If your cramps hit like clockwork every month, leaving you curled up on your couch in agony, you know this particular period symptom is a special brand of sucky.
But you're not alone in your misery: "Gynos get cramps too," says Jaime Goldstein, M.D., an ob-gyn at the Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center. Yes, that female gynecologist of yours gets the same period cramps that make you curse your uterus every month. The thing is, gynos know more than the gynecological system and its monthly flow than the average person—including how to kick those period cramps.
"We've just found what works for us to end the cramping, or at least make it more manageable," she says. After all, they can't suddenly cancel all of that day's Pap smears just because they have a case of killer cramps.
For some gynos, that means taking a monthly, multi-pronged approach: "I usually combine three of four different strategies to manage my cramps," says Jessica Shepherd, M.D., an assistant professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology at The University of Illinois College at Chicago. While a single strategy can certainly help, put several together and you've got a force to be reckoned with.
So what are these strategies, you ask? Well, we asked the same thing.
Here, top female gynos explain how they alleviate their own period cramps—and how you can, too. And, no, you definitely haven't tried all of their tricks before.
So get ready cork your wine bottle, hit up the gym, and even have some between-the-sheets Os.
They Get Down...
"Sex helps with everything!" says Maureen Whelihan, M.D., an ob-gyn at the Elite GYN Care of the Palm Beaches. And she notes that applies to both couples and solo play. That’s because (fun fact) having an orgasm increases blood flow to the uterus, which can help with cramps. Plus, orgasms trigger a release of feel-good pleasure chemicals including oxytocin and dopamine.
Just make sure that, if vaginal sex is your method of choice, you use a condom. "If your partner ejaculates on the cervix it will actually cause an increase in inflammatory compounds called prostaglandins in response, which can make cramping worse," she explains.
Related: Here's Why You Should Always Masturbate On Your Period
They Pull Out The Heat
"When I'm on the go, I stick an adhesive heating pad or rub some tiger balm onto my lower abdomen so that I can keep on seeing patients, or rocking skinny jeans while I'm bleeding," says Julie Levitt, M.D., an ob-gyn with the Women’s Group of Northwestern. That's because applying heat to your abdomen can actually help the uterine muscles relax, which means less cramping, she explains.
But even making yourself a cup of hot herbal tea to drink in transit will help warm and relax you from the inside, says Sheppard, which is why she goes for chamomile that time of month. Stay away from hot cocoa or other sugary beverages, though, and stick to herbal teas, she suggests, because excess sugar intake can worsen cramps.
And if the cramps start at the end of your night, then try drawing yourself a hot and steamy bath. (Make that bath even more relaxing with color therapy bath botanicals from the Women's Health Boutique.) Or take a window-fogging, long shower and blast some tunes. It will have the same effect, says Levitt.
They Use Hormonal Birth Control
Hormonal birth control options like birth control pills and the hormonal IUD do something pretty incredible: they keep the lining of the uterus from building up as thick as it normally would, says Vivian Clark, M.D., an ob-gyn at the Chapel Hill Obstetrics and Gynecology. The result? Hormonal birth control shortens the length, heft, and flow of each period, which for many women on birth control can mean fewer, less intense cramps. And yes, these too have an effect on those prostaglandins, she says. Sensing a common theme?
Goldstein says her IUD helped reduce her own cramping, which is one of the reasons why she recommends the Nuvaring and Mirena IUD for her patients. Plus, it takes user-error out of the equation, she jokes, because you don't have to remember to "take" an IUD every morning.
So if you’re in the market for a new birth control and have cramps that leave you bedridden, it might be worth asking your ob-gyn which contraceptive will help with your symptoms.
Related: 7 Photos Of Your Cervix You Need To See
They Get Sweaty
A solid sweat session not only ups your production of mood-boosting endorphins, but it also help the uterus muscles loosen up, says Levitt. Plus, any workout that gets your sweating will help metabolize some of those pain-causing prostaglandins, she adds."The more I move, the better I feel, so I try to stay as active as possible even when it feels like my cramps want me to stay in," she says. Clark also hits up the gym, saying, "Aerobic exercise is my first line of defense, if that doesn't work then I grab the heating pad and Motrin."
If you're not up for HIIT, that’s okay, but do something. Stretch, grab a medicine ball, go for a walk, or hop on a stationary bike, because even low-intensity movement is better than laying around on the couch, says Levitt. Yoga is another great option. "I myself prefer yoga because it incorporates breathe-work which helps my entire body, including my uterine muscles relax," says ob-gyn Pari Ghodsi, M.D. (Find more inner calm and build strength in just minutes a day with WH's With Yoga DVD!)
Related: 8 Athletes Share The Biggest Struggles Of Competing On Their Periods
They Ditch The Salty Foods and Booze
Grab the water cooler, ditch the salt, and lay off the booze: Aunt Flo is coming to town and she’s thirsty. That’s right, staying hydrated during your time of the month can actually nip those cramps in the bud. The reason? When the cramps hit hard, it’s because the uterine muscles are contracting, and just like you’re more likely to get a mid-run calf cramp if you’re dehydrated, your uterus is more likely to cramp if you haven’t been hydrating properly, explains Shepard.
That’s why both she and Ghodsi decrease their caffeine and alcohol consumption a few days before their periods start. "I watch what I eat in the days leading up to my period. I cut the alcohol and salt, but up my water intake because the better hydrated I am, the less likely my cramps are to occur," says Shepard. Similarly, Ghosdi says, "I cut my caffeine and alcohol consumption the few days before I'm supposed to get my period because they're dehydrating."
That means if you give into your pickle, fry, and potato chip cravings, or shotgun a beer to ease the lower-abs pain, you’re actually dehydrating yourself, which can increase the amount and duration of the cramps, says Shepard. Her recommendation: Stick to healthy eats and non-alcoholic beverages from the day before your period until it ends.
This easy water bottle hack will help you stay properly hydrated every single day:
They Take An NSAID
NSAIDs like ibuprofen can help halt the inflammatory process that comes with period cramps, especially if you can pop them before the cramping even has a chance to start. "About 12 hours before I'm supposed to get my period, I start taking a low dose of ibuprofen every eight hours with food to stop the inflammation in its tracks," says Goldstein, who recommends tracking your period so you know when to start your meds.
If one kind of NSAID doesn’t seem to work for you, try another. “Some of my patients swear by naproxen, while others find it entirely ineffective and opt for ibuprofen or acetaminophen," she says.
Gabrielle Kassel (she/her) is a sex and fitness journalist committed to helping people feel the best they can in their bodies. In addition to Men’s Health, her work has appeared in publications such as Shape, Cosmopolitan, Well+Good, Health, Self, Women’s Health, Greatist, and more! In her free time, Gabrielle can be found coaching CrossFit, reviewing pleasure products, hiking with her border collie, or recording episodes of the podcast she co-hosts called Bad In Bed. Follow her on Instagram @Gabriellekassel.
This Is How Gynecologists Soothe Their Own Period Cramps? ›
That's because applying heat to your abdomen can actually help the uterine muscles relax, which means less cramping, she explains.What will a gynecologist do for painful periods? ›
They can determine whether your period pain is primary or secondary dysmenorrhea. From there, the gynecologist can prescribe treatment that will help you manage your symptoms. If your pain is caused by primary dysmenorrhea, or menstrual cramps on their own, the doctor may prescribe medication to relieve pain.Can a gynecologist help with period cramps? ›
No matter if your period pain is mild or severe, you can ask your obstetrician–gynecologist (ob-gyn) or other health care professional for help.Is there anyway to ease period cramps naturally? ›
Anti-inflammatory foods can help promote blood flow and relax your uterus. Try eating berries, tomatoes, pineapples and spices like turmeric, ginger or garlic. Leafy green vegetables, almonds, walnuts and fatty fish, like salmon, can also help reduce inflammation.What is the extremely painful period condition? ›
Dysmenorrhea is characterized by severe and frequent menstrual cramps and pain during your period. Dysmenorrhea may be primary, existing from the beginning of periods, or secondary, due to an underlying condition.Do menstrual cramps worsen with age? ›
Periods can get heavier and more painful for some women after the age of 40. Sometimes it is a nuisance and sometimes it is a cause for concern.What should I do if my period cramps are unbearable? ›
- Apply heat. "Heat can help relax the muscles contributing to cramping, so applying heat to your abdomen or back can help relieve your pain," says Dr. Borchardt. ...
- Take a pain reliever. ...
- Exercise. ...
- Take steps to reduce stress. ...
- Get your vitamins and minerals.
During menstruation, chemicals called "prostaglandins" form in the lining of the uterus. They cause muscle contractions in the uterus, which can trigger pain and decrease blood flow and oxygen to the uterus. Similar to labor pains, these contractions can cause significant pain and discomfort.Why do period cramps hurt so bad the first day? ›
Prostaglandins cause the muscles and blood vessels of the uterus to contract, which is what helps the uterine lining to leave the body. On the first day of a period, the level of prostaglandins is high. But as the lining of the uterus is shed during your period, the level goes down.Where do you massage your feet for menstrual cramps? ›
Yes, a proper foot massage can help to alleviate period pain. The important pressure point to relief the pain is just a bit under an inner ankle bone (see the diagram), press gently and massage in the circular motion around 5 minutes.
Does massaging your ear help with period cramps? ›
However, a recent study shows that “auricular acupressure”–a Chinese tradition that involves pressing specific points of the ear to prompt changes in other parts of the body by stimulating certain nerves–can play a key role in easing period pain.What makes period cramps worse? ›
During your menstrual period, your uterus contracts to help expel its lining. Hormonelike substances (prostaglandins) involved in pain and inflammation trigger the uterine muscle contractions. Higher levels of prostaglandins are associated with more-severe menstrual cramps.Is banana good for menstrual pain? ›
Bananas are generally easy to find and known to be helpful for period cramps. They are rich in fiber and will help you have easy bowel movements. As a result, you may feel less bloated and experience less pain overall. Bananas also contain a lot of magnesium, which is known to reduce the severity of period cramps.How do you say I got my period in a professional way? ›
Make sure you have clear facts to state your case. It is much more effective to have facts and figures, rather than vague statements. Be specific and direct. For example, it may be better to say “I have had to take 5 days off in the last 6 months due to menstruation” rather than “I've struggled with my periods”.What age do periods end? ›
Overview. Menopause is the time that marks the end of your menstrual cycles. It's diagnosed after you've gone 12 months without a menstrual period. Menopause can happen in your 40s or 50s, but the average age is 51 in the United States.What age are cramps the worst? ›
- Peak age of onset: 1 to 2 years after periods first start.
- During the first year after periods start, only 7% or less of teens will have cramping. Some of these girls will have a medical cause such as a blockage.
The pain is usually worse in women under the age of 20. It usually gets better or even goes away completely within a few years of their first period. In many women period pain becomes milder after the birth of their first child.How strong are period cramps compared to labor? ›
Period pains are worse than labour.
More accurately, period pains are worse than the pain of surges (that's contractions, if you're new round here).
They may feel like period cramps.
Some women describe labor contraction pain as intense menstrual cramps that increase in intensity. "It starts out like menstrual cramps—and the crampy sensation progressively gets worse and worse," Dr. du Treil explains.
They are a sign that the prostaglandins in your body are working on your uterus muscles. These hormone-like substances make the womb muscles contract and relax which is why your period cramps come in waves. The contractions mean that the lining of your uterus stops receiving oxygen.
Why is day 2 of period the worst? ›
“When the uterus is deprived of oxygen, it releases chemicals that may trigger the pain such as prostaglandins which increases uterine contractions. This type of period pain usually occurs during the second day of your period and is termed as Dysmenorrhea,” adds the expert.Why does period blood smell? ›
The strong smell is likely due to the blood and tissues exiting the vagina along with bacteria. It's normal for the vagina to have bacteria, though the amount can fluctuate. The resulting “rotten” smell from bacteria mixed with menstrual flow shouldn't be strong enough for others to detect.What is the uterus foot reflex? ›
The uterus reflex is located on the inside of the foot in the area between the heel and ankle. This is where the most reflexology work can be done to support the natural development of fetus and mom-to-be. Feet are reflexed for deep relaxation and balancing.Why does rubbing your stomach help with period cramps? ›
How does massage therapy support my period? Massage therapy is a natural and effective method for alleviating aches, cramps and spasms. It relaxes the nervous system and helps calm muscle pain, aching joints, abdominal discomfort, and even hormonal headaches.Does peanut butter help period cramps? ›
Peanut butter is not just a delicious snack, and it can also help relieve menstrual cramps. Peanut butter is a good source of magnesium, which can help to regulate serotonin levels and prevent bloating. It's also best to eat unsalted or low-fat peanut butter, as salt can exacerbate cramps.What not to eat to reduce period pain? ›
Recent research suggests that diets high in inflammatory foods such as meat, oil, sugar, and salt can contribute to period cramps. “The underlying cause of painful periods is thought to be inflammation, so anything that reduces it and improves blood flow to the uterus may help with symptoms during your cycle,” says Dr.Do you go to an Obgyn for period issues? ›
' 'Can I go to the gynecologist on my period? ' Yes, it is still recommended to keep your appointment, because heavy bleeding can be a symptom of more serious health issues. However, it may also be a good idea to call your doctor before your visit to get the best recommendation for your specific health situation.What can the doctor do about bad periods? ›
Other Treatments for Heavy Menstruation Symptoms
Your doctor can also prescribe the drug Lysteda (tranexamic acid), which targets a protein that helps blood to clot. This drug comes in a tablet and is taken each month at the start of your menstrual period.
Long acting contraceptives, such as the progestogen implant or hormonal intrauterine device (IUD), can also reduce period pain. Many people who use these find that their periods become lighter or stop.
Painful periods don't always point to endometriosis; sometimes they're a separate condition known as dysmenorrhea. Pelvic pain can also be caused by scar tissue, previous infections or a history of appendicitis. Irritable or inflammatory bowel syndromes can also cause pelvic pain.
At what age can a woman stop having pelvic exams? ›
Women over age 65 can stop getting screened if they've had at least three consecutive negative Pap tests or at least two negative HPV tests within the previous 10 years, according to the guidelines. But women who have a history of a more advanced precancer diagnosis should continue to be screened for at least 20 years.Do I cancel my Pap smear while on period? ›
Can you get a Pap smear or pelvic exam on your period? The answer is yes! If you've scheduled an appointment with your gynecologist and you're on your period, there is no need to cancel the appointment. Normal vaginal bleeding should not get in the way of a Pap smear or pelvic exam.Can you wear a tampon to a gynecologist appointment? ›
Millheiser said you can leave your tampon or menstrual cup in until right before the exam. Other than that, though, there are no special procedures or things to do before heading into the office, and you definitely shouldn't feel embarrassed or awkward in front of your healthcare provider.What causes sudden gushes of blood during period? ›
If a hormone imbalance occurs, the endometrium develops in excess and eventually sheds by way of heavy menstrual bleeding. A number of conditions can cause hormone imbalances, including polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), obesity, insulin resistance and thyroid problems. Dysfunction of the ovaries.What do large blood clots during period mean? ›
Polyps and Fibroids
Uterine polyps that grow on the cervix or in the lining of the uterus can also be a factor in heavy clotting. If you're experiencing heavy bleeding, large blood clots during your period or lower back pain, it could be a uterine obstruction like a fibroid.
ER doctors can administer fluids to stabilize a person. They may also give a blood transfusion or medications or, potentially, perform a medical procedure to stop the bleeding.What's the best painkiller for period pains? ›
Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or naproxen sodium (Aleve), at regular doses starting the day before you expect your period to begin can help control the pain of cramps. Prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs also are available.Will muscle relaxers help with period cramps? ›
do muscle relaxers help with period cramps? An antispasmodic muscle relaxer, which is typically used to help relieve involuntary muscle spasms, can help relax your abdominal and pelvic muscles. So taking a muscle relaxer, such as Buscopan, can help relieve menstrual cramps fast.What hormone imbalance causes painful periods? ›
High levels of estrogen and low levels of progesterone levels are the reason for painful periods.What is Endo belly? ›
What is endo belly? Endo belly is the colloquial term for abdominal distension caused by endometriosis. Unlike the short-term bloating that sometimes accompanies your period, endo belly is much more severe, triggering physical, mental, and emotional symptoms.
What will happen if endometriosis is left untreated? ›
Untreated endometriosis can cause significant pain, bloating, excess menstrual bleeding, and digestive distress. Over time, it can also affect a person's fertility. When endometriosis tissue grows outside the uterus, it can affect other organs — especially the ovaries and reproductive structures.