Because the fun doesn’t stop once your period ends.
In case you forgot everything you learned in middle school health class, there’s a reason for those phantom cramps that (seemingly) sneak up out of nowhere, and why it feels like you lose 50 pounds every time your period ends. And, truth be told, it’s fascinating stuff. If you’re ever wondering why you feel kind of blue for no apparent reason, or where those chin zits are actually coming from (no, the world isn’t conspiring against you), refer to this straightforward guide to all your period symptoms. Because the better you understand your body, the easier it is to take care of.
And remember, period symptoms can differ by age, environment, and individual. So use this as a handy jumping-off point, but talk to your doctor or gynecologist if you’re experiencing unusual pain or irregularity—or if you’re just generally curious to know more.
Days 1 to 7
What’s Happening to You: You've got your period, so both estrogen and progesterone levels are at their lowest point of the month. Your body is busy flushing out blood and tissue from the lining of the uterus and your bloodstream carries high levels of prostaglandin (a group of lipid compounds that cause inflammation in order to heal damaged tissue and infections).
What You Might Be Feeling: Those prostaglandins coursing through your veins cause several uncomfortable things to happen: Your uterus contracts causing cramps and your blood vessels constrict, which can cause headaches, dizziness, and diarrhea (great).
How to Deal: Ibuprofen (found in Advil and Motrin) should be your best friend. Take two with lots of water, then lie down for anywhere between a few minutes to half an hour while the pain starts to dissipate. Keep hydrating throughout the day to help things, um, flow more easily. Some women find heat packs or hot water bottles really soothing too.
Days 7 to 13 (or Starting as Early as Day 4 for Some Lucky Ladies)
What’s Happening to You: Your period is over—tuck those tampons away until next time. Estrogen is rising while your uterus starts to rebuild its lining again. Meanwhile, the egg keeps maturing in its follicle.
What You Might Be Feeling: Like a million bucks.
How to Deal: Enjoy!
Days 14 to 20
What’s Happening to You: It’s ovulation time, which means your estrogen levels are peaking and the follicle releases the egg into the fallopian tube (only one egg—not two—is released in one cycle). As the egg travels down the fallopian tube, your uterus lining continues to build up. In the event that a sperm arrives and fuses with the egg, the fertilized embryo would need this thick surface to attach to.
What You Might Be Feeling: During ovulation, progesterone levels rise, creating a pretty frustrating domino effect on your mood, face, and body. Along with causing bloating and crabby moods, it stimulates sebum and closes up skin pores, which leads to breakouts.
How to Deal: Things probably aren’t going so great right now. Unfortunately, the best tips for this time of the month seem counterintuitive to what you feel like doing (eating junk food, turning the lights off, curling under the covers, and listening to sad music). But as much as you can, avoid super-salty foods to lessen bloating and try to work up a sweat every day. Exercise endorphins really do help temper moods.
Days 21 to 25
What’s Happening to You: Unless a sperm successful fuses with the egg and starts developing into a fetus (aka you’re expecting!), it’s time for your uterus to purge its built-up lining once again, and for your hormone levels to take a dip.
What You Might Be Feeling: In addition to the previous few days’ ups and downs, now you’re likely stricken with fatigue, hunger, distractedness, and more bloating. It’s not fun, but it does mean your period is right around the corner—and it’s always cool to be able to read the signs your body’s giving you.
How to Deal: Be kind to yourself, drink lots of water, and keep getting regular exercise to stay balanced. Some studies also suggest calcium can play a role in alleviating bad moods, so it doesn’t hurt to get your daily amount.
Days 25 to 30
What’s Happening to You: Somewhere in this span of time, hormone levels drop to and your period will start.
What You Might Be Feeling: Right as your cycle comes to a close—so in the few days leading up to your period—you might experience some extra bloating, breast tenderness, and sporadic cramping.
How to Deal: If you get major cramps during your period, don’t be afraid to reach for the Ibuprofen a few days before it arrives. It’s actually easier to get ahead of the pain rather than to chase it once it starts.