My last menstrual cramps were so severe that I thought that I was giving birth to the son of Satan.
Fortunately, I'm no different than any other woman who experiences menstrual cramps, and I do what I can to minimize the pain of what feels like giving birth to a demon. But what happens when those cramps are more severe than normal? Do you go get the Holy Oil and a Bible, or do you cry on the phone to your OB/GYN while you're doubled over in pain?
Sure, you can do both, but if your menstrual cycle has you turning green, outgrowing your clothes, and turning into “The Hulk", you should probably call your OB/GYN. Or if you have to be confined to your bed, or a wheelchair, and can't get out of it for several days, your body may be telling you that you have some issues that you need to take care of.
Here are four wellness issues specific to women that starts with cramping, but could turn out to be a much more serious issue.
1. PELVIC INFLAMMATORY DISEASE (PID).
By "fix it" I mean the pain. Oh the pain!
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, PID is an infection caused by bacteria in your vagina or cervix. When that bacteria gets in your womb, fallopian tubes, or ovaries, they can cause an infection, which equals horrible pain. Most of the time, the bacteria is a result of a sexually transmitted infection, like gonorrhea or chlamydia. This is why you should never have unprotected sex.
Symptoms: Fever or chills, increased foul smelling or abnormal vaginal discharge, dull pain or tenderness in the lower abdomen (number one sign), nausea, vomiting, pain with peeing and pain during sex.
These are muscular tumors that grow on the walls of your uterus. Fibroids are usually non-
cancerous, and they can be as small as an apple seed, or as large as a grapefruit. Age, obesity, ethnic groups (black women are more likely to develop fibroids than white women), and family history are all factors that can increase a woman's chances of getting fibroids.
Symptoms: heavy bleeding, prolonged periods (less than 7days) pelvic pressure or pain or bloating sensation in your abdomen, pelvis or lower back), pain during sex and frequent urination.
This is a disorder most common among women in their 30s and 40s. Bustle explains it best:
Endometriosis is a disorder wherein the lining of your uterus decides to take itself out on an adventure to see the wide world of your innards and grows outside your uterus. Since it maintains its identity as endometrial tissue, it thickens and bleeds with your menstrual cycle — but the blood has no place to go! The result? Irritated tissue that develops into scar tissue or adhesions. Basically, this road trippin' tissue wreaks havoc on your pelvic area, which can cause severe pain. It can also mess with your fertility by obstructing the egg's path — around one-third of women with endometriosis have trouble getting pregnant.
Symptoms: PAIN with everything... with bowel movements, with menstral cramps, during and after sex, pain in your lower back, excessive bleeding and difficulty getting pregnant (infertility - yikes!)
4. COPPER IUD
This thing is a non-permanent and non-hormonal birth control medicine that lasts for 10 years. The IUD is placed inside the woman's uterus (by a licensed doctor, may I add). It works by releasing copper, which immobilizes sperm and prevents egg implantation.
There has been serious issues associated with the use of copper IUDs in women. Dr. Gangemi says that some problems associated with the copper IUD include hormonal problems, or the copper oxidizing and causing damage to the cervix and uterus.
According to Dr. Oz contributor Nurse Alice Benjamin, the copper IUD is not for everyone, and not all IUDs are made of copper. She says,
ParaGard is the only cooper IUD approved in the United States. Either way, women with the following [well woman issues] should steer clear to avoid any complications from cooper IUDs:
- If you have uterine abnormalities that interfere with the placement or retention of an IUD
- a pelvic infection, such as pelvic inflammatory disease
- Uterine or cervical cancer
- If you have unexplained vaginal bleeding
- If you are allergic to any component of cooper IUDs
- If you have a disorder that causes too much copper to accumulate in your liver, brain and other vital organs (Wilson's disease)
- Are at high risk of a sexually transmitted infection, and won't use condoms
- Or if you have had previous problems with an IUD
Symptoms: Severe bleeding, severe pain in your belly, smelly discharge, you have signs of pregnancy, and you just ate a kitten. Okay, maybe you didn't eat a kitten, but if you have the other symptoms, that's bad.
If you don't have any of these symptoms, then congratulations! You're a normal woman. Here are some self care tips that could possibly help you feel better if your cramps are cramping your style.
I know it sounds like a curse word right now, but exercise truly helps ease menstrual cramps. Exercise releases beta-endorphins, that can immensely ease period cramps. Try some deep squats, aerobic exercise, and yoga to help ease menstrual pain.
Nurse Alice says,
The better shape you're in and the more physically active you are, the less likely you are to suffer from chronic aches and pains, including menstrual cramps. Trying yoga positions that target the pelvis and lumbar region, where period pain is the worst, have been known to be helpful.
2. CHANGE YOUR DIET
Some women swear that when they switch to a high-fiber, low-fat diet, their cramps feel better. Try eating more nuts, whole grains, veggies, and dark fruits when your cramps are starting to cramp your style.
Speaking from personal experience (and remember, my cramps are pretty terrible), drinking lots of water helps my cramps tremendously. Even when you're not on your menstrual cycle, you should be drinking, at least a half of a gallon of water per day. But I noticed that my cramps feel better when I drink closer to a gallon of water a day. Trust me, it works!
Many women think sex during their cycle is as gross as seeing Ben Carson tongue kissing his wife on TV. But turns out, it's not that gross (sex on your cycle, not the Ben Carson thing).
According to UC Santa Barbara,
Additionally, many women who engage in sex during menstruation report that their menstruation seems to end sooner than if they had not had sexual intercourse. This is plausibe, as the muscle spasms of orgasm may allow menstrual flow to come out quicker than usual. Furthermore, the hormones that your body releases during sex (such as oxytocin) help relieve the menstrual cramps, depression, and irritability associated with premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
Please note that there is no guarantee that you won't get pregnant if you get your swerve on during your moon, so there's that.
But either way, I'm sure that if you have sex on your cycle, you're not going to knock anything loose. So grab your towel, your partner, or a toy if you're not cool with doing it with your lover, and get to getting.
5. MEDICINE AND A HOT WATER BOTTLE
After reading this, some women are still going to go back to using Motrin and a hot water bottle. It's been a great remedy to cure unruly menstrual cramps for ages, and it works very well. If you're not feeling the other options, there's nothing wrong with taking it old school, and drugging yourself to a little bit of pain relief.
Most doctors don't object to women using over-the-counter medicines to help with period pain, like Motrin or Advil. But it's better to consult your doctor or pharmacist about your symptoms before you go cherry picking medicine in the drug store. Just saying.
Nurse Alice says that a hot water bottle helps to east cramps because the heat opens the blood vessels and improves blood flow, so the pain dissipates. She also says,
Take a hot bath, or place a heating pad or hot water bottle on your lower belly. Those stick-on heat packs that you can find on drugstore shelves can work, too, if you don't have time to sit at home.
WHEN TO CALL THE DOCTOR
It's never okay to ignore the pain away if the above remedies does nothing to help you. If you feel that your cramps are more severe than normal, Nurse Alice says that it could be warning signs of a more serious health issue. Call your healthcare provider if:
- Your pain lasts longer than you're accustomed to
- You have a fever
- You start vomiting or feel nauseated.
- You're bleeding heavy than normal.
- You think you could be pregnant.
Nurse Alice Benjamin is a nationally board certified and award winning Cardiac Clinical Nurse Specialist with over a decade of experience in cardiovascular health. She is the author of “Curb Your Cravings: 31 Foods to Fool Your Appetite," a Senior Fellow at the Center of Health, Media and Policy at Hunter College in New York ,and recently joined the ShareCare family of top national media health experts. Some of her recent television appearances include The Dr. Oz Show, The Doctors, Dr Drew, HLN News Now, FOX News, TruTV In Session, America Live with Megyn Kelly, Dr. Steve Show and DC Breakdown. Visit her website at nursealicebenjamin.com.
Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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Food is the star of the show for Thanksgiving, but let’s be honest: dinner wouldn’t be anything special without a good tablescape. Decor is a significant part of the holiday season! Garlands, pumpkins, candles, and other decor can take your Thanksgiving spread from bland to brilliant! However, we understand the stress of making a whole feast for family and friends.
We sat down with Beth Smith of Beth Diana Smith Interior Designs to learn how to create the perfect tablescape for any dinner party.
Set the Tone With Dinnerware
Carolyn Ann Ryan/Getty Images
“Focus on the meal you’re serving and make your dinnerware set the tone and be the highlight of the table,” says Smith. The dinner is why your community is coming together and is arguably the most crucial centerpiece. Decorative pieces are nice, but food and what we use to eat can make it much more special. Smith suggests, “I recommend the Nguka dinnerware set from 54kibo, which is stunning, unique, and beautifully made.”
If you’re looking for a more affordable option, The Stoke Collection by ceramic artists Althea’s Meade-Hajduk is intentionally created to visually enhance any meal experience.
Have Fun With Your Color Palette
Maria Korneeva/Getty Images
In the world of nude palette overload, it’s nice to see color occasionally. Color is a natural mood booster that can bring excitement to the room - or table! “Create a thoughtful color palette that is not the standard Thanksgiving palette of fall colors,” says Smith. Having fun with colors and moving away from a traditional setting can bring uniqueness to your tablescape.
There’s also no chance of your tablescape having the same color palette as everyone else on social media. Smith adds, “If pink has grabbed your attention, this dusty pink set from Our Place has different plate and bowl size options.”
Incorporate Florals Through Bud Vases or Bouquets
Who doesn’t love florals? This look is accepted year-round, not just when romance is involved. “You can’t go wrong with florals for a tablescape if you’re setting it for your family, friends, or a group of singles,” says Smith. Florals are an easy way to make any event look elevated without having to try as hard. If you’re worried about hypoallergenic guests, you can purchase artificial flowers from Amazon. Here, you can find various floral options and even create your own bouquet.
“A floral tablescape can be budget-friendly or as extravagant as you may like. You can select a few bud vases and strategically place them around the table using a bouquet you bought locally,” says Smith.
Unsure of who is your local florist? Black Girl Florist is a site that helps you source local florists in your area. Click here to find a florist in your neighborhood! And if your budget is a little tighter than usual due to the holidays, Smith has a solution that will save you money altogether. Smith suggests, “You can also use dried-up branches and leaves from your backyard, which would be free.”
Elevate Your Tablescape With a Charcuterie Board
Charcuterie boards have become all the rage on TikTok, and for good reason. Mixing your favorite meats, cheese, and grapes has made snacking visually tasteful. Smith says they can also create a fabulous tablescape - killing two birds with one stone. Smith says, “You can never go wrong with creating one large charcuterie board. This makes food the decoration interesting, colorful, and delicious!” This could be especially great for Friendsgiving, and you want to avoid cooking a turkey twice.
The beauty of charcuterie boards is creating a food palette unique to you or your guest's needs. On the flip side, we also understand how overwhelming it can be to decide precisely what to put on your board. Smith has a few recommendations that can be helpful, “You can include cheeses, crackers, and meats, but you can also add specialty items like deserts, chocolate, and truffle mustard.”
Smith refers to the Truffle Mustard by Truffiest, an award-deserving mustard infused with summer truffles from northern Italy. This mustard can be paired with crackers, cheeses, meats, and shredded turkey if you want to stay on the theme.
Build on an Artsy Vibe and Add Layers
There’s no shame in bringing it back to basics. Bring out the old tablecloth your family member gave you a few years ago; it’s vintage! “The goal is to make the table look and feel like you have everything you need and more,” Smith says. Everything you need and more can consist of four main ingredients: tablecloth, napkins, cups, and, most importantly - wine glasses. “Make the tablescape feel artistic with funky dinner napkins and tablecloths. Then, layer with oversized plates, long-stemmed wine glasses, and after-dinner cups.”
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