Many experience period pain, and whether it’s your first period or the 100th one, it can be frustrating, uncomfortable, and sometimes even unbearable. Everyone is different, but most have PMS symptoms before and at the beginning of their period. You may feel tired, bloated, irritable, and then you have to deal with the pain that leaves you tossing and turning to get comfortable.
Period cramps happen when your uterus contracts to shed its lining. The contraction temporarily cuts off the blood and oxygen supply to your uterus, and this causes your body to release hormones that trigger pain. The hormones are called prostaglandins, and they also encourage the uterus to contract even more. This then increases the pain and so on. It’s a cycle (pun intended!).
But we’ve found some positions that should help ease some of the pain.
The foetal position
Laying in the foetal position can help take pressure off the abdominal muscles, and doing this allows the muscles to relax, causing less stress on the abdominal area. It also helps to prevent leaking, but if you don’t like laying on your side, menstrual cups can prevent leaks as well because they are able to hold as much liquid as three super tampons.
Knees to the chest
Bringing your knees to your chest can be helpful when you’re having period cramps. This position helps relax the abdominal muscles and your lower back muscles. It can also increase blood flow to the abdominal region, which increases oxygen, which helps fight period pain!
Lying on your back
When you lie down on your back, you take pressure off your uterus and relax the back muscles. This position also allows you to gently massage your abdomen, which can help take the pain away. You can also use essential oils or aromatherapy for some much needed self-care.
What are some other ways to relieve period cramps?
More than likely, you’ll need more than just lying down in a particular position to stop feeling those period pains. If you want to try some other things in addition to lying down positions, try:
Taking a hot bath or using a hot water bottle
Using heat has been proven to reduce inflammation and relax muscles. It’s a great alternative to over the counter medicine, and you can also use bath bombs, your favourite body wash or face masks to give yourself some TLC.
Having an orgasm
Whether you are on your own or with a partner, having an orgasm helps reduce period cramps. This is because an orgasm causes a rush of endorphins. Endorphins are not just natural pain relievers - they also promote a feeling of well-being, which will naturally give your mood a boost too! Having an orgasm might also encourage you get to bed and rest as well; do you need any more reasons to have one?!
Making sure you get enough fluids prevents dehydration. Dehydration affects muscles by decreasing blood volume, which in turn reduces blood flow. This causes cramps in the same way that you get from your period. If you’re not drinking enough water, the cramps can get worse, and they can also spread to other areas of the body.
The last thing you want to do during your period is exercise, but when you exercise, your body releases the same endorphins we mentioned earlier. When our endorphins are high, we feel less pain, and exercising can also stretch your muscles, increase circulation, and help with posture - all of which can help reduce period pain.
What can make cramps worse?
There are a few things that can make cramps feel more intense, so here are some things to avoid whilst you’re on your period:
Laying on your stomach
This position does not relieve period cramps, in fact it does the exact opposite. By adding pressure, weight, and stress to the uterus, it can cause those annoying cramps to be more intense. It can also add stress on the spine and restrict your breathing.
Eating salty, fried, or sweet food
We all get cravings on our period, and it’s normal to want snacks, or be too tired to cook and want to grab fast food instead. But it’s important to try to avoid high-sodium food, as salt can lead to more bloating and cramping, and it is also dehydrating. Fried foods can upset the stomach and intensify period poop. Sweets can also cause glucose levels to rise, which makes your period cramps worse.
This might surprise you, but drinking caffeinated beverages like coffee, soft drinks, or energy drinks can cause your blood vessels to contract and decrease blood flow to the uterus - which we now know increases period cramps. It can also cause insomnia, which may make sleeping even harder during your period.
Just like eating salty foods and drinking caffeine, smoking also causes the constriction of uterine blood vessels. So it’s best to go with no-nicotine alternatives during your menstrual cycle.
When to talk to a doctor
If you’re finding that nothing helps alleviate period cramps, or that your period cramps are lasting longer than three days, or that your period cramps are interfering with your everyday life and causing extreme pain or duress, it may be time to see a doctor. Don’t be afraid to start a conversation with your doctor about how long your cramps last, the pain severity you’re experiencing, how heavy your flow is, and the average length of your cycle. There are many causes of extreme period pain, and finding a diagnosis can help alleviate severe symptoms. Talking about your period with medical professionals is a great way to be proactive about your health.