Here are our most Frequently Asked Questions...
If you have a question that is not listed here, please use the 'contact us' form.
At Menstrual Matters, we are committed to providing clear, accurate and up to date information.
In collaboration with several expert clinicians, health associations, and leading research organisations, we work hard to ensure that our products and information are evidence-based, in line with relevant professional guidelines, and meet with the NHS Information Standard.- We hope to become a certified member of the Information Standard by 2020.
If you have any questions, or comments about any of the information that we are sharing, please do not hesitate to get in touch, through the ‘contact’ page.
There is currently very little large-scale menstrual cycle health data available for academic and clinical research purposes. So, the anonymous data created by users of the Menstrual Matters ‘Symptom Checker’ tool will provide much-needed information about the prevalence of cycle-related symptoms.
We will publish the results of any academic, clinical or internal research based on it, in the form of reports, articles, and website content. We will NEVER sell this data to any third party company, or other profit-making enterprise. It is for health research purposes, only.
If you use the Menstrual Matters symptom checker app, your profile data (e.g. name, email address) is only used to send you a one-off personalised report, and is only added to our mailing list if you indicate that you wish to receive newsletters.
Your health data, created by you as you fill in the symptom checker form, is immediately separated from your profile data (i.e. made anonymous)- then made secure through an encryption process, and stored on a separate secure server, located in the UK (as required by UK law).
Good question! In short, a combination of social, economic, and political factors have resulted in a gap in clinical/ public knowledge. These factors include:
- The menstruation taboo (which effectively silences open discussion about the menstrual cycle, as well as menstruation itself)
- A lack of gendered clinical research (i.e. an over-reliance on the male human body in clinical research)
- Pressurised medical consultations (time and money) that force a ‘most likely’ diagnosis, rather than one that takes account of all symptoms, and when they occur over the course of a menstrual cycle
- The dominance of the pharmaceutical industry in dictating which treatment options are clinically tested, favouring medication (which will make them profit) over dietary, or other non-medication approaches (which cannot be patented, and so are not profitable)
- Economic constraints that prevent governments and non-profit research organisations from funding much-needed clinical trials
The good news is that smartphone, and web application technology is now providing a means to collect health data easily and cheaply- and so we hope that we will soon be able to provide robust evidence to influence the way in which this topic is understood, by clinicians and the public.
Yes they can. Some people are hospitalised on a regular basis, due to cyclical asthma attacks, crippling abdominal pain, or debilitating migraines. Although this is certainly not the case for the vast majority of people with a menstrual cycle, or taking hormonal medication, it is still possible, and worth checking, if only to discount from the list of possible causes.
The menstrual cycle is also a well-known 'trigger' or 'worsening' factor in a range of symptoms, and chronic ill health issues. So, if you find that you feel much worse at certain times in your cycle, it is definitely worth tracking your symptoms over time, and if a pattern emerges, you can take steps to better manage your health, as well as help your doctor make a more informed diagnosis.
Likewise, the side-effects of hormonal medications can be severe, please always check your symptoms against those listed on the medication information sheet.
No! There is a difference between normal 'menstrual changes' and 'menstrual symptoms'. Menstrual symptoms are defined as any recurring changes that are severe enough to limit your ability to take part in daily activities. It is entirely possible to significantly reduce the severity of most menstrual cycle-related symptoms, through diet and lifestyle changes alone.
In some cases, it can also be necessary to use medications, too, since some people might have an underlying health issue that needs to be addressed (e.g. endometriosis), or need to manage symptoms whilst diet and lifestyle changes come into effect e.g. if weight loss is required.
For too long we have accepted and coped with pain, emotional distress, or uncomfortable physical changes, in silence. We are taught to expect these things, and to get on with our lives despite them, or risk negative consequences (e.g. in the workplace). We are made to feel that these problems are ‘not real’, or ‘in our heads’- when, in fact, they are physiological in origin and so can usually be improved with a healthy diet and lifestyle changes.
Actually, many people have suddenly developed side-effect symptoms after taking the same medication for a long time, without any previous problems. Multiple factors can influence the way in which you react to synthetic hormones- age, diet, exercise levels, other health issues, weight loss/gain, stress, sleep patterns, pregnancy, miscarriage, menopause, or surgery.
So, it is important that you and your doctor keep an open mind about the potential role of hormonal medication(s) in your symptoms of ill health; always check symptoms against those listed on the medication information sheet.
The term 'premenstrual' actually refers to the time from ovulation to menstruation (known as the luteal phase). This usually lasts for the 14-days before menstruation (although the range is 12-16 days). So, if you have a 28 day cycle, you are more likely to experience symptoms in the second half of your cycle. If you have a 21 day cycle, you are technically 'premenstrual' for 2 out of every 3 weeks!
Many people experience symptoms around ovulation, as well as just before and during menstruation, perhaps with a gap between these times. This can mean that you feel like your symptoms are 'on/off' all the time, but tracking will usually reveal a pattern.
Track those symptoms! If you have a menstrual cycle, tracking your symptoms over three months will reveal any patterns in their occurrence. This will help you to confirm any cyclical issues, and allow a doctor to consider this useful information, too.
It is then worth reading our ‘symptom management’ section to see if you are able to improve your health and well-being through dietary, or lifestyle, changes. It is best to try these approaches for at least three months, since this is how long it can take for physiological changes to occur- although many people notice a difference within a month.
If you do not have a menstrual cycle, but are taking hormonal medication, or have a dietary or other physiological issue, that could affect your hormones, it can still be useful to track your symptoms. This can help identify any external triggers e.g. food allergies, activities, or medications, as well as help you to monitor any improvements in health and well-being once ‘managing’ your symptoms.
Yes. It is still possible to experience symptoms whilst taking contraceptive medication. Especially if you find your symptoms worsening just before menstruation when you are on a 'pill gap'.
Research suggests that some people are sensitive to the normal physiological changes involved in the menstrual cycle (e.g. water retention, blood sugar changes, blood pressure changes, inflammation, or blood loss), rather than symptoms being caused by 'hormones'. So, if you forget to take a pill at the usual time, or take a 7 day gap each month to trigger a 'withdrawal bleed', your body may start to experience some of these changes, which could result in symptoms.
It is also a good idea to track symptoms when changing type of hormonal medication/device, to see if the new option has any effect on your health. Be aware that it can take up to 3 months for your body to adjust to hormonal medications, so don't be too quick to stop tracking- this information can be very useful when discussing your experiences with your doctor.
Yes. Whilst it is obviously far less likely that your symptoms are related to 'ovulation' or 'menstruation', they still might be related.
For example, the decrease in the body's oestrogen levels after menopause can affect various issues, such as depression, poor temperature control, and headaches etc.
If you are taking hormonal (HRT), or any other type of medication, tracking symptoms can also help identify any worsening of symptoms, or side effects, over time.
Tracking symptoms over time can also help you to identify a food allergy, or symptom patterns relating to certain activities or environmental changes. Some people have found that their symptoms are triggered by intensive computer work, caffeine, or when they skip a meal etc.
So long as your doctor has asked you to track your symptoms over time (if you have a menstrual cycle), or double checked that your symptoms are not listed as side-effects to your hormonal medication, this is absolutely fine! Your doctor is probably aware of the possibility of these causes but has decided that they are not a contributing factor in your ill health.
But, if not, then it is certainly worth tracking your symptoms over time to identify for yourself, as well as your doctor, any patterns in their occurrence. If your symptoms happen in any sort of regular way, or at similar phases of your cycle, then your doctor will see that there could be a link.
Likewise, if you feel sure that you have only developed your symptoms whilst taking hormonal medication, then your doctor ought to be open to trying alternative options in your treatment. There is plenty of published research on the role of hormonal medications in a wide range of symptoms and health issues, so it won't take them long to find evidence, as well as information about alternative treatments. You can always ask for another doctor's opinion if you feel that you are not being listened to.
It is important that you wait at least three months before judging any change in diet, lifestyle, or medication. It can take this long for your body to adapt to changes, although most people do notice a positive difference within a month.
All of the symptom management changes that are recommended, promote a healthy diet and lifestyle, so there is very little chance of these changes having a negative impact on your health and well-being. So, your next step is to follow up with your doctor, to make sure that there is definitely no underlying health issue. Share your symptom checker and tracker information with your doctor to help them make an informed diagnosis.
If you are still left without a diagnosis, you could perhaps try consulting a dietitian who specialises in cyclical issues... It could be that you are lacking a key mineral in your diet, or would benefit from some sort of nutritional advice.
Many health conditions are known to interact with the menstrual cycle e.g. anorexia, obesity, diabetes, PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome), endometriosis, epilepsy, narcolepsy, migraine, anxiety, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, asthma, depression, hyper/hypothyroidism, and many more…
Checking and tracking your symptoms, to identify a cyclical factor in your health condition is obviously still a good idea. You may be able to alleviate some of your symptoms through simple lifestyle changes. Although, in some cases, e.g. endometriosis, the only way to entirely prevent symptoms may be through the use of hormonal medication, or a device like the Mirena IUS.
All of our recommended symptom management tips and tricks promote a healthy diet and lifestyle, so there is usually no problem with trying these approaches whilst also being treated for another health issue. However, it is best to consult your doctor, or dietitian, before significantly changing your diet e.g. becoming vegetarian, or reducing your consumption of dairy products, in case this reduces your intake of critical nutrients required to improve your health condition.
Menopause can cause, or affect, many of the same symptoms and health conditions associated with the menstrual cycle, or hormonal medication. Typically, menopausal symptoms will arise from decreasing levels of oestrogen, but can also be down to insufficient dietary intake of critical minerals or nutrients.
We do encourage menopausal people to use our tools and information, since they basically promote a healthy diet and lifestyle, which will usually help to alleviate menopausal symptoms, too. The only reason why we do not have a specific focus on the menopause, is that our research niche is in documenting and researching the relationship between the menstrual cycle and ill health.
But, please do share your experiences of, and ways of managing, symptoms caused by the menopause. We will certainly share research findings and useful products and resources for those going through the menopause. We might even be able to move into menopause-specific research one day...
If you have access to a family planning clinic, make an appointment to speak to someone there- they are best placed to discuss your contraceptive options. If not, your General Practitioner doctor (GP) will also know a lot about this subject, although some are not able to provide the full range of contraceptive options available through an NHS (free) prescription, due to budget restrictions.
There are various non-hormonal contraceptive options available, but each method has a different ‘failure rate’- so it is important that you choose a method that best fits your circumstances and health.
For those of you interested in learning more about manging your fertility (either to prevent pregnancy, or try to get pregnant) without the need for hormonal medication, or devices, the Family Planning Association has some useful info here: http://www.fpa.org.uk/contraception-help/natural-family-planning
We are always interested in hearing about your personal experiences with cyclical health issues, getting them diagnosed, and managing the symptoms.
If you would like to share your story but do not want your name associated with it, just let us know in the ‘share your story’ form. We will contact you before publishing any personal stories, anyway, to confirm that you approve our edits etc.
You can change your mind about your story’s anonymity at any time- just let us know.
We only promote products and activities once we are satisfied that they really can improve people’s health and well-being- but please do share your tips and tricks so we are aware of what has worked for you.
This information will help us to build up an evidence base for less well-known treatment options, so your support is most gratefully received.
Just let us know through the ‘contact’ page.
No- Menstrual Matters is a non-profit organisation, and we want to offer independent and unbiased information to our audiences. Therefore, we do not accept funding from the pharmaceutical industry, disposable sanitary product companies, or any other source that could create a conflict of interest.
You will notice that the products listed in our ‘stuff’ section are simply links to supplier websites. This is because we want to promote only tried and tested products, or sources of information, that we know to be of the highest quality and use to our audiences. We are not interested in making money for ourselves at the cost of our users’ health and well-being, or risking our impartial and independent research reputation.
We promote menstrual cups because they are the best menstrual management product available (they are environmentally responsible, long lasting, cheap, allow the user to monitor their hormonal health, build self-esteem, and take part in any activity of their choosing). We promote Mooncup, in particular, because it is a high quality medical-grade silicon product, and is translucent, which enables the accurate monitoring of blood loss at menstruation. Mooncup is also the most widely available and only ethically certified menstrual cup company in the UK.
Menstrual Matters does accept donations from individuals who wish to support our work. All money donated (100%) goes towards the work of Menstrual Matters, and we will share our annual reports on the website to show how that money has been spent.
So far, Menstrual Matters has been funded by the life-savings of our founder, and donations from friends and family. We are in the process of becoming a registered charity.
Please get in touch if you have any questions about our funding, or legal status, through the ‘contact’ page.
We are developing the clinician and researcher areas of the Menstrual Matters website throughout 2019/20 (Sorry- but I am also doing a PhD on a full time basis!). Please sign up to the clinician or researcher email lists to receive progress updates.
- Researchers will be able to share their work, collaborate with others, and access information on relevant funding opportunities and conferences.
- The research area will be especially relevant for those working on the role of menstrual changes in female-prevalent chronic health issues e.g. anxiety, asthma, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, fibromyalgia, IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), Migraine, or PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome).
- We are also interested in connecting with those working on immune system and metabolic disorders, inflammation responses, and/ or hyper/hypothyroidism.
- Medical sociologists, and data scientists, may also be interested in receiving our research news updates…
- Clinicians can already point patients to this website, where they can check and track their symptoms over time, to provide information to support an informed diagnosis.
- Clinicians can also access information about evidence-based dietary approaches to symptom management in our ‘symptom management’ pages…
- Coming soon- Clinicians will also be able to keep up with the latest in menstrual cycle-related clinical research developments, training modules, and diagnostic guidelines.