This article is written by medical professional Dr. Alice Byram, whom you can read more about at the end of the article.
Periods causing you pain? Cramps are a common menstrual complaint among people with periods. Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take and we show you how to ease menstrual cramps.
Dysmenorrhea Or Painful periods - What Is It?
Menstrual pain varies from person to person and even from period to period in the same person. Menstrual cramps can be felt as a dull ache in your tummy or lower back or can be such extreme spasms that you are sick and feel faint. They usually occur as your period starts, and then stop after the third day1. Some menstruators hardly notice the cramps but others really suffer from dysmenorrhea once a month.
Menstrual Cramps – What Causes Them?
As ever, knowledge is power. Understanding where your cramps are coming from will help you deal with them better. They are a sign that the prostaglandins in your body are working on your uterus muscles. These hormone-like substances make the womb muscles contract and relax which is why your period cramps come in waves. The contractions mean that the lining of your uterus stops receiving oxygen. This lack of oxygen means that the lining is shed more easily (this is normal) but at the same time, the lack of oxygen leads to pain (also normal but not fun). Here are 4 ways to ease period pain naturally.
Sometimes there can be another underlying cause for period pain such as endometriosis or fibroids. PID (Pelvic inflammatory disease) or some types of contraception such as coils or IUDs can also cause intense period cramps.
To find out more about what happens to your body during menstruation, have a look at our page on the Menstrual Cycle.
When To See A Doctor About Period Cramps
If your menstrual cramps are severe and really impact on your ability to carry out a normal life then it is time to see a doctor even if you have been soldiering on until now.
Further reasons for making an appointment to see your doctor urgently and get the right treatment include the following:
- Heavy vaginal discharge with a strong odour.
- Intense pains in your lower abdomen or pelvis.
- Changes in your period pains.
- They are linked to more bleeding than usual.
- The period pain radiates down your back or legs
- Menstrual Cramps with a temperature
What You Can Do To Help With Your Period Pains
There are a few medically and natural proven ways to help with your period pains.
- Pain medication (Non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen which can be combined with other types of pain relief).
- Heat treatment
- Exercise and yoga
Extra Tip: the period product you use may affect the amount of period pain you experience. Many Ruby Cup users tell us that their menstrual cramps have greatly reduced since switching to a cup. The Lancet, one of the oldest and most prestigious medical journals, recently published an article confirming that menstrual cups are safe and highlighting the fact that it was lack of knowledge of menstrual cups that was the real issue.
Written by Dr Alice Byram Bsc Med & Surg UMA MA Hons MML Cantab
Dr Alice Byram was born in England to a French-British family. Following on from a degree in Spanish from the University of Cambridge, she went to Spain to study medicine. On her return to the UK, she worked in Emergency Medicine for several years before recently returning to Barcelona.
1Osayande AS, Mehulic S. Diagnosis and initial management of dysmenorrhea. Am Fam Physician. 2014;89(5):341–346.