Is your period like evening traffic on the expressway: Starting and then suddenly coming to a screeching halt and then starting again? Tons of women have been reaching out to me recently to ask what’s up with their start and stop periods – they begin, then stop around day 3 or 4, only to return 24 hours later.
So I decided to do a little digging. I also asked some friends to chime in – acupuncturists, Mayan Abdominal Massage therapists, pelvic floor physical therapists and hormonal health experts.
They gave me heaps of useful info and I’ve done my best to condense it into something that I hope is helpful for you below.
Reasons your period might start and stop and start again (according to the experts):
1. Your uterus might be in a flexed position…
According to my friend Barbara Loomis, LMT, RES, “one theory is that if the uterus is flexed on itself it could stop the flow mid-period, however this doesn’t explain why it would always stop on the third day of bleeding, which is what I hear from women (see more about that below). Anyway, if the uterus is in a flexed position (Fig. 1), it would affect it’s tone and ability to release smoothly.”
Nicole’s take: Just so you have a better understanding of this, your uterus can actually be malpositioned, yup you could have a wandering womb. It then makes sense that if your uterus isn’t in it’s correct position, you could have problems with period flow. Barbara talks about solutions for that below and on her amazing blog!
2. Liver Qi Stagnation…
My dear friend Aimee Raupp, an expert acupuncturist with a focus on women’s hormonal health says this, “when a period starts and stops, from a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, it could be for a couple of reasons, namely:
- There is some emotional stagnation (you are feeling frustrated or sad or angry)
- There is physical stagnation (your uterus is cramping and contracted)
- Or both (and this is most often the case).
The menstrual cycle gives practitioners like me a lot of information about how the body is working. When there is stagnation in the body (what we call Liver Qi stagnation) it is often the result of both an emotional and physical stagnation. I always work with my clients using acupuncture and Chinese herbs to regulate their periods, but even more I encourage my clients to work through any emotional blockages that they may be holding onto as they will most definitely affect the flow of their periods.
Barbara adds on to what Aimee said above: “From a Chinese medicine perspective the start and stop may be associated with blood stagnation or liver qi stagnation. The liver controls flows in the body including the menstrual flow.”
Aimee says this is always treated with acupuncture and herbal formulas that are in accordance with the diagnosis.
Nicole’s take: Definitely go and see an acupuncturist who is reputable and experienced with the use of herbs. I adore acupuncture and have found it to be incredibly useful in my own healing journey and for many of my clients. If you’re in NYC, go see Aimee! 🙂
3. Progesterone problems…
Barbara says: “What I understand is that from a Western perspective, the start, stop, start period may be due to an imbalance with how the progesterone is dropping-perhaps progesterone is not dropping smoothly or completely at the onset of the period.”
Nicole’s take: I’ve researched this and not found much research about how progesterone drops during your period but it makes a lot of sense, especially since low progesterone is so epidemic among young women due to stress on the hypothalamus which then puts a strain on the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis (HPA Axis). I can totally see how it could then cause progesterone to act abnormally in the body.
According to Jessica Drummond, MPT CCN CHC, “I would venture to guess that chemical toxin exposure, the toxicity of stress (digestive, emotional, lack of sleep, over exercising, etc.) all contribute to HPA axis and other hormonal irregularities that in some women result in amenorrhea or irregular cycles of this kind.
4. Your uterus isn’t contracting the way it’s supposed to…
Here’s what my friend Katinka Locasio, LMT had to say:
“While I don’t have all too much clinical experience with this, my understanding of the anatomy/tissue state is that start and stop is an indication of a hypertonic or dysregulated uterus. Meaning that the uterus isn’t contracting the way it’s supposed to.
During menstruation the uterus contracts with gentle downward moving contractions to help get the menstrual blood out. If those muscle layers are in spasm it will cause the blood vessels to constrict and stop the flow. If there’s still lining to be shed the uterus will continue the flow as the muscle walls relax again a day or so later.”
A few things that might cause a hypertonic or dysregulated uterus – tension in the pelvis, hormone or prostaglandin imbalances, emotional trauma and even oral contraceptives.
Nicole’s take: Makes sense to me! I ain’t got nothing else to add to this one because Katinka knows what’s up when it comes to how a uterus functions! 🙂
5. High levels of estrogen…
Katinka goes on to say, “In some cases high levels of estrogen also play a role because estrogen helps stop the period. If estrogen levels are too high then it may cause the period to halt. This is best treated with diet /good elimination (see below for recommendations). Massage can be supportive here as well both for the uterus and digestive system.” (also see below)
Nicole’s take: Just so everyone understands this better, when a woman has really heavy periods, one way to stop them is a high dose of estrogen because it triggers growth of the uterine lining and stops the shedding of it.
Also, please know that when I say “high levels of estrogen” I am talking about xenoestrogens and anything that might mimic estrogen in the body causing symptoms of high estrogen.
6. Emotional/energetic connection…
We all know that our brain function is very much connected to our ovaries and that even a small amount of prolonged stress can cause some women to stop ovulating completely!
Aimee says, “when energy stagnates in the body, the liver is almost always affected. The liver governs not just the flow of energy in our bodies but also how we process our emotions. If we’re not processing our emotions – ignoring them and pushing them down – that’s a surefire way to stagnate the liver Qi, and that will definitely affect the menses.”
Nicole’s take: So, are you experiencing frustration, buried anger and lots of obstacles in your life? Are things (work, relationships, etc.) not flowing? This could be a sign of liver qi imbalance and just a sign in general that you have to take a look at what’s happening in your life outside of your physical health.
I also loved what my friend Stefanie Foster, PT, FAAOMPT, PYT says too:
Inversions (going upside down) are an important aspect of yoga asana (posture) practice, and there is a folklore and debate around not inverting during menstruation. The upward flow can be simplified to govern moving from the physical realm to matters of a more emotional, relational or spiritual nature. The downward flow of energy moves from supreme consciousness, spirit, and big ideas down into the “real” world physical realm, and governs functions of elimination and menstruation.
From this perspective, practicing inversions (especially longer holds) during menstruation inverts the energy when your body doesn’t want it to. Imagine going upside down when you’re trying to poop! I’ve noticed that when I’m experiencing heavy emotions around menstruation, all I want to do is go upside down….like I’m trying to escape that downward flow. It’s always harder to just sit with those emotions and investigate what I’m trying to escape, rather than just go upside down so I can feel “better”.
So how can we fix this besides seeing an acupuncturist?
Aimee suggests –
- Start your day with a mug of hot water with either fresh squeezed lemon juice or a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar. The sour taste in chinese medicine helps to move any stagnant liver qi
- Process your emotions, express them don’t repress them. Meditation is a great way to do this, as is journaling. Whatever works for you, take time each day to lovingly connect with your body and your emotions and allow yourself to express how you feel. Witness your feelings, no matter what they are, and release them.
- Move each day. The liver Qi loves a little movement. I recommend 20-30 minutes of moderate exercise daily to keep the liver Qi flowing and your health optimal.
Katinka suggests –
- Uterine tonics help regulate the tone of the uterus and are also thought to regulate the contractility patterns (the way the uterus contracts in different directions at different times of the month). Try red raspberry leaf tea – 2-3 cups a day.
- Mayan massage can be very helpful at restoring proper tone to the uterine muscle and helping regulate uterine contractility patterns.
Barbara suggests –
- All organs require motility (intrinsic movement) and mobility for optimal physiological function, so as a body worker that is where I would start. If the uterus is malpositioned, I would work to correct the uterine position thereby increasing blood flow, tone and function.
- I may also address the liver through using techniques of Chi Nei Tsang (Chinese abdominal massage) and Visceral Manipulation™. A Chi Nei Tsang treatment would include manual liver “pumping” and Chi Kung techniques for releasing emotional blockages held within the liver. See this link for liver Chi Nei Tsang: http://alignmentmonkey.nurturance.net/2011/liver-healing-sounds . Visceral Manipulation™ treats the dynamics of internal organ motion.
Nicole suggests –
- Use a hot water bottle a couple times a week to bring blood flow and nutrients to the pelvic area.
- Castor oil packs – Read my blog post about Castor Oil to get information about all the benefits of Castor Oil Packs and download my free guide on how to make and use them here. Castor oil packs are typically used for liver disorders, constipation, other intestinal issues and gallbladder inflammation. They’re also really helpful for fibroids and cysts.
- Liver detox using SGS (Sulforaphane Glucosinolate). This helps to speed up phase 2 of liver detoxification which will help address any high levels of potentially harmful estrogen metabolites. I recommend Thorne Reasearch Crucera SGS. Take 100mg every other day for 28 days.
- Kundalini yoga – I did an amazing class recently where we worked on “cleansing” the liver. It involved lots of movement that massaged the liver – it was intense but seriously awesome.
Below you can find contact info for the practitioners mentioned in this post…
Aimee Raupp – Author, Acupuncturist & Herbalist with a specialty in women’s health
Katinka Locasio – Massage therapist, (Mayan Abdominal Massage), Herbalist, Labor Doula and Fertility Awareness Instructor
Barbara Loomis – Restorative Exercise Specialist, a practitioner + educator of the Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy, & a Chi Nei Tsang and Visceral Manipulation therapist.
Jessica Drummond – pelvic physical therapist, health coach and founder of the Integrative Pelvic Health Institute.
Stefanie Foster – Physical Therapist, Professional Yoga Therapist and founder of Asana With Intelligence