How to use a TENS unit for period cramps

How to use a TENS unit for period cramps

Cramps are one of the most common symptoms associated with PMS. Menstrual cramps can range in severity from mildly uncomfortable to downright debilitating. If you’re among the 75-80% of women who experience cramps, you may rely on your hot water bottle and painkillers to get through every cycle. But regularly popping painkillers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen isn’t a great idea. Overuse of over-the-counter pain relievers can cause serious side effects, including low blood pressure, stomach ulcers, and other gastrointestinal problems. 

You need another way to conquer your cramps: one that’s safe, effective, and doesn’t get in the way of your busy life. That’s why we’ve been hard at work to bring you Pixie Relief: our very own fast-acting, discreet, patent-pending TENS unit specifically engineered to target menstrual cramps.

What does a TENS unit do?

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a method of pain relief that involves the use of a mild electrical current. A TENS unit is a small device that delivers the electrical current through electrodes, which are placed on the surface of the skin at or near the nerves where the pain is located. Gel pads are used on the electrodes to make them stick to the skin.

How does a TENS unit work?

TENS therapy is thought to relieve pain by blocking the transmission of pain signals to the brain. 

Research has shown that when vibration and pain sensations are occurring simultaneously, the vibration feeling reaches the brain first. This essentially blocks the feeling of the pain from being perceived by the brain.

Another theory is that TENS therapy stimulates the release of endorphins, which are the body’s natural painkillers. Endorphins interact with receptors in the brain to reduce our perception of pain.

What are the benefits of using a TENS unit?

TENS therapy has been used to relieve both long-term (chronic) and short-term pain. Some common conditions for which TENS therapy may be helpful include: 

  • Menstrual cramps
  • Pelvic pain caused by endometriosis
  • Low back pain
  • Labor pain
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Arthritis
  • Sports injuries 

Can you use a TENS unit for menstrual cramps? 

A TENS unit is ideal for the treatment of painful menstrual cramps. TENS therapy is non-invasive and safe, with few or no side effects and has been used in the medical field for decades.   

When used for menstrual cramps, the electrodes of the TENS unit can be placed on the lower abdomen or the lower back, whichever is closer to the area of pain. 

How is the Pixie Relief TENS unit different from other TENS units?

Most TENS units are bulky and designed to be used for general muscular or nerve pain in physical therapy sessions. The Pixie Relief TENS unit is designed specifically for menstrual cramps. It is small, discreet and can be hidden under clothing. The rechargeable battery lasts all day to block pain signals from menstrual cramps from reaching the brain. No pain signals means no pain.

Can you use a TENS unit while pregnant?

TENS therapy is not recommended early in pregnancy. If you are pregnant or think you may be pregnant, talk to your healthcare provider before using a TENS unit. 

Can you overuse a TENS unit? 

TENS therapy is safe to use as much as you like, although it’s usually recommended to start with 20-30 minutes. Some skin irritation may occur if the pads are left on the same area of the skin for too long. 

Pixie Cup TENS unit

How many times can you reuse TENS pads?

You can use the gel pads about 8-10 times before the stickiness wears off. When the gel is no longer sticky, you can replace the pads. To extend the life of your gel pads, make sure you are applying the electrodes on clean, dry skin that is free of any substances such as body lotion. 

How long does TENS pain relief last?  

The duration of pain relief following the use of a TENS unit can vary from person to person. Some people report that their pain returns as soon as the device is turned off. Other people continue to experience pain relief for as long as 24 hours after the nerve stimulation has stopped. 

Some studies suggest that repeated TENS treatments can increase the duration of pain relief. However, other studies indicate that individuals who repeatedly use a TENS unit can build up a tolerance to the treatment. 

Can you sleep with a TENS unit on? 

Sleeping with a TENS unit on is completely doable, but use caution. If you move around a lot while you sleep, the gel pads could come off or the cords could become tangled. You may want to set a timer to wake yourself up after 20-30 minutes to remove the electrodes.

Who should not use a TENS unit?

You should not use a TENS unit if you have an implantable device such as a pacemaker, if you have epilepsy or a heart condition, or if there’s a chance you could be pregnant. Do not use a TENS unit if you have a history of cancer in the last 5 years, and do not apply the electrodes to any part of the body where there is known or suspected cancer. 

What else should I know about TENS units? 

TENS units and replacement pads are eligible for reimbursement with a flexible spending account (FSA) or health savings account (HSA). If you have health funds available through your workplace, take advantage of this benefit to treat yourself to the best drug-free period pain solution on the market! 

Does Pixie Relief TENS really work?

Yes, it does! Over 98% of women experience reduced pain within 30 minutes of using Pixie Relief TENS. If it doesn’t work for you, we offer a no-questions-asked 100% money-back guarantee.

We would love to let our customers tell you their experience. These are real stories from people who bought Pixie Relief TENS at full price.

Hana K. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 11/10/2022

This device did wonders for me! I usually take a couple of pills so I get few hrs of peaceful sleep.. but with this I didn’t need the pills. Im really impressed with this tens unit for actually delivering what it promised. Havent seen a better option to relieve you from cramps🤷‍♀️

Kristen J. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 22/05/2022

This device is extraordinary! It really delivers on what it promises: a pain-free period. Seriously, you have to get it. It’s worth every penny knowing that I can go about my day without having to pop pain pills.

Momma B. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 25/08/2022

Daughter #2 has a lot of pain with her period. So much so that we’ve taken her to the dr who has been trying different things along with running a few tests… She hasn’t left the house in it, but she has worn this around the house and she says it does make a difference. Just knowing this helps alleviate her pain is enough for me to say it’s worth the cost.

Is the Pixie Relief TENS unit expensive?

Yes, the price of Pixie Relief TENS is much higher than you’re probably expecting. Pixie has spent countless hours researching and developing a patented product that actually works for women. It’s not your average TENS unit. And debilitating menstrual pain can’t be compared to therapeutic muscular relief devices.

We know it’s a lot to spend on something you haven’t tried before. That’s why we offer our 2-year 100% money-back guarantee. We want you to be able to try it completely risk-free. We want all women to live cramp-free, every day of the month!

Pixie Relief TENS. Cramp-free, pain-free period.

Get ready to say goodbye to crippling period cramps and mind-numbing painkillers for good.

What vitamins are good for PMS?

What vitamins are good for PMS?

If you have a period, chances are you’re well acquainted with premenstrual syndrome (PMS). By some estimates, more than 90% of women have experienced some form of PMS. And because there are as many as 150 physical, behavioral, emotional, and cognitive symptoms associated with PMS, that means you can expect to experience some combination of symptoms like irritability, depression, uncontrolled crying, bloating, breast tenderness, headaches, cramps, acne, brain fog, and muscle aches … Every. Single. Month.

These are pretty major symptoms, and for many women, they’re severe enough to impair normal daily functioning. PMS causes real suffering for a lot of women, and yet, it continues to be minimized and treated as a joke. Even doctors are often dismissive of it

News flash: What if we told you it doesn’t have to be this way? Although PMS is extremely common, it isn’t “normal.” We’ve been told it’s just part of being a woman, but in truth, there are a lot of things you can do to alleviate PMS symptoms, starting with taking a good PMS vitamin.

PMS vitamins

What causes PMS?

First, let’s take a quick look at what causes PMS. A lot of it comes down to abnormal fluctuations in hormones or sensitivity to chemical changes in the brain. 

Have you ever heard someone describe a woman with PMS as “being hormonal”? I’ve said it myself: I’ll tell my husband I’m hormonal so that if I start crying for no apparent reason, he won’t be alarmed (or think he’s done something wrong). But when we say a woman is “hormonal,” what we really mean is, she’s emotional, irrational, or downright crazy. These negative connotations around the word “hormonal” aren’t just dismissive — they’re inaccurate.  

All humans are hormonal, in the sense that our bodies are full of different hormones that are necessary for good health and well-being. Abnormal fluctuations in these hormones can cause all kinds of health issues — and not just for women. Throughout the menstrual cycle, which lasts roughly 28 days, hormones are constantly changing. And the changes in mood and other symptoms that occur during PMS aren’t caused by excessive hormones, but rather by a sudden drop in hormones. 

But PMS isn’t just about hormones. Neurotransmitters also play a role. These molecules — which include serotonin and dopamine — transmit messages throughout the body, and also help control mood and regulate emotions. Neurotransmitters are naturally produced by the body, but many factors (like digestive issues or the use of some prescription drugs) can impair the body’s ability to build them. And what happens when neurotransmitters are low? The risk of depression increases. 

Diet, lifestyle, and stress management can all help balance hormone levels and neurotransmitter production. That’s where PMS vitamins come in.

What vitamins are best for PMS?

Research shows that numerous vitamin and mineral supplements can help relieve PMS symptoms.1  These vitamins and minerals help in different ways. Some help balance hormones. Others aid in the production of neurotransmitters, which can make those PMS mood swings less severe. 

Some vitamins and minerals that can help with PMS symptoms include:1

  • Magnesium 
  • Vitamin B
  • Vitamin D
  • Calcium

What’s inside Pixie Balance (and why) 

We’ve formulated Pixie Balance with some of the best research-backed ingredients for alleviating common PMS symptoms. This PMS supplement contains magnesium, vitamin B6, and a combination of plant-based ingredients to help make that time of the month more tolerable. 

Each ingredient in Pixie Balance has been carefully chosen to help relieve PMS symptoms and balance hormones for women in all stages of life.

Magnesium Glycinate, 12mg

Used for: menstrual cramps, PMS migraines, stress relief

What it is: Magnesium, also known as the “miracle mineral for periods” is a mineral needed for hundreds of biochemical reactions in the body. In fact, every cell in the body needs magnesium to function properly. You can get magnesium from the foods you eat, but many people don’t get enough.

What it does: Magnesium is necessary for proper muscle function. Low levels of magnesium can lead to muscle twitches, tremors, and cramps. Yep, that includes those dreaded menstrual cramps.2 When taken daily, magnesium can help relax the muscles of the uterus and ease period cramps.2

Learn more about magnesium

Regularly taking magnesium supplements can also help prevent menstrual migraines.3 If you’ve ever had a menstrual migraine, you know just how debilitating they can be. There’s nothing worse than lying in bed all day because any light, smells, sounds, or movement make you completely nauseated. 

Magnesium also calms the nervous system and helps reduce stress and anxiety, which can in turn lead to better menstrual health and overall health.4 Stress can throw your hormones out of whack, leading to weight gain, missed periods, mood swings, and other health issues. 

How much magnesium should I take for PMS?
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for magnesium is 310-320 mg for healthy adult women. Try to get most of your magnesium from your diet, as high doses of magnesium from supplements can cause digestive issues such as diarrhea and cramping. Dark leafy greens (like spinach and kale), legumes, nuts, seeds, and even dark chocolate are all good sources of magnesium.

Pixie Balance contains 12mg of magnesium per serving, or 3% of the RDA. 

Warning: Talk to your doctor before taking magnesium supplements if you have kidney disease.

Vitamin B6, 20 mg

Used for: Mood swings, cravings

What it is: Vitamin B6, also known as pyridoxine, is a water-soluble vitamin found in many foods. It’s needed for many processes in the body, including helping the body turn food into energy. It’s also important for a healthy brain and a strong immune system. Because water-soluble vitamins are not stored in the body, they must be replenished daily.

What it does: Vitamin B6 helps regulate mood, and may improve symptoms of depression. That’s because vitamin B6 is needed to create neurotransmitters. Studies have shown that low levels of vitamin B6 are associated with depression.5

Learn more about vitamin B6

B6 supplements may help with a wide variety of PMS symptoms, especially when taken with magnesium. One study found that magnesium combined with B6 significantly improved symptoms such as depression, crying, irritability, anger, insomnia, brain fog, breast tenderness, bloating, headache, acne, and muscular pain.6 

How much vitamin B6 should a woman take daily? 
The RDA for women between the ages of 19-50 is 1.3mg; however, it is safe to take up to 100mg daily. Pixie Balance contains 20mg of vitamin B6, which is 1176% of the RDA.

Warning: Long-term supplementation of more than 200mg can cause nerve damage. Check dosage of any multivitamins or other vitamin B supplements to ensure you remain within recommended limits.

Chaste Tree Fruit Extract, 400mg

Used for: Hormonal acne, mood swings, breast tenderness

What it is: Chasteberry, AKA Vitex agnus-castus or monk’s pepper, is the fruit of the chase tree, which is native to parts of Asia and Europe.

What it does: Chasteberry may help balance hormones, and has been traditionally used to treat many hormone-related gynecologic conditions.7

Learn more about chasteberry

Chasteberry is well-researched, especially for its ability to relieve PMS symptoms. Research on chasteberry suggests that it lowers levels of the hormone prolactin, which in turn helps balance levels of estrogen and progesterone, two key hormones involved in the menstrual cycle.8

In one study, 93% of women who took chasteberry for three menstrual cycles reported that their PMS symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and cravings improved or completely went away.9 And, none of the study participants experienced any negative drug reactions. 

Another study found that women who took chasteberry reported improvements in irritability, mood, anger, headaches, breast tenderness, and bloating.10

For best results, take chasteberry in the morning. That’s when the pituitary gland is most receptive to its effects. 

Warning: Chasteberry is not recommended for individuals taking fertility medications or those under the age of 18. Talk to your doctor before taking chasteberry if you have PCOS. Wait three months before taking chasteberry after discontinuing hormonal birth control.

Dong Quai Root Powder, 350 mg

Used for: Cramps, muscle pain, depression

What it is: Also known as Chinese angelica root, dong quai is a fragrant plant related to carrots and celery.

What it does: Dong quai has been used in traditional herbal medicine for more than 2,000 years. It’s also referred to as “female ginseng” due to its purported ability to relieve symptoms of PMS and menopause, including depression and painful periods.11

Learn more about dong quai

Dong quai contains a compound known as ferulic acid, which appears to relax the uterus, leading to less cramping and muscle pain.12

Warning: Dong quai is not recommended for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. 

Maca Root Powder, 300 mg

Used for: energy, mood, postmenopausal symptoms, sex drive

What it is: A plant native to Peru, maca is related to broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. It has been used medicinally in Peru for centuries.13

What it does: Maca has long been used to balance hormones, enhance fertility, and increase energy, but more research is needed to confirm these claims. Some small studies have shown that maca may help improve symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, sleep disturbances, and mood swings.14

Learn more about maca

Maca has also been used traditionally to enhance sexual function and desire. Some research supports these claims, with small studies showing improvements in sexual dysfunction or sexual desire in healthy menopausal women or healthy adult men.15

Warning: Maca is not recommended for pregnant or nursing women, individuals with thyroid disorders or hormonal disorders, children, or individuals taking blood thinners or birth control pills. 

Lemon Balm, 250 mg

Used for: Cramps, digestion, stress relief

What it is: A lemon-scented herb from the same family as mint, lemon balm has been used medicinally for more than 2000 years.

What it does: Lemon balm is a well-researched plant that may be useful for alleviating a variety of PMS symptoms, including stress, cramps, headaches, and digestive issues.

Learn more about lemon balm

A 2015 study involving high school girls found that those who took lemon balm for three months experienced an improvement in physical, social, and psychological PMS symptoms.16

Other studies have found lemon balm effective in promoting a sense of calmness, reducing anxiety, improving memory and concentration, relieving insomnia, and relieving digestive issues such as nausea.17,18,19,20

Black Cohosh, 300 mg

Traditionally used for: Mood, cramps

What it is: An herb native to North America, black cohosh goes by many names, including black bugbane, black snakeroot, or fairy candle.

What it does: Black cohosh has long been used in traditional medicine to help with menopause symptoms, PMS symptoms, and hormonal balance. Most of the scientific research on black cohosh has focused on its ability to relieve menopause symptoms, such as hot flashes and sleep disturbances.21

Learn more about black cohosh

Black cohosh contains phytoestrogens (plant estrogens), which are natural estrogen-like substances that bind weakly to estrogen receptors. This can help protect against the ups and downs of stronger forms of estrogen or toxic xenoestrogens (“foreign” estrogens) from endocrine disrupting chemicals. Phytoestrogens also speed up estrogen metabolism.

Some studies suggest that black cohosh can help with hormonal imbalances, anxiety, and depression.22 

Other research shows that black cohosh may have antinociceptive properties, which is a fancy way of saying it may help block pain signals to the brain.23 This could explain why black cohosh has traditionally been used to alleviate menstrual cramps

Warning: Black cohosh is not recommended for individuals with a hormone-related condition, a history of blood clots or stroke, or those taking medications for high blood pressure.

When to take PMS vitamins 

For most vitamin, mineral, or herbal supplements to be effective, they have to be taken on a daily basis so the active ingredients can build up in your system. In most of the studies referenced above, participants took the supplements for 2-3 months before seeing noticeable improvements in their symptoms. If you wait until your PMS symptoms start before taking a supplement, you aren’t likely to see results. We suggest giving Pixie Balance 2-3 full cycles to experience the full effect.

Order Pixie Balance PMS vitamins

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Note: Some herbal supplements may not be safe during pregnancy, while breastfeeding, while taking fertility medications, or for those under the age of 18. Women with hormone-sensitive conditions, such as breast, uterine, or ovarian cancer, should consult their physician before taking herbal supplements. Certain supplements may also interact with some medications, such as birth control pills, drugs used to treat Parkinson’s disease, and drugs used to treat psychosis.

Disclaimer: We recommend consulting your doctor before use. Use during hormone therapy should be done under the supervision of a physician. Consult your healthcare professional before use if you are undergoing hormone therapy, have a thyroid disorder or other medical condition, or are taking prescription medication. Keep out of reach of children.

1. Kaewrudee, S et al. Vitamin or mineral supplements for premenstrual syndrome. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2018 Jan; 2018(1).
1. Parazzini F et al. Magnesium in the gynecological practice: a literature review. Magnesium Research. 2017 Feb 1;30(1):1-7.
3. Facchinetti, F et al. Magnesium prophylaxis of menstrual migraine: effects on intracellular magnesium. Headache. 1991 May;31(5):298-301.
4. Boyle, N et al. The Effects of Magnesium Supplementation on Subjective Anxiety and Stress-A Systematic Review. Nutrients. 2017 Apr 26;9(5):429.
5. Hvas, A et al. Vitamin B6 level is associated with symptoms of depression. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics. Nov-Dec 2004;73(6):340-3.
6. Fathizadeh, N et al. Evaluating the effect of magnesium and magnesium plus vitamin B6 supplement on the severity of premenstrual syndrome. Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research. 2010 Dec; 15(Suppl1): 401–405.
7. Roemheld-Hamm, B. Chasteberry. American Family Physician. 2005 Sep 1;72(5):821-824.
8. van Die, M et al. Vitex agnus-castus Extracts for Female Reproductive Disorders: A Systematic Review of Clinical Trials. Planta Medica. 2013; 79(07): 562-575.
9. Loch, E et al. Treatment of premenstrual syndrome with a phytopharmaceutical formulation containing Vitex agnus castus. Journal of Women’s Health & Gender-Based Medicine. 2000 Apr;9(3):315-20.
10. Schellenberg, R. Treatment for the premenstrual syndrome with agnus castus fruit extract: prospective, randomised, placebo controlled study. The BMJ. 2001 Jan 20;322(7279):134-7. 
11. Dong Quai. Drugs and Lactation Database, National Library of Medicine. 2021 May 17.
12. Romm, A. Menstrual Wellness and Menstrual Problems. Botanical Medicine for Women’s Health. 2010.
13. Maca. LiverTox: Clinical and Research Information on Drug-Induced Liver Injury. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. 2012.
14. Johnson, A et al. Complementary and Alternative Medicine for Menopause. Journal of Evidence-Based Integrative Medicine. 2019; 24. 
15. Shin, B. et al. Maca (L. meyenii) for improving sexual function: a systematic review. BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies. 2010 Aug 6;10:44. 
16. Akbarzadeh, M, et al. Effect of Melissa officinalis Capsule on the Intensity of Premenstrual Syndrome Symptoms in High School Girl Students. Nursing and Midwifery Studies. 2015 Jun; 4(2): e27001.
17. Kennedy, D, et al. Attenuation of laboratory-induced stress in humans after acute administration of Melissa officinalis (Lemon Balm). Psychosomatic Medicine. Jul-Aug 2004;66(4):607-13.
18. Scholey, A et al. Anti-Stress Effects of Lemon Balm-Containing Foods. Nutrients. 2014, 6(11), 4805-482.
19. Müller, S.F. and Klement, S. A combination of valerian and lemon balm is effective in the treatment of restlessness and dyssomnia in children. Phytomedicine. 2006 Jun; 13, 383-387.
20. Ulbricht, C et al. Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis L.): an evidence-based systematic review by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration. Journal of Herbal Pharmacotherapy. 2005, Feb; 5(4):71-114.
21. Chung DJ, Kim HY, Park KH, et al. Black cohosh and St. John’s wort (GYNO-Plus) for climacteric symptoms. Yonsei Medical Journal. 2007;48(2):289-94.
22. McKenna DJ, Jones K, Humphrey S, Hughes K. Black cohosh: efficacy, safety, and use in clinical and preclinical applications. [Review]. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. 2001;7(3):93-100.
23. Johnson, T and Fahey, J. Black cohosh: coming full circle? The Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 2012 Jun 14;141(3):775-9.

PMS symptoms are common, but not normal

PMS symptoms are common, but not normal

At the doctor’s office, they will take your temperature, pulse, blood pressure, and respiratory rate and they may even ask, “when was your last period?” For a long time, I would nonchalantly guess when my last menses was, and the doctor would say “great” and move on.

What if the doctor asked “how was your last period?” or “Any breast tenderness, mood swings, pain, or anxiety leading up to your period?” This would be a very different, and helpful conversation. 

PMS symptoms

As a society, we have to understand that periods are a key indicator of women’s health. A recently reaffirmed committee opinion by ACOG and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises health practitioners to consider periods the “fifth vital sign” — meaning healthy menstrual cycles without PMS/PMDD are as important a health indicator as changes in body temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure (Varta, 2020).

Healthy menstrual cycles without PMS/PMDD are as important a health indicator as changes in body temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure.

What does PMS stand for?

PMS has been the butt of many jokes, but PMS jokes are not funny, period (see what I did there). All jokes aside, PMS does not stand for “Please meet satan,” “Pardon My Sobbing,” or “Pass My Sweats.” 

PMS, Premenstrual Syndrome, has been misunderstood for a very long time, and  a lot of women have been or will be dismissed by physicians when they have legitimate PMS symptoms.

How common is PMS?

Over 85% of menstruating women in the United States experience PMS. (Romm, 72); PMS may be common, but it is not normal! To all the women who believe you have lost agency over your body or have a design flaw, please repeat after me… I AM DESIGNED TO DOMINATE. We do not have to be afraid of that time of the month. We can actually get to a place where we look forward to a time in our cycle where we can slow down and appreciate what our bodies can do.

How do I know if I have PMS?

PMS is a myriad of physical and emotional symptoms that will arise 2-10 days before the start of your menses (Day 1 of full flow). PMS symptoms can be a result of hormone imbalance or poor interaction between sex hormones, stress hormones, and neurotransmitters (chemicals controlling your mood) (Romm, 73). 

The timing of the symptoms will typically be consistent to the individual woman. Charting your cycle may help you to proactively address your symptoms (Weschler 2015, 315). For example, after charting your cycle for a few months, you may notice that you always feel irritable three days before the start of your period. Being aware of this can help you be more mindful of your irritability so that you don’t take it out on those around you. 

Questions answered on this page: How many days before your period do you get PMS?

What are the symptoms of PMS?

There are around 150 physical, behavioral, emotional, and cognitive symptoms that have been designated to PMS (see table below). The criteria to diagnose PMS is not a hard and fast science, but there is general agreement that if you have 5 or more of the symptoms mentioned below, in the “PMS Assessment,” 2-10 days before your period, and they resolve after your flow starts, then it is technically PMS.

Types of PMS symptoms

AffectiveDepression, irritability, anxiety, anger, weepiness, panicky feelings
BehavioralImpulsive actions, compulsions, agitation, lethargy, decreased motivation
AutonomicPalpitations, nausea, constipation, dizziness, sweating, tremors, blurred vision, hot flashes
Fluid/ElectrolyteBloating, water-weight gain, breast fullness, hand and foot swelling
DermatologicalAcne, oily hair, hives, rashes, herpes, and allergy outbreaks
Cognitive (Brain)Decreased concentration, memory changes, word-retrieval problems, fuzzy thinking, foggy-brain feelings
PainMigraines, tension headaches, back pain, muscle and joint aches, breast pain, and neck stiffness
This chart is adapted from Dr. Vliet’s book Screaming to Be Heard: Hormone Connections Women Suspect and Doctors Still Ignore (2001)

PMS Assessment

One or more of the following:

  • Mood swings, weepiness, unexplained sadness
  • Unexplained anger, irritability
  • Depression, toxic self talk
  • Tension, anxiety, wired+tired

Plus one or more of the following:

  • Inability to focus
  • Abnormal changes in appetite, food craving, binge eating
  • Lack of interest in normal activities
  • Unexplained fatigue, lack of energy
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Breast tenderness, bloating, weight gain, joint.muscle pain
  • Sleep disturbances

Does PMS get worse with age?

PMS primarily affects women over the age of 25 and tends to get worse with age or after pregnancy and birth. This does not mean younger women cannot experience PMS symptoms. During the first few years of menstruation, hormonal “rivers” are being carved out, so it may take time to establish a “normal” for younger women.

Is PMS normal?

As I mentioned before, 85% of menstruating women in the US experience PMS symptoms, but PMS is not “normal” and should never be treated as such. 

What is normal? It is normal to have subtle signs and symptoms that your period will begin soon, but if those subtleties turn into interferences in your life, then you are dealing with PMS.

Which is worse, PMS or PMDD?

PMS also has a bigger and badder sister called PMDD (Premenstrual dysphoric disorder). PMDD affects 3-8% of women worldwide and the symptoms are severe enough to cause debilitating physical, emotional, and psychological effects that affect relationships, careers, and mental well-being (Jardim, 48).

What is PMS/PMDD caused by?

PMS and PMDD signs and symptoms range in severity because they are highly influenced by our nutrition, stress management, gut health, and blood sugar balance, which can all lead to estrogen dominance if not kept in check.

What hormone is responsible for PMS/PMDD?

Estrogen is a queen sex hormone, but she can become a clingy friend that dominates the relationship. Estrogen dominance is when estrogen dominates over progesterone in the second half of your cycle, the luteal phase. 

As Nicole Jardim, author of Fix Your Period, says, progesterone is our “Keep Calm and Carry On” hormone (2020, p.48). Both estrogen and progesterone influence the chemicals in our brain (neurotransmitters), such as serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin. These neurotransmitters affect our mood, so it makes sense that if our imbalanced hormones are negatively affecting our neurotransmitters, that we would experience mood swings as a PMS/PMDD symptom.

Is PMDD considered a mental illness?

For PMDD, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are typically prescribed because the DSM-5 has declared PMDD a psychiatric condition. 

SSRIs are a widely used type of antidepressant. They are most commonly prescribed to treat depression, especially in severe cases like PMDD. 

Now, I am not saying that this isn’t an appropriate medical approach, but I think it is missing the bigger picture. Conventional medicine and functional medicine would be the perfect combination to tackle PMS/PMDD, and to break the narrative that our symptoms are all in our head.

What can be done to address PMS/PMDD symptoms?

Addressing hormone imbalances is never a “peel-and-stick” situation, but there are basic functional approaches that every menstruating woman can take to live in hormonal bliss:

Jump off the blood sugar roller coaster

Insulin is a queen hormone and she deserves to be treated as royalty. Insulin is in charge of keeping blood sugar balanced, but when we are constantly stressed or eating poorly, then we continue to stay on the blood sugar roller coaster. High blood sugar and insulin levels are directly and indirectly linked to PMS, PCOS, endometriosis, fibroids, and heavy / painful periods. How do we get off of the blood sugar roller coaster?

Include these at every meal: 

  • 4-6 ounces of animal or plant-based protein
  • 2 cups of colorful veggies. Eat the rainbow!
  • 1 serving of slow carbs such as grains or an energy veggie like sweet potato
  • Healthy fat (1 T olive oil, ½ avocado)

Love your liver

Our bodies are always seeking balance, and one way to achieve balance is through the liver. The liver plays a major role in detoxification and elimination pathways. The detoxification process starts in our liver, where used up or excess hormones are filtered and metabolized. How do we love our livers?

  • Add cruciferous vegetables to your diet (broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, kale, etc.)
  • Supplement with DIM (diindolylmethane) in your luteal phase to help the liver with detoxification. The luteal phase is the phase of your cycle that begins after ovulation and lasts until menstruation begins. 
  • Drink dandelion root and ginger tea.

Eliminate endocrine disrupting chemicals 

Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are compounds that harm the natural rhythm of our endocrine system. They can mimic our natural hormones, and have been linked to health issues such as infertility, endometriosis, certain cancers, and — you guessed it — PMS symptoms. Estrogen-mimicking compounds, known as xenoestrogens, are present in BPA, parabens, phthalates, pesticides, and herbicides. How do we start to eliminate EDCs out of our lives?

  • Buy clean cosmetic products that don’t contain parabens or phthalates 
  • Buy or make natural cleaning products
  • Eat foods that are not processed with pesticides, hormones, or antibiotics
  • Get rid of plastic food containers and water bottles
  • Avoid fragrances and switch to essential oils

Get good with your gut

The gut-hormone connection is truly amazing and has been the focus of more and more scientific research. Because gut health has a direct effect on hormone health, it also has a direct effect on mental health. Our gut is responsible for eliminating excess hormones like estrogen out of our bodies. What can you do to address gut health?

  • Possibly have a panel done to identify problematic foods so you can eliminate them from your diet
  • Limit inflammatory foods such as sugar, caffeine, alcohol, and vegetable oils
  • FIBER! Fiber feeds our guts and give our good bacteria what they need to flourish
  • Manage stress levels
  • Look into a good probiotic

Fill in the gaps in your diet 

In today’s world, it is really hard to get all of our nutrients from the foods we eat, so it’s important to take a quality multi/prenatal vitamin to fill in our nutrient gaps. Along with a multi/prenatal vitamin, you may also need extra supplemental support due to your specific needs. Always talk to your doctor before starting new vitamins or herbal supplements.

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Jardim, N. (2020). Fix Your Period (1st ed.). HarperCollins.
Romm, A. (2021). Hormone Intelligence (1st ed.). HarperCollins.
Varta, S. J. (2020). Doctors Think Your Period Should Be a Fifth Vital Sign
Weschler, T. (2015). Taking Charge of Your Fertility (20th ed.). HarperCollins.

7 common period myths: what you need to know

7 common period myths: what you need to know

Is PMS all in your head? Are periods shameful? Is period blood dirty? So many questions surround something so normal as menstruation. We tackle 7 common period myths we are asked frequently in hopes of helping you live free and empowered! #breakthestigma

Always on our periods myth

First of all, it’s important to understand that a woman’s menstrual cycle is not the same as her period. The actual time that a woman bleeds is known as menstruation, but her menstrual cycle is the entire time from one period starting to the next. I didn’t know this until recently, and as a menstruating human, it goes to show there is a lot of ignorance and misinformation around the issue!

Although it’s assumed that a woman’s menstrual cycle lasts 28 days, that’s only an average number and everyone is unique. 

Some women’s cycles are much longer, from 29 to 35 days, while others can be shorter. So many factors can change this. From woman to woman, but also from month to month. Things like stress, travel, weight fluctuation, stress, hormone changes, emotions, stress, birth control, medication (and did I mention stress?) can all affect when a woman’s period occurs.

Dismiss feelings during period myth

There’s a very real physical change in a woman’s body during this time. In the days leading up to a woman’s period beginning — this time has coined us the phrase “PMSing” — her levels of estrogen plummet, while her levels of progesterone sharply increase. Talk about an imbalance for a bit!

Estrogen is linked to serotonin, the “happy hormone,” and progesterone is linked to the part of the brain that causes fear, anxiety, and depression. The effects of hormones on mood are complicated, and while progesterone may depress some emotions, it has a mood-balancing effect.

During that time of the month we are tired and most likely overwhelmed. It’s super easy to dismiss what’s happening if we have an excuse like it’s “just hormones,” but mood changes caused by hormones are still real. It may happen on a more monthly basis for us, but it doesn’t invalidate our feelings.

Period blood is dirty myth

From the killer team of girls at the University of Texas, The Chatty Gal, “Contrary to that belief, the blood you menstruate is just as “clean” as the venous blood that comes from every other part of the body and it’s harmless as long as you don’t have any bloodborne diseases.”

It doesn’t mean conditions are less than ideal down there.

We’re taught that periods are dirty. (and grated they are messy, but not dirty) Period blood actually isn’t rejected body fluids or the body’s way of flushing out toxins. Think of it as an evolved vaginal secretion — there’s some blood, uterine tissue, mucus lining, and bacteria. It’s super important to keep up your water intake during your period as well. This helps flush everything that is happening during your period.

Rest during your period myth

Here’s another to include in our common period myths! If you feel like exercising, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t. It’s actually a great way of controlling PMS symptoms and menstrual cramps because it increases the supply of oxygen to your muscles. Because exercise gives you a natural endorphin high, it can elevate your mood and actually make you feel better. One of the main benefits of exercise while menstruating is the endorphin release and workout “high.” Since endorphins are a natural painkiller, when they release during exercise, you may feel relief from uncomfortable periods. Here at Pixie Cup we love living free and pursuing whatever we love to do. We’re all about being outdoors and being active every day of the month. A menstrual cup is a great way of continuing your exercise and be active during your period. Because it can safely hold period blood for up to 12 hours, there is no hassle like you’d have with a tampon.

Virgins should use period cups period myth

Another big one among common period myths is that girls who haven’t had sex will find wearing tampons or a menstrual cup painful. This isn’t true, although levels of comfort depend on the person and general anatomy. For example, we recommend a young customer who might be apprehensive to try our Pixie Cup Slim Small. We have other helpful products like our Pixie Cup Lube to help things be as smooth and comfortable as possible. Another concern is that tampons or period cups can somehow “take away your virginity.” This myth has deep roots tied to all sorts of cultural upbringing and traditions. 

PMS is all in your head, period myth

This is a common period myth, especially when we’re trying to justify how we are feeling. Wrong! Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms are related to the way your hormones change through your monthly cycle. Symptoms can be emotional (like irritability, depression or fatigue, and physical (cramps or headaches). Check out the facts on PMS and get some tips for minimizing the very real symptoms of PMS. Take this time during the month to really log your symptoms 

are periods shameful

As a menstruating woman, I feel this one hard. Unfortunately, we have a long history of embarrassment to overcome. Whether that be cultural or otherwise. Hiding my period was what I was taught to do from the age of 12 when I first started my period. I even had separate waste cans for me to conceal any sort of evidence (or smell) that I was on my menses. I fell into the habit of apologizing for what my body did naturally, opting out of social events and beach days regularly. I’m so sorry if this is something you carry with you. Here at Pixie Cup, it’s our mission to break that shame and have a #lifechangingperiod. As we do that, we’re face to face every day with the cultural and mental boundaries that have been ingrained in us. Change starts with us! I know for myself, I’m daily striving towards that freedom, conquering that mental mountain. You can bet my daughter won’t be taught the same hiding techniques I was. Take space for you, embrace what your body does as an amazing thing. We’re right here with you.

For more information on using a menstrual cup, please contact us! We love to talk about all things period and love normalizing the conversation. If you’re interested in trying a Pixie Cup, head over to our store and get 10% off your first purchase.

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Self-care during your period and why you really need it

Self-care during your period and why you really need it

As women, our bodies endure a lot. You should probably start every single day with patting yourself on the back. You do hard things! Half the time you don’t even know it. Through our whole menstrual cycle (25-40 days) a lot is happening. There are peaks and valleys all leading up to our actual menstruation. I like to think of menstruation as the time that our bodies let go of that which doesn’t serve us anymore. There is pain, it’s uncomfortable some of the time, but on the other side, you’re at your best and ready to take on the world. During your period, it’s super important to be easy on yourself. Your emotions are run by your hormones during this time and if you’re like me, I can make a mountain out of a molehill! We’ve put together some of our favorite things for self-care during our period.

Self-care ideas for during our period

Get outside. I probably can’t stress this one enough. The world feels like it’s crumbling when I’m on my period, and if nothing else, I force myself to at least go for a walk.  It’s proven that when you exercise, your brain releases the feel-good hormones called endorphins. These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain or anxiety or stress. You’ve probably heard the term “runner’s high” or something of that nature. That’s exactly what they are referring to!

Eat better. I know everything in you is craving a pint of ice cream and a good movie. Those desires may actually be a bi-product of a deficiency! Ever want to eat a pan full of brownies?! Your body could be craving magnesium. Magnesium helps ease cramps and overall has a calming effect on the body. Check out this cool article about periods and magnesium. Another big one is iron. Your body is discharging up to 16 teaspoons of blood during your period. That’s a crazy amount. (Remember what I said about you doing hard things?) I take a food-derived liquid iron supplement during my menstrual phase and I physically feel the difference. If you are low on iron your energy will fall through the floor.

holding menstrual cup

Reusable menstrual products. This was a total game changer for me! When I discovered menstrual cups, my mind was blown. I was no longer a slave to tampons and carrying them with me, remembering them on the grocery list or making mad dashes to the corner store. I was free to swim on my period, to not have to jog with a pad in my spandex pants or pack my glove box with a “just in case” stash. I literally forget that I’m on my period and it’s the best thing ever. Have you ever thought about making the switch to a menstrual cup? We know it’s definitely a change and we’ve got your fears covered

Slow down. We live such a fast paced life that having quiet time or downtime can actually make some of us uncomfortable. (I’m over here raising my hand) This can come from a number of things. An internal programming of guilt that we aren’t “being productive” or that our lives take a lot of work to make ends meet and juggling all the demands equals zero free time. Most of us know when our periods are coming. Maybe schedule that week to be a little lighter? Ask someone to share responsibilities with you? If your planner is your BFF, physically write down and block off time for yourself. It’s so much easier said than done, I get it, but I think you will find the return will be richer. You’ll have the creative juices and the energy to tackle what you need to.

Have a journal. This is perfect for a couple of reasons. First, on a very physical level, you will be able to spot trends in your mood, in your body, and differences in your cycle. We highly recommend keeping a journal of your period anyways, and we even have this handy downloadable period tracker! Also, if you’re anxiety-prone, taking thoughts out of your head and putting them on paper is super helpful too. This is a great mental self-care tactic during your period.

Sleep. We probably can’t stress this factor enough. You need sleep and a good amount of it, especially on your period. We recently talked about how sleep and fatigue affect us and 7 tips on getting better sleep during our periods. While we are tired and especially exhausted during our period, sometimes it’s hard to sleep due to the hormone fluctuations going on in our bodies. Oh, the irony…

Grounding. This topic deserves a blog post all on its own. Grounding is the act of connecting to the earth and to your body. It’s doing something that brings you back to the moment (back to center), it heightens bodily awareness and overall calms you. My body tells me to ground myself when I know I have a busy day ahead of me, I’m stressed out or if anxiety starts getting the best of me. In some sense, I’ve allowed outside influencers to disconnect me. Grounding can happen in a number of ways. Taking a few minutes to unplug and go into your yard barefoot. This enables you to soak up electrical energy from the earth. For me, gardening or pruning/watering my plants, getting my hands in the dirt does the trick.

How do you define self-care?

Up until a couple of years ago, self-care was a foreign concept to me. I quite literally furrowed my brow when someone mentioned “self-care” one day. If you’re like me, the idea of taking care of yourself was unknown because you constantly self-sacrifice to make sure others are taken care of or your life does not lend itself to time off, let alone sitting and watching a movie and giving yourself a pedicure or curling up with a book and a cup of tea. The definition of self-care isn’t the same for everyone. It’s whatever calms you, whatever serves you, whatever makes you feel like you are important too. Here are some myths that can certainly be applied for self-care during your period also. 

self-care myths

How do you self care during your period? We’d love to hear your ideas on how you are kind to yourself. Tell us what brings you joy! If you’ve thought about switching to a reusable menstrual product like a menstrual cup, we’ve got you covered! Head over to our store and see the different sizes and styles. If you need help knowing which is best for you, we’ve got you covered there too. Let’s bust those menstrual cup fears and the self-care myths. 

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PLEASE NOTE: This blog post is not intended as a substitute for the medical advice of your doctor. You should regularly consult a physician in matters relating to your health and particularly with respect to anything related to menstruation. If you have any concerns about using a Pixie Cup, consult your doctor before use. If you have any gynecological conditions, please talk to your physician before using any menstrual cup.

7 ways to get better sleep on your period

7 ways to get better sleep on your period

Getting good sleep on your period is crucial to your mental and physical well-being during this time. There is so much happening in our bodies during menstruation and there are all sorts of reasons why sleep could be difficult any night of the month but today we’re chatting about how to get better sleep on your period.  sleeping on your period

What happens to your body during your period?

Menstrual cycles last from 25 to 35 days, with an average of 28 days for the average women. Fluctuation in four key hormones mark phases of the cycle and account for many of the symptoms we experience. A cycle begins on the first day of menstrual flow when levels of estrogen and progesterone are low. During the follicular phase (days 2-13), estrogen rises, leading to ovulation (day 14). The post-ovulation luteal phase (days 15-28) sees an increase in progesterone before hormone levels drop and a new cycle begins with the start of menstruation. 

Why can’t I sleep on my period?

It’s one of the great ironies of menstruation! The same thing that makes you so tired during the day can make it tough to sleep at night. With the fluctuation of hormones during your menstruation phase, it can do a number of things to our body. Some women report a peak in anxiety which causes our minds to race and worry.  Other gals talk about the ups and downs of body temperature, making getting comfortable feel impossible!

7 ways to get better sleep on your period

Sleep in the fetal position. If you’re normally a back or stomach sleeper, try rolling to your side and tucking in your arms and legs. This position takes the pressure off your abdominal muscles and can relieve tension that can make cramping worse! Keep your bedroom cool. Hormones that elevate your body temperature during parts of your cycle might make falling asleep difficult. Keep your bedroom between 60-68 degrees for a cool sleeping climate. Studies show that under cooler temperatures, our sleep-inducing hormone melatonin jumps which will aid in falling asleep and staying asleep. Keep to a schedule. When you go to bed at a similar time each night, including weekends, you give your body ample opportunity to anticipate and prepare for sleep. You will feel sleepy and wakeful at the same times each day! Maintain a consistent sleep schedule and your body is less likely to be thrown out of whack by menstrual symptoms. Reduce screen time. So much research is coming out about screen time, blue light and how it affects our minds. A lot of phones these days have a “night mode” or “dimming timer” that you can set to change every day. It transforms the backlight from a blue tone to a yellow or golden tone. Blue light suppresses the production of melatonin which can make falling asleep difficult or not allow you to fall into a deeper level of sleep.  Do some journaling. Journaling is powerful! Writing your thoughts down enables you to see them, acknowledge them and then give your mind a rest. You’re not laying there having these things circle your mind if you can tell yourself they are now written down on paper. Sort of like making a grocery list. You make the list and then you purposely allow yourself to forget what you need because it’s written down! Relieving anxiety and quieting a busy mind will help you sleep on your period. Tracking your period is important too. You’re able to see patterns and know what to expect month-to-month. Yoga. Yoga has been used for centuries as a means of controlling your body, bringing it back to a grounded state of mind and to help with things like anxiety. Setting aside even 30 minutes just before bed to roll out the mat could be incredibly helpful! There are poses that are suggested to help with sleep as well as a few key ones to help with any period cramping. Heat therapy. If you experience cramps or lower back pain, try a warm water bottle or a timed heating pad. This will allow muscles to relax and ease up on cramping.  menstrual cup for sleeping

How do I stop leaking when I sleep on my period? 

If you’re a tampon user, definitely check the absorbance level of the tampon or consider sizing up on your heavy days when you know you’ll be sleeping for 7+ hours. Another idea would be to switch to a menstrual cup! Menstrual cups are a cup-shaped device made from medical-grade silicone. It’s soft so that it molds to fit your body and is designed to safely hold menstrual blood for up to 12 hours. Popping in a menstrual cup before bed is sure to help take away the worry. We have plenty of tips on how to stop any potential leaks    If you’re interested in trying a menstrual cup to help with sleep on your period, head over to our store! Be sure to use pixieblog15 at check out for 15% off your order! shop now banner