Like many menstruators, my boobs swell up and get super sore in the days leading up to my period. Though this may seem like just an unpleasant symptom of PMS for most folks, it can bring along unbearable dysphoria and discomfort for those of us who are trans – especially if we bind.
For those who don’t know what “binding” is, it’s the practice of flattening your chest, most often by using binding tape, tight sports bras, or specially designed articles of clothing called “binders”. If you’ve ever worn a bra that was super tight and pushed down on your boobs, you probably can imagine that binding isn’t always the most comfortable – especially when you’re on your period.
For example, I wear a GC2B half binder that looks like a combination of a tank top and sports bra, but it’s very tight and can be difficult to take on and off even on a regular day. When I’m on my period, my XS binder is so uncomfortable that it hurts too much to wear a few days before bleeding and then for the duration of my period. Without a binder, my 34C chest is more prominent than at any other time of the month and I am misgendered more frequently than I would be otherwise.
However, sometimes the pain of seeing my chest stick out and hearing strangers use “ma’am” and “she” feels worse than the pain of binding swollen boobs, so I’ve had to find ways to limit the soreness any way I can if I still want to bind.
So, for my fellow menstruators who bind on their periods, I have written a few tips based on my own experience for how to lessen the pain of binding while on your period!
Buy a “Period Binder”
For those who have the financial means to afford an extra binder, I would recommend buying a binder that is one size up from what you’re used to. I happened to have bought my partner a small binder to try a few months ago, but I’ve taken it back to use as my “period binder”. The binding works just as well as my XS, but because it allows more space in my chest area, my already sore boobs aren’t being pressed as hard against my body.
Cheaper alternative: Binders can be pretty pricey (they can cost anywhere from $20-$50 each) but if you’re running short on cash you can still find a way to create a makeshift period binder on a budget. My advice would be to look into borrowing a friend’s sports bra or buying a cheap one at a discount store. You can also check out your local thrift store to see if they have any tight athletic tank tops you can use to get the kind of full coverage that comes with some binders. You can cut off the bottom to create a half size or leave the tank as is – totally up to you!
Embrace the magic of a hot bath
Hot baths have been used to sooth sore, tense muscles for hundreds of years, and they’ve stuck around until now for a good reason. At the end of every day I am on my period, I like to fill up a bath with warm water, throw in some Epsom salts, set up my computer on the toilet, and lie back while I catch up on some of my favorite shows. The warm water paired with Epsom salts relaxes your muscles and can ease a lot of the soreness that builds up during a full day of binding. If taking a bath causes you dysphoria because you’re facing up, you can try wearing a binder in the bath or using a hand-towel to cover your chest while in the bath. If you can afford to toss in a pretty penny, you could also invest in one of those “bath desks” to position your computer or iPad on top of your chest! PS If you accidentally order two of these, I wouldn’t be upset about an early Christmas present….
Cheaper alternative: For those who are concerned about running up their water bill, or who live in a place without a bathtub, you can make a pretty affordable heat pack out of a knee sock by filling it up with rice or beans, tying off the end, and popping it in the microwave or oven. Just be careful that your DIY heat pack isn’t too hot before putting it on your chest!
Now this option isn’t always great for me because of my dysphoria, but I’m including it on here for those who don’t feel as uncomfortable as I do while cupping their chest. Giving yourself a massage (or getting one from a partner) can help ease the symptoms of tenderness and soreness. Though at first it may not feel the best, gently cupping each one and kneading into it can make it feel a whole lot better. You can even add in a pain reliever to help reduce the swelling if you’d like!
Limiting Binder Time
If you’re like me, then you probably wear your binder from the minute you wake up until the time you go to bed (even though we know it’s not encouraged). When I’m on my period, I’ve found that wearing my binder for 12-14 hours in a row is simply not sustainable for my body. You can try limiting binder time by only wearing it at work or school and then switching to loose fitting shirts and pasties at home. If you don’t have any pasties to temper that nipple point, band-aids work just fine. Just watch out that you don’t have an adhesive allergy or that you don’t pull off your skin when you remove it!
Stretches or Yoga
When all else fails for easing the soreness in my chest, I turn to slow, easy stretches to help promote blood-flow and reduce some of the pressure in my upper back. If you’re a yogi, I’m sure you know way more than me about the different poses and stretches that can promote healing and tension relief, but my favorite go-to is stretching my arms out beside me, lifting them up into the air and bringing them back down. Sometimes I’ll follow it up with some arching of my back, but there’s a whole world of stretches out there just waiting to be experimented with. Check them out and find out what works best for you!
Regardless of how you deal with your chest discomfort through your menstrual cycle, just remember that all of this is temporary. Your period will end, and you are no less of who you are just because your uterus sheds its lining every once in awhile.
Best of luck with your binding – it’s time for me to get back to my bath!