It’s extremely common, starts about a day before the bleeding and lasts for a few days: period pain. This pain is mostly caused by cramps. The muscular wall of the womb contracts and presses against nearby blood vessels. This briefly cuts off the oxygen supply to the womb and triggers pain. Apart from cramps in the lower tummy area, some women also feel pain in their lower back and legs. How many women suffer from period pain? That’s hard to categorise and depends on the research and age of the respondents. Some studies suggest cramps are experienced by 50% of the women, and 15% of those suffer from severe pain and discomfort. However, there are also studies which report it affects 90%. Especially young women complain about period pain.
Walking, swimming, cycling: whatever you do, exercise can help against the pain. It doesn’t only stimulate the production of endorphins, a natural pain killer, it also slows down the production of prostaglandins (hormone-like lipids that control processes such as the induction of labour). This way you kill two birds with one stone. Even more reason to move: too little exercise makes the pain get worse.
Stretching also helps. Lie down and try to stretch your lower tummy. Do be careful with certain upside down yoga poses like the Candle (aka Queen pose). These poses can worsen the blood loss and the pain.
3 Warmth & Relax
A nice warm bath or a hot water bottle on your lower tummy helps to relax the cramped up muscles of the womb. Emotional stress adds to pain, so make sure you’re relaxed. Another reason for a nice warm bath, add some scented oil (for example rosemary oil) to the bath water to chill out even more. You might also want to ask your partner or a friend for a (lower) back and/or feet massage.
4 Food & drink
Raspberry leaves, also known as ‘the woman’s herb’, contain fragarine, which is known to ease cramps. Therefore raspberry leaf tea is a great drink when you’re suffering from period pain. Camomile tea also alleviates cramps. Ginger (tea), fennel tea, cinnamon and papaya are edible remedies as well. Don’t consume too many sparkling drinks, alcohol, fat, coffee and salt when you’re on your period (or at any other time of your cycle).
Water retention is a common menstruation symptom. Although it might sound contradictory: drinking water helps you stop retaining water and eliminates bloating.
Magnesium is a natural muscle relaxer. Do ask for professional advice when taking magnesium supplements as they can interact with other medication. Also make sure you get enough calcium. Either as a supplement or by eating enough dairy, nuts, seeds and green vegetables.
It’s true: an orgasm is a great way to get rid of period cramps.
If nothing of the above helps, then painkillers like paracetamol or ibuprofen might be an option. The chemist may have other painkillers available such as naproxen. Also, there are special menstrual warming plasters which you stick to your lower tummy and back.