When you’re on your period, there are a number of activities you definitely don’t feel like doing because of how your how your body feels. There are also a number of things you should never do on your period, not just because they don’t feel great, but because they could also harm your health or make you feel even worse. That time of the month is already a bummer as it is, so why make it harder on yourself?
“Normal fluctuations in hormones during the menstrual cycle alter neurotransmitters that are responsible for a variety of functions, including mood, libido, appetite, anxiety, emotion, pain, and pleasure,” says Sara Twogood, MD, FACOG over email. “The changes and relative levels of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone throughout the menstrual cycle, including during the period itself, are also responsible for many of the changes women notice (such as breakouts, bre*st tenderness, etc).”
Everyone’s body is different, so some people may be more sensitive to these things than others, but if you struggle through your period, it might just be best to avoid these things altogether. Here are 11 things you should never do on your period if you want to feel your best and avoid discomfort:
1. EAT SALTY FOODS
Even though you might have the ultimate craving for French fries, nibbling on some salty snacks can actually make your period symptoms worse. “Salty foods contribute to the bloating/water retention that women feel around the time of their periods,” says Dr. Angela Jones, OB/GYN over email. Eating salty foods can also worsen cramps.
2. GET A WAX
“As if a bikini wax wasn’t torture enough try doing it while you have your period — double trouble!” says Jaime Knopman, MD over email. “Your pain receptors are extra heightened and your skin extra sensitive when you have your period. Add to that a pretty messy situation and waxing while on your period is not something you should do.”
3. HAVE UNPROTECTED S*X
“While unprotected s*x is never a good idea, it is a particularly a bad idea when you have your period,” says Knopman. “Blood is a good medium for viruses and other bugs. Therefore the transmission of things like HIV can be higher during this time period. Furthermore, the cervix is slightly dilated (aka open) when you have your period, which makes it easier for bugs to get from the vagina to the cervix and into the pelvis.” Plus, you’re not protected from pregnancy just because you’re menstruating. For women with more irregular periods, ovulation and bleeding can happen at the same time, meaning you can get pregnant if you have unprotected s*x, according to Twogood.
4. SKIP YOUR WORKOUTS
It definitely feels better in the moment to stay put on your couch rather than go to spin class, but doing your regular workout can actually help you feel better, alleviating headaches, fatigue, and even anxiety. “Exercise does the body good,” says Jones. “It will help re-energize you as well as help with menstrual cramps.”
5. GET A BRE*ST EXAM
“The bre*sts are incredibly sensitive to changes in hormonal production,” says Knopman. “Fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone can make both bre*st exams and mammograms more uncomfortable. Additionally cystic bre*st changes are more likely to be palpated on an exam — it can unnecessarily raise a red flag. While monthly bre*st exams are a very good idea, don’t set your alarm to the first few days of heavy flow.”
6. EAT A LOT OF DAIRY
A bowl of macaroni and cheese might be all you want during Aunt Flow’s visit, but you might want to hold off until after she leaves town.
“Dairy is not your friend during your period,” says Jones. “Ever notice how much more gassy you are around the time of your period? Most of this is hormonal. Add dairy on top of that, and it’s like adding salt to the wound. More cramping, irritable bowels please!”
7. WEAR A PAD OR TAMPON FOR MORE THAN 4 HOURS
It’s easy to get caught up in your everyday activities, but don’t leave the same pad or tampon in all day. “You should be changing your tampon/pad every 3 to 4 hours to avoid an unpleasant odor, bacterial buildup — which can lead to infections — as well as the dreaded bleeding through your pants,” Jones says.
8. PULL AN ALL-NIGHTER
Sleep is always important, but it’s especially important during your period, Pulling all-nighters — or even just sleeping fewer hours than usual — can increase the stress hormone cortisol, according to Jamil Abdur-Rahman, MD in aWomen’s Health article. This can lead to imbalanced hormones, which can have an effect on the severity of your period.
9. DRINK A LOT OF COFFEE
There’s nothing like a morning cup of coffee, but if it’s that time of the month, you might want to temporarily skip your latte. Caffeine can worsen discomfort from cramps and bloating, as it constricts blood vessels, which can worsen menstrual cramps, according to Livestrong.
10. SMOKE CIGARETTES
We all know by now that smoking is bad for you, but in addition to its health risks, it can also make your period much worse. A study from the journal Tobacco Control found that smokers are more likely to have painful periods than non-smokers.
“Douching is never necessary and can sometimes be harmful,” says Twogood. “The fragranced solution can disrupt the normal vaginal flora, causing irritation and/or abnormal discharge. A simple water douche (meaning only water, nothing else) is a reasonable alternative, but not medically necessary.”