There’s a lot to figure out when you first get your period! And there’s so much more to menstruation than blood loss. If you’re nervous about period pain, we’ve got you covered. Here are some tips about what to expect and how to cope.
Why are periods painful?
During your period, your body sheds the lining of your uterus. Because of this, you’ll feel cramping in your belly. How much pain you experience depends on a few things.
Girls who are more likely to have cramps are those who start their periods younger, have relatives with a history of period cramps, have a heavy flow or long period, or smoke. So, ask your parents about your female family history to understand what you can expect for yourself.
How can I stop period pain?
You’re not looking forward to period pain and we can’t blame you. But, there’s no need to suffer through it. Here are five pain management tactics you can try. Experiment and share these tips with your friends. We’d love to hear what works best for you!
Put heat on your belly to soothe period cramps
This tip is simple but effective. If you’ve ever used heat to lessen pain from an injury, this works on the same principle. Heat relaxes the muscles of your uterus which helps calm everything down.
You can use an electric heating pad or hot water bottle, which you fill with hot water from a faucet.
Or if you want to get creative, try making your own heatable pack filled with rice. Check out this awesome DIY heat pack tutorial that uses old socks to make heating pads. If you know how to use a sewing machine, here’s a more advanced DIY heat pack tutorial by a creative girl working to combat her own period pain. Bonus tip: she added lavender essential oil for relaxation.
Exercise, even when you’d rather take a nap
We totally get it. You’d rather be curled up under a blanket watching a movie than moving right about now, but movement will ease period pain. Even in the week leading up to your period, when you’re experiencing premenstrual syndrome (PMS), exercise is going to help you feel better.
First, exercise releases endorphins, hormones in your body that elevate your mood. If you’ve ever experienced a sense of lightness and happiness after a workout, that’s those endorphins at work. And we all could use a lift when our bodies don’t feel great.
Healthline has some helpful tips on the types of exercise to do during your period. Basically, you want to move but not exert yourself as much as you would during an intense cardio session.
Light walking is good for easing period pain. And yoga, which promotes relaxation, is an excellent option. Check out this soothing video, yoga for when you have your period.
Eat well, even when you’d rather eat french fries
When we’re not feeling great, it’s tempting to soothe our pain with comfort food. And many women experience food cravings while on their periods. In fact, these cravings are particularly strong the week before your period during PMS.
This article about your menstrual cycle and workouts says, “The classic PMS symptoms include water retention and bloating, irritability, strong cravings, appetite changes, fluctuations in pain tolerance, as well as differences in your energy level. Simply put, for the week or two before your period hits, the last thing on your mind is putting in a hard workout or eating healthfully. You want to eat chocolate, ice cream, and pizza while lying on the couch.”
- Eat a balanced diet with nutrient dense food that will satisfy you.
- Focus on foods and drinks that will ease the pain. For example:
- Dark leafy greens – these vegetables have nutrients like magnesium and calcium which help your muscles contract properly.
- Red raspberry tea – this has been known to calm cramps during periods.
- Deprive yourself of a treat now and then.
- Eat too much salt. Sodium causes bloating which is uncomfortable on top of period bloating. Avoid things like fast food, fries, potato chips, etc.
- Eat sugary or processed foods. Both promote inflammation in the body, which can lead to further discomfort while on your period.
Treat yourself to a warm bath
What better way to soothe period pain than to pamper yourself? This is a healthy alternative to medication and it’s been shown to reduce stress. Add Epsom salt, which is made up of magnesium, as it counteracts soreness and cramping.
Use pain relievers
If none of the options above help relieve your period pain, talk to your parents about trying ibuprofen (e.g. Advil or Motrin). Once you’ve started your period, after a couple of months you’ll learn if bad cramps are a problem for you. If so, take a pain reliever before the pain comes so that you stay ahead of it.
When should I be worried about period pain?
If you’ve tried any of these tips above, especially taking ibuprofen, and you can’t get any pain relief, talk to your parents. If your pain is so bad it prevents you from everyday activities like school or time with friends, then you should see a doctor. You may need extra help in coping with period pain and a doctor will help you understand what to do next or if there’s some other cause.