much boozing can actually prolong cramps. Again, nope.

7. You work out *too* much like a boss.

If you're training for a marathon or triathlon, all the applause. However, that daily rigorous exercising and physical stress can also lead to hormonal imbalances (see above), says Ross.

But, before you write off your period as an excuse to pass the gym and an all-day Netflix binge fest, Dweck says that regular (keyword there, not just days you have your period) light to moderate exercise for 30 minutes a day can actually relieve your PMS struggles. How?

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