What do I do about awful cramps?

What do I do about awful cramps?

Our expert: Dr. Cara Natterson

Our resident expert on all things girls. She’s a board certified pediatrician, author of the best-selling book series The Care and Keeping of You, and travels the country speaking about health and wellness issues to both kids and parents.

I always have the worst cramps right before my period, so bad that my legs go numb and they make me vomit. And what if your cramps get worse when you put a tampon on? What can I do to make it better?

For many of us, cramps can be completely debilitating and stop us from doing our daily routine.  When “Aunt Flo” is on her way, 1-2 weeks out of the month can be miserable. Premenstrual symptoms (PMS) can start a week or so before you actually have your period and include mood changes, tiredness (fatigue), bloating, breast tenderness and weight gain. Mild to severe cramps can also start a day or two before your actual flow and can be felt in your lower back and legs. Sometimes severe cramps can cause a temporary numbness in your legs along with nausea and vomiting.

A tampon should not make your cramps worse but I suspect putting one high into the vagina can bump into the cervix making the cramps appear to be more intense. Your uterus is basically one big muscle (which the shape of a pear) and starts to contract (this causes cramping!), helping the lining of the uterus shed.   This shedding will be your 4 to 6 days of uterine bleeding and is called your menstrual cycle or “period”.  Luckily, once your period starts, the PMS will go away.

Cramps can be easily treated with ibuprofen such as Advil and Motrin.  I suggest keeping track of your period using a “period tracker” app so that you can take ibuprofen prophylaxically or before you know your cramps and period are coming.  Oral contraception or “the pill” is not only a great birth control but makes your menstrual blood less heavy which minimizes your cramps each month.  Other easy remedies include a warm bath, heating pad or a hot water bottle that your grandma might have suggested.

Lifestyle choices that will help ease cramps and other symptoms related to PMS include exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet and avoiding salt, sugar, caffeine and alcohol.

Knowing that many of symptoms related to your period are normal can help ease those days leading up to period…just don’t let Aunt Flo’s monthly visit overstay her welcome!

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