Us ladies are pretty amazing creatures. But as bold, badass, and beautiful as we are, we still have our own battles to fight. And for a lot of us, one of these battles is period pain.
Periods affect not only most cis women, but many non-binary folk and trans men, and while most of us seem to get PMS, many us don’t know why exactly our bodies decide to go into self-destruction mode once a month. But the gist of it is: every time you menstruate, your body is getting rid of your uterus’ lining, which would otherwise be needed if your body wanted to prepare for a fertilised egg. The muscular wall of the uterus contracts to force the unneeded lining out. These contractions squash the blood vessels around the womb, which cuts off their oxygen supply, and causes them to release chemicals. These chemicals essentially cause the pain that comes with period cramps. Bring on a lovely few days of feeling grumpy, uncomfortable and tempted to rip your own womb out.
But is there any way to make the pain go away? My Grandma would tell you a glass of whiskey and a cigarette would do the trick. I’ve received a number of random suggestions over the years, varying from hiccups to gherkins, but today I’m offering some slightly more promising methods to beat those cramps.
Heat is an easy way to relieve period pain. You can buy heat pads to place over your lower abdomen, or use a good old hot water bottle to ease those cramps.
2. Loose clothing
Bearing in mind cramps occur when blood vessels get compressed around your womb, you want to avoid squashing them even more! Some comfortable clothing that isn’t too tight around the waist can be a big game changer. So, there's probably some truth in feeling better when snuggled up on the sofa in tracksuit bottoms whilst you're on.
It’s totally fine to admit you need a little help, so don’t hesitate to use some painkillers if it’s all getting a bit too much. Go for an anti-inflammatory, like ibuprofen or aspirin.
If you’re after a more natural anti-inflammatory, try ginger. Add some to your cooking, or finely chop some root ginger and add it to hot water to drink. If you have particularly bad PMS – perhaps you experience nausea or feeling faint – ginger can help combat this too.
5. Birth control pills
The pill isn’t just used to avoid pregnancy – it can calm down your periods too. There are pros and cons for using the pill, and you should look into whether it’s the best choice for you personally, but bear in mind it’s an option if your cramps are effecting you significantly.
I don’t know about you, but when I feel like there’s a hedgehog in my womb the last thing I want to do is exercise. My highest priority is curling up into a ball and eating my weight in ice-cream. But legend has it, actually getting up and moving does help. Going for a gentle bike ride, or a steady walk, distracts you from the pain. It also increases your blood circulation and those endorphins should perk you up, at least.
Often used to help leg cramps, magnesium is just as good for period cramps. Eat plenty of fish, leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, etc) and avocados to up your intake.
8. Take some time out
If your PMS is ultimately unbearable, there is no shame in saying that. If you don’t feel up to that night out, or you need a day off of work, cramps should be a valid reason to take a break. Not all people experience PMS as much as others – and for those who experience it the most, it can be bloody tough. While some can run marathons while on their period, others pass out from the pain. Don’t let somebody else decide for you how you feel.
If your period pain seems unbeatable, you can always speak to a doctor. You may even have some more serious issues contributing to PMS, such as endometriosis or pelvic inflammatory disease. But for now, make yourself a cuppa, get yourself a hot water bottle, and give these remedies a go.