Dealing with Period Cramps: Tips, Tricks, and When to See a Doctor
Oh no! It's that time of the month and you’re having painful cramps. It’s normal to feel pain in your lower belly, legs, and back during your period. The good news is that there are some simple ways to ease your period pain. Keep reading to learn more!
So first, what causes period cramps? When you’re on your period, your uterus squeezes and relaxes to help push blood out of your vagina. This movement can cause painful cramps before and during your period.
Period cramps are very common but they are more likely to happen if:
You have long periods with heavy blood flow
Your period is irregular (missed, delayed, or not predictable)
Other women in your family (like your mom) also have period pain
You were very young when you started your period (age 11 or younger)
You are under 30 years old
You are a smoker
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) can also cause painful cramps. However, PMS cramps are different from regular period cramps. For example, PMS can also cause weight gain, bloating, moodiness, and feeling tired. Another difference is that regular period cramps usually start 1-2 days before your period and last for a few days. PMS symptoms start earlier, about 1-2 weeks before your period. If you think you have PMS, see your health worker for ways to treat your symptoms.
Tips & Tricks
Although period cramps are normal, they are painful and uncomfortable. Here are some natural ways to ease your pain:
Exercise! When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, which are “happiness” hormones that relieve pain and boost your mood. So going on a walk or doing yoga can help you feel better.
Get Warm! Heat can relax the muscles in your uterus. Putting a warm water bottle or warm towel on your lower belly can relax your muscles and ease painful cramps. Taking a hot bath can also help your muscles relax.
Drink Lots of Water! Drinking warm or hot water, like tea, can help your muscles relax and prevent painful bloating.
Get lots of rest!
Avoid using alcohol and tobacco
Another option for pain relief is to take medication, like ibuprofen. Your health worker may suggest taking hormonal birth control (like the pill) to regulate your cycle and ease your cramps.
When to see a doctor
Period cramps alone do not lead to other medical problems but they can make it hard to do everyday activities like going to school or work. However period pain may also be caused by more serious health conditions like endometriosis or ovarian cysts.
Here’s when you should see a health worker:
Your period pain stops you from doing normal activities (like going to school or work)
You are over 25 years old and you get cramps for the first time
You have a fever with your period pain
You have cramps even when you’re not on your period
These are signs that something else is causing your pain. Treating the cause is the best way to lower your pain, so visit your health worker if any of these apply to you.
Period cramps that aren’t caused by another health condition tend to ease up as you get older or after giving birth. However female pain is often overlooked and under-treated compared to males. That’s why it’s important to listen to your body, advocate for yourself, and talk to your health worker if you are worried that your period pain is a sign of something more serious.
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