Why are periods such a worry around exam time?
The thought of having your period during an exam isn’t a pleasant one – painful cramps, perhaps worrying over the possibility that you might have a leak, then there’s the lack of a concentration as a result of the pain and the worry... not to mention all of the other symptoms that can so easily crop up! So yes, it’s less than ideal.
There are some different points of view on how this problem should be tackled. There is the opinion that girls should have the option of being mitigated from an exam if they are on their period. Now, initially this might seem like the fair thing to do, gender equality, right? Men don’t have to deal with periods, so if women are able to wait and sit their exam when they’re period free too then it’s all quite fair.
Wait, not so fast – how can it be proven that a girl is on her period? And how can we measure how bad one person’s symptoms are compared to the next? This could get messy, and there’s always the risk that the system gets abused at some stage and people conveniently end up with some extra study time. It could quite easily be argued that this isn’t fair, and yes, you might be right.
There are potentially some other issues with the idea that girls should be able to bow out of doing exams if they have their period – a topic that I feel quite strongly about. If periods are so awful – and I mean so painful and traumatic that a girl couldn’t possibly face sitting an exam for a couple of hours – shouldn’t we be doing something about this?
Painful, heavy periods could be the result of a hormone imbalance or a more serious underlying condition – it’s important to really consider what your symptoms could actually mean and try to treat them accordingly – click the links above to help you work towards understanding what’s really going on.
Now, let’s talk about some self-help tips. Regardless if you breeze though fairly trouble-free periods or suffer from PMS, these simple steps can still help you to prepare as best you can for a period cropping up during exam time:
- Be prepared. So, being organised is half the battle if you’re preparing for having your period just in time for an exam. Many girls get some warning and you may find you experience some cramps in the day or two prior to your period. But even if not, just to put your mind at rest, there’s no harm in preparing anyway – why not wear a sanitary towel just in case – this means you have don’t have to worry! In many cases you aren’t allowed to leave the exam hall so make sure you’re prepared beforehand and you can’t go wrong. Also, it’s worth considering the type of sanitary products that you use. If you generally use tampons, try opting for a bleach-free variety next time – there have been reports of reduced period pain in women using chemical-free, organic tampons. These are readily available and I can bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised as to how reasonably priced they are compared to the brands that you would normally opt for
- Ensure you’re hydrated. Drinking plenty of water in the lead up to you period (and any time!) is really important. Being dehydrated is only going to make many of the symptoms associated with periods worse. Aim to drink approximately 1.5l of water each day and remember to take a small bottle of water (minus the label) into the exam hall with you
- Eat well. Eating well in the lead up to having your period is super important and it’s key to try and pack in plenty of magnesium-rich foods. Magnesium helps to relax tense muscles – including those in and around your womb, which, as a result of contracting like mad, can contribute to giving you that awful cramping sensation. Also, many unhealthy foods and medications can drain your magnesium stores – being deficient in magnesium and having your period isn’t a good combo so stock up on plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables including plenty of greens as well as nuts and seeds. Try not to eat too many sugary treats either and instead go for more natural options. This will help to keep your energy levels steady and keep distracting sugar cravings at bay – this is what you want during an exam for sure!
- Get your bowels moving. So you might assume that your bowel movements don’t have much of an impact on you period, but actually, they can. If your bowels are slow moving they are most likely to be congested and full of nasty waste that you don’t really want lying around. This firstly creates a physical mass, which can poke into your already sensitive womb, but as well as this, it also means all of this toxic muck is lying right beside your ovaries and womb. Toxins can easily escape and disperse out into the surrounding areas. No wonder you’re feeling rather tender! Make sure you consume plenty of fibre, drink plenty of water and try out some Linoforce if you feel you need to give your bowels a gentle kick-start
- Get enough sleep. Sleep is essential for many important bodily functions; but first, let’s consider the brain. If you’re well rested, you’re more likely to be able to concentrate, always a good thing when sitting exams! Also, being sleep deprived can really affect your mood, getting enough sleep is bound to make you feel as positive and stress-free as possible under the circumstances, added stress? No thank you. It’s also possible that if your mood is low, you become more sensitive to pain. Rest up and you could feel the difference
- Try out a heat pad – Heat pads are thought to offer temporary relief for period pain – perhaps a good solution for an exam lasting for a couple of hours. By applying a source of heat to the affected area, pain receptors there are thought to be dulled and heat receptors are activated instead
- Consider herbal remedies – If your periods are particularly painful and you often suffer other typical symptoms of PMS, it could be worth trying a herbal remedy. Our Agnus castus is a traditional herbal remedy used to relieve symptoms of PMS such as menstrual cramps, mood swings and sore breasts. It is suitable for woman over 18 years of age and those not already on any hormonal contraceptives
- Don’t be afraid to visit your doctor – they may have solutions! If you’re really worried about the impact your period may have or that they are particularly painful, paying a visit to your doctor prior to your exam would be recommended. Painkillers and anti-inflammatory medication are available from your pharmacist or doctor which can help to reduce period pain. However, you probably don’t want to be taking these medications on an ongoing basis. So, if you tend to suffer from period pain month after month, then there are some other options worth discussing, for example the possibility of going on a hormonal contraceptive. These can help to regulate your periods (so you’ll be more likely to know exactly when you’re due) but also they can help to make your periods lighter and less painful. If you’re really panicking about your exams but don’t want to go on any medication long-term there may be some pills available that can be taken in order to delay your period for a week or two – speak to your doctor to find out more.
So hopefully this has helped. After taking some of my advice on board, hopefully you can concentrate on preparing for your exams instead of worrying about your period!