Period cramps, also known as dysmenorrhea, are to put it simply ― a real pain. Not only do you already feel bloated and out of sorts, you have to deal with the ache arising from pesky menstrual cramps.
Worse, these cramps torment you on and off throughout the day! The pain occurs when the uterus/womb (which is a muscle) contracts and presses against the blood vessels to temporarily stop the oxygen supply to the uterus, which causes the cramping.
Although you can’t do that much to eliminate this monthly inconvenience, you have ways to alleviate the pain and discomfort...
1. Stay hydrated!
Thanks to water retention arising from increased estrogen levels, it’s common to be bloated when you have your period. Bloating worsens period cramps, so reduce the swelling by drinking sufficient water, about six to eight cups a day.
Although exercising sounds counter-intuitive…it’ll actually help to alleviate your period cramps! Endorphins are released when you exercise, which helps to lessen the pain.
2. Stay away from certain foods
Another way to lessen bloating is to stay away from high-sodium foods like pizza and canned meat. Also, avoid alcohol, drinks with caffeine and gassy drinks. These foods and drinks can worsen the bloat and therefore your cramps, so refrain from taking them for the time being!
Although exercising sounds counter-intuitive and like an uncomfortable thing to do during your period, it’ll actually help to alleviate your period cramps! Endorphins are released when you exercise, which helps to lessen the pain.
4. Use a heating pad
This may well be a lifesaver when it’s that time of the month. Place a heating pad or a hot water bottle on your abdomen ― the heat will relax your muscles and help to reduce those cramps!
5. Take a hot shower/bath
The heat from your hot shower or bath will relax your muscles. If you plan taking a warm bath, make your bath cosier by adding essential oils and watching your favourite series, or listening to some soothing music. Certain essential oils can ease those cramps ― for example, lavender offers pain relief and helps you relax, while chamomile relaxes tense muscles.
You can also take painkillers ― take these every four to six hours. Ob-gyn Dr Hong Sze Ching of SOG ― SC Hong Clinic For Women at Mount Alvernia Hospital advises that if you do take such meds, to monitor closely for any drug-related effects or allergies.
She also warns that there may be side effects if you take painkillers on a long-term basis. “For example, a group of medications called NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) can cause side effects such as heartburn, stomach ulcers, kidney problems and a tendency to bleed more.”
“A low-fat diet decreases the levels of inflammation in the body, and more vegetables also provides a higher level of anti-oxidants.”
7. Take birth control pills
Dr Hong notes that hormonal medications, such as birth control pills, or the hormonal intrauterine system (hormonal IUCD) can be used to treat period pains. This is because birth control pills help reduce period cramps, which not only reduces the flow of blood, but also duration of the period! Taking birth control pills usually leads to a thinner uterine lining, and thus, less blood flow.
You can also make some lifestyle changes, so as to undergo a less painful period:
8. Change your diet
Eating more vegetables and low-fat foods daily can also reduce your cramps every month. Dr Hong explains, “A low-fat diet decreases the levels of inflammation in the body, and more vegetables also provides a higher level of antioxidants. This may have a beneficial effect in reducing period cramps.”
9. Change your lifestyle
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