Welcome to Period Routines, where we spotlight different members of the LOLA community to learn how they manage their period. We want the ins and outs of their monthly routines " how they feel, how they deal, and what they can't live without.
Want to share your period routine? Leave a comment below.
Today, we're talking to Mia O'Malley, a body-positive advocate and babywearing educator. Mia talks to us about PCOS, using meditation to manage PMS mood swings, and turning to natural remedies to regulate her menstrual cycle.
Occupation: Founder of Plus Size Babywearing and social media consultant
Location: Litchfield County, Connecticut
Children: Ivan, 2 years old
First Period Story
I got my period when I was 11 years old. I was in the bathroom at school. I honestly don't remember a ton about that moment"¦I know I went home and told my mom and grandmother, and they gave me pads to use. Nobody that I knew was using tampons at the time; I went to a Catholic school, and there was all this talk about how if you used a tampon, you weren't a virgin anymore. So it was quite a while before I started using tampons.
My period is so all over the place. It's been irregular most of my life. Right now my menstrual cycle varies"¦anywhere from 40 days to 50 days long. My period has always been short though, and my flow is pretty predictable: one heavy day, followed by two light days. I use LOLA tampons with cardboard applicators. I truthfully don't go through a lot of product because my cycle is so long, and my period is so short.
I definitely experience huge mood swings in the days leading up to my period. It took me many, many years to be able to recognize the pattern of PMS, and to be able to stop, breath and realize that what I was feeling was tied to where I was in my cycle.
I also feel bloated during my period. I won't do anything these days to combat the bloating besides staying hydrated. There have been times in my life where I would really beat myself up for appearing bloated, or having weight fluctuations around my period. I would punish myself by restricting my diet. But these days, I will let myself have what I need to get through that time. I don't punish myself over it anymore.
It took me many, many years to be able to recognize the pattern of PMS, and to be able to stop, breath and realize that what I was feeling was tied to where I was in my cycle.
Managing an irregular cycle
I've been on the pill since I was 18; the first time I went off birth control was because I was trying to have a baby. I knew that my cycle was going to be all over the place at first, but it just never became regular. Eventually I was diagnosed with PCOS " I've probably had it for most of my adult life, but hormonal birth control suppresses the symptoms of PCOS and makes it difficult to diagnose.
It's really hard to have an irregular menstrual cycle. It's hard to know if you're ovulating, or if you are pregnant. And if you do find out you are pregnant, it's hard to know how far along you are. Recently I experienced what I originally thought was a severely heavy period, but it turned out to be an early miscarriage.
Irregular periods caused by PCOS, in the past, have made me feel like a stranger in my own body. I spent most of my life disconnected from my period, and that's been to my disadvantage because our periods are guides to our life. Understanding my cycle and the importance of my period has reconnected me to my body.
Even during this miscarriage, and without medical attention due to COVID-19, I was able to recognize and identify what my body was doing.
I spent most of my life disconnected from my period, and that's been to my disadvantage because our periods are guides to our life.
Natural Health Remedies
I started doing research on natural remedies I could use to regulate my cycle. There are studies about low fat diets leading to irregular periods, so I've introduced more healthy fats into my diet. I've been taking DHA oil and primrose oil, which helps regulate ovulation. I've also started drinking bulletproof coffee in the morning.
I have found that since I really started focusing on ways to regulate my period " through healthy diet, regular exercise, natural health approaches, supplements like collagen peptides " that it's made a big difference and has given me a feeling of control.
I have relied on meditation a lot over the last four or five years of my life. I do body scans, which is a specific form of meditation. I'll scan my body from head to toe, looking for any tension in specific parts of my body, and releasing that tension when I come across it. I read a book called Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach, and that really helped me become more aware of my feelings and understanding that they are not going to last forever. The author has a lot of meditation courses on her site, so I'll use those sometimes too.
Now that I really understand my mood swings and why they are happening, I have adjusted my self-care routine to manage that time. I don't push myself to socialize when I'm PMSing. I will reschedule meetings if possible. The fatigue, the depression, the inability to focus really does affect me. And I've found that when I try to push through it, it doesn't end well for me. So I give myself those days to take it slower, and really just feel what I'm feeling. I've found it's really helped me manage the emotions.
I sleep more during my period " I'm very tired " and I have the weirdest dreams! They are vivid, and always stressful. I'm usually trying to accomplish some kind of task, and I can't physically do it. I think they are caused by hormones.
During my entire cycle I will incorporate healthy fats in my diet: Nuts, fish, avocado, olives. If I'm treating myself I usually want Popeye's. I'm not an icecream girl, I want fried chicken!
I don't push myself to socialize when I'm PMSing. I will reschedule meetings if possible.
I get hair growth on my chin! I have 3 or 4 hairs that will come in right before my period starts, so I'll pluck those with a Tweezerman tweezer.
I have very oily skin, and I usually break out a lot leading up to and during my period. The primrose oil helps clear that up, which is another reason why I started taking it. I'll also up my oil-fighting skincare regimen during that time. I typically use Dr. Bronner's tea tree oil soap, and a tea tree toner from Peach & Lily. I'll often do a charcoal mask of some kind.
I like to size up my regular bra size during my period "“ it's way more comfortable since my breasts feel so sensitive and swollen. I'm wearing Curvy Couture bras a lot right now.
Tell yourself it's ok to feel what you're feeling, and that it's not going to last forever. Especially for those of us that suffer from depression, or PMS mood swings. If you can reschedule things, do it. Don't push yourself through something if you don't have to. Use your period and cycle as a guide to your self-care.