Periods can be a literal pain in the…everything. Though periods are a healthy, normal bodily process, they can be annoying to manage and not to mention painful. But, how much pain is normal during your period? If you’ve ever been curled up in bed with a heating pad, you may have wondered this exact thing. Let’s start with a little biology lesson.
During your period, a hormone called prostaglandin causes the muscles in your uterus to contract, which sheds the lining of your uterus. When the uterus contracts, it may cause cramping and pain in the abdomen. Fortunately, there are things you can do that may reduce period cramping. Let's dive deeper into what causes period pain and what may make your cramps worse.
Common causes of period pain
Menstrual cramps are normal and generally just caused by your uterus contracting to shed the uterine lining and egg that did not get fertilized and result in a pregnancy. However, period pain could also be caused by:
- Uterine Fibroids
- PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome)
- Being under the age of 20 years old
- Irregular periods
- No prior pregnancies or births
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
- Cervical Stenosis
Types of period pain
There are two types of period pain, often referred to as dysmenorrhea. Primary dysmenorrhea and Secondary dysmenorrhea cause period pain but have different underlying causes. Unlike primary dysmenorrhea, Secondary dysmenorrhea is commonly caused by underlying conditions that affect the uterus or other reproductive organs.
Why do some periods hurt more?
Wouldn't it be amazing if our periods were predictable, so we knew exactly what to expect? Unfortunately, however, sometimes our periods surprise us, which may be more painful or have a heavier flow than the prior months. But why is that? Well, our lifestyles play a more significant part in our monthly periods than we may realize. Our hormones fluctuate based on stress levels, lack of sleep, diet, and exercise.
How much pain is too much pain on period?
It is not uncommon for women to experience cramping and pain during the first and second days of their period. Some women usually experience cramping a few days before the onset of their period. However, the pain should not be so severe that it keeps you from doing normal daily activities or cause you to miss work. If your cramps last longer than three days and your coping mechanisms do not work, it may be time to visit your doctor to see if any underlying conditions contribute to the pain.
What can I do to alleviate severe period pain?
Take a warm bath
A hot bath after a long day is a great way to relax and unwind. In addition, taking a hot bath may reduce period cramps. It is important to soak your lower abdomen and hips for at least 10 minutes to receive the full benefits. In addition, baths help with cramping and prevent skin irritations such as yeast infections or bacterial infections that may be linked to poor hygiene or period blood.
It's no secret that exercise is good for your body, and though it sometimes seems like the last thing you want to do on your period, it’s great for period pain. Exercise releases endorphins which relax your muscles, reduce pain and promote blood circulation. So, of course, when you have painful periods, the last thing you may want to do is exercise. However, even light exercise such as walking or yoga will help you get the benefits of the endorphins to improve your painful period.
Eat Anti-inflammatory Foods
Certain foods have been known to have anti-inflammatory properties and may reduce period cramps.
Anti-inflammatory foods include:
- Leafy greens
- Nuts such as Almonds
- Fish high in Omega-3,6 and 9 fats
Elevate your legs
Many experts have discovered that elevating your legs provides many health benefits, such as improved blood flow and reduced swelling. In addition, elevating your legs may reduce period cramps.
Reduce intake of alcohol, salt, and caffeine
You may want to reach for a glass of wine in hopes that it will help take the edge off of period cramping. However, alcohol increases your prostaglandin levels. Prostaglandins are responsible for causing the contracting of the uterus and, therefore, may increase period cramping.
High sodium and caffeine intake are usually not healthy for us. However, it is especially not beneficial for us during our periods. This is because sodium and caffeine may dehydrate your body. When dehydrated, your uterus will contract more, causing period cramps.
When our bodies do not get enough water, it can cause dehydration. Dehydration contributes to bloat, which makes period cramps worse. Consider drinking around 6 to 8 glasses of water per day. Also, drinking warm water may increase blood flow and relax your muscles to combat painful uterine contractions.
When should you seek professional help for period pain?
Talk to your doctor about your symptoms if you experience any of the following:
- Passing a blood clot
- Cramps suddenly get worse and are hard to manage
- Have a fever with your period pain
- You are over 25 years old, and you get sudden severe cramping
- Haver period cramps while not on your period.
Period pain is an expected and regular part of a monthly cycle for women. Yet every month, the pain feels sudden, and we are not always prepared for the days ahead when our periods begin. It stinks, but there are ways to manage the pain and fluid.
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