I started getting my period I was 11, and the time it started until when I was 18 years old was a roller coaster of agony. That sounds dramatic, but let me tell you, if anything I’m being understated.
My period came when it felt like it, and the only warning was pelvic pain and nausea that could show up an hour before or 3 days before. The first 2 days were hell. I spent hours crying in bed doubled over and rocking back and forth until I finally fell asleep. I once got taken out of school in a wheelchair because the cramps were so bad I couldn’t walk. Another time, I took 1, 2, then 3 pills from a left-over bottle of Naproxen and when none of them made even a dent in the pain, I kept taking more pills out of desperation until I passed out (please don’t ever do this).
Finally, when I was 18, my mom said, “Well I guess I could take you to get on the pill.” I asked, “Why, will that help?” Oh, naive 18-year-old me. Oh boy, did it work. I got put on a common birth control pill and it was an automatic transition from “Oh god, why?” to “Gee, is it 7 o’clock on a Wednesday morning already? I didn’t even notice.”
Dysmenorrhea or really painful periods is a big problem for a lot of women. It usually starts when our periods do, and dwindles away when we get older. Painful cramps do not necessarily indicate an underlying medical problem, but regardless you do not have to suffer. Here’s some tips:
Exercise: Those of you with cramps like I had are probably already rolling your eyes, because when your uterus is throwing a temper tantrum, you do not want to do anything other than lay in bed and maybe yell at people. Trust me. For cramps, walking is really good, crunches are better. Lie on your back and do the bicycle. You can alleviate pain and get buff; it’s a win-win. Of course, these cramps may last for hours, and no matter how much of a bad ass you are you probably can’t do crunches for hours on end. But regular exercise throughout the month, not just exercise at the onset of the cramps, will also help with cramps, so you can prepare in advance.
Heating pads: Heat applied to your lower abdomen is really effective at alleviating cramps. You can invest in a plug-in pad or you can buy the disposable ones you hide inside your clothing (I recommend the Thermacare brand). The plug-ins are more economical, the disposable ones you can wear invisibly to work or school. Be mindful of safety–please don’t burn yourself, and if you’re using the electrical kind, it’s best not to use them at bedtime. Try a hot water bottle instead!
Ibuprofen. Anti-inflammatories are the best pharmaceutical remedy for cramps, and over-the-counter options like ibuprofen help out with cramps a lot. Motrin, Advil, and (some) Midol all contain ibuprofen, so be careful if you have a drug allergy. Also, make sure to read the recommended and maximum dosages on the bottle and don’t go over them–if it’s not working, don’t overdo it, just try something else. Also, if your period is unpredictable, consider keeping some on hand so you don’t find yourself short–it’s best to start taking this before your cramps get really strong.
Birth control. Any hormonal birth control will most likely alleviate your cramps, though your success may vary. Some women will have to experiment a bit before finding the kind that makes their periods regular and less crampy without side-effects like sore breasts or nausea. However, because when you are on a combined hormonal contraceptive you don’t ovulate, your bleeding is often lighter and your cramping is minimal.
Keep in mind, if you have previously had manageable periods and suddenly start having severe pain, then it’s time to call your doctor. Endometriosis or infection are a possibility.
Feronians, do you have any other helpful tips for those of us with angry uteruses? What have you tried that’s worked?