This is such an important question! Menstrual periods may be light and easy for some people, but for others, they may be heavy and/or accompanied by painful cramps. We’re sorry to hear that your cramps have been so uncomfortable, and we’ve got some ideas for how to help.
- Talk to your health care provider or family member about taking “anti-prostaglandin” medication to help with your period cramps. These medicines cause your uterus to contract less frequently, which helps to relieve uncomfortable cramps. Look for over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen or naproxen sodium. Take the medication when you first start to feel uncomfortable, and continue taking it every 6-12 hours or as recommended by your health care provider. Make sure you read the label to see how much and how often you should take the medication.
- Applying heat to painful cramps can help to relax the uterus and surrounding muscles. Try applying a heating pad to your lower belly, or soaking in a warm bath.
- Different people find that different amounts of exercise help with menstrual cramps. For some people, light exercise like walking, jogging, or yoga helps to increase your blood circulation and reduce cramping and bloating. For others, rest is the best remedy for cramps. Try some low-impact yoga poses like cobra, cat, cow, and fish, and listen to your body – it will tell you when it needs movement and when it needs rest!
- A Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) unit is another treatment that is often recommended for managing menstrual cramps. A TENS unit is a machine that is used to relieve nerve pain by sending mild, soothing electrical currents to the desired location through the nerves. The pads can be placed on the lower abdomen, lower back, or anywhere there is pain.
- Oral contraceptive pills (also called birth control pills) as well as other hormonal treatments (patch, vaginal hormonal ring, hormonal shot (Depo-Provera), IUD and hormonal implants) are often prescribed to treat cramps. These medications work because the hormones thin out the lining of the uterus which lessens the blood flow and cramping. These medications are sometimes prescribed continuously so you don’t get a monthly period. Talk to your health care provider about this option!
- Pay attention to when you need to poop, and make sure you are pooping regularly! People often notice changes in bowel movements during their period, ranging from constipation to more frequent pooping and even diarrhea. This is because of increased levels of fatty acids called prostaglandins that affect the uterus and bowels during each menstrual cycle, as well as increases in the progesterone hormone. If you experience constipation along with your cramps, a light laxative such as MiraLAX® may help.
It’s normal to experience some cramping each month. However, if the discomfort is not relieved with the ideas above, and especially if it causes you to miss school or other daily activities, there may be another reason for your symptoms. If you try out these methods and your cramps are still severe, don’t ignore the symptoms. Make an appointment with your health care provider.