For most women, getting your period is mildly annoying—there may be some cramps and a little bloating, but it’s otherwise no biggie. But for others, it can be a body-altering experience.
Blogger Malin Olofsson is part of the latter group. She shared a photo of her belly on
on Saturday, explaining that, even though she looks like she’s pregnant, she’s actually suffering from severe PMS.
〰 Some of you have seen this before. Some of you haven't. Some of you experience and go through this yourself once a month. Some of you will be disgusted. Some of you will sigh with relief and think -Omg I'm not alone. Some of you will not read this caption and presume that I'm pregnant. 〰 This is the visual signs of PMS for me and many other women. For some it's less extreme, for some it's more. Water retention is a very normal and common symptom of PMS. Some women will hardly notice it and some go through immense discomfort for a couple of days a month. It can start anytime between ovulation and your period. 〰 THIS 👏🏽 IS 👏🏽 NORMAL. This is nothing to be ashamed of. Yes - it is very uncomfortable, and yes - it is really difficult to not feel like you must hide it and try to suck your stomach in. I've stopped. I've decided that breathing is more important than what other people may or might think. I've decided that my body's reaction to the hormonal change is not going to be an aspect that I let contribute to my already unstable mental state. Because when I have PMS, I already feel like dying. And I've decided to love my body no matter how I feel about life. 〰 Do not blame your body for how you're feeling. It is never your body's fault. It is never anything wrong with how your body looks. Yes - your body might experience discomfort due to hormonal changes - so instead of making it worse through shaming your body, try doing the opposite. Realize that this is when you need extra self-care and self-love. Realize that you don't have to be ashamed and hide. You are perfect and your body is just doing it's job.
“This is the visual signs of PMS for me and many other women,” she wrote. “For some it's less extreme, for some it's more.” Water retention is a normal and common symptom of PMS, she explains, and some women barely notice it, while others—like her—have more obvious symptoms. (Speed up your progress towards your weight-loss goals with Women's Health's Look Better Naked DVD.)
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“THIS IS NORMAL,” she wrote. “This is nothing to be ashamed of. Yes—it is very uncomfortable, and yes—it is really difficult to not feel like you must hide it and try to suck your stomach in.”
However, she says, she’s decided to stop trying to hide it. “I've decided that breathing is more important than what other people may or might think,” Malin wrote. “I've decided that my body's reaction to the hormonal change is not going to be an aspect that I let contribute to my already unstable mental state. Because when I have PMS, I already feel like dying. And I've decided to love my body no matter how I feel about life.”
Jessica Shepherd, M.D., an assistant professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology and director of Minimally Invasive Gynecology at The University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago, says there are a lot of different reasons why women bloat around their period, but doctors can’t pinpoint one specific factor.
“We do know, however, that the hormonal changes with estrogen and progesterone do contribute to how you retain water during your period—and right before the first day of your period is usually when you’ll see the most bloating,” she says.
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Your gut health can also play a role. Gut flora (i.e. the microorgasnisms that live in your digestive tract) are really sensitive and they respond to the inflammatory response in your body that your period causes, Shepherd explains.
“The gut can react to that with increased fluid retention, bloating, and gas in [the] bowel,” she says.
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Bloating can become worse if you already have underlying digestive issues, like a lactose intolerance or irritable bowel syndrome, says Sherry Ross, M.D., women's health expert and author of She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women's Intimate Health. Period. Fiber supplements, certain laxatives, and even chewing gum can also lead to bloating, she adds.
Since Malin and so many other women cope with this monthly, she says it’s important to just embrace it and accept that there is nothing “wrong” with how your body looks when Aunt Flo is in town. “Yes—your body might experience discomfort due to hormonal changes, so instead of making it worse through shaming your body, try doing the opposite,” she says. “Realize that this is when you need extra self-care and self-love. Realize that you don't have to be ashamed and hide. You are perfect and your body is just doing its job.”
Other women applauded Malin in the comments. “I seriously thought I was the only one,” wrote one. “Lying in bed with awful cramps and seeing this,” another said. “It does help when we see just how similar we are, how we are all in this together.”
If you bloat around your period and it bothers you, Shepherd recommends exercising, decreasing your salty food intake, drinking more water, and trying out a daily probiotic to de-puff. It’s also a good idea to avoid certain otherwise healthy foods, like beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, whole grains, apples, peaches, pears, lettuce, and onions, Ross says, as well as cut back on alcohol, since that contributes to bloat, too.
Of course, Shepherd points that while there are some strategies you can use to deflate your belly, there’s only so much you can do. But Malin makes a good point: It’s an important time to give yourself some extra love—you deserve it.