My periods are "normal" but I am still struggling

This post was written by Sarah Cox, a third year medical student at UTHSCSA studying to be an OBGYN. 

“So, it sounds like I have a normal period, but I’m still struggling with the bleeding, cramps, and PMS. What can I do?”

You have a few different options to treat your period symptoms:

OTC Pain Medication

1. Over-the-counter Pain Medication

You can take ibuprofen (brand names Motrin or Advil) or naproxen (brand names Aleve), which can help with both cramps and bleeding. You can start taking these medications 1-2 days prior to the start of your period if needed, and can continue for the usual duration of cramps (usually 2-3 days after the start of your bleeding). 


2. Heat 

Some menstruators find relief by putting a heating pad on their lower belly. Another option is to take a bath. The warm water may help relax your muscles, provide a calming sensation, and reduce cramping.  Be careful not to burn yourself; aim for a temperature of approximately 104ºF (40ºC) or less.


3. Regular exercise 

Some menstruators find that regular exercise can help with painful period symptoms. If you don’t normally get much exercise, start by moving your body every day for a few minutes at a low intensity (such as walking), as any physical activity is better than none. Over time, you can begin to exercise harder, more frequently, or for a longer amount of time. A good exercise goal for many is getting at least 30 minutes of exercise 5 days per week. Think outside the box–yard work, dancing in your bedroom, and walking through a shopping mall are all great forms of exercise! 

Birth Control

4. Birth Control

You can ask your doctor about birth control options such as the birth control pills, Depo shot, Nexplanon, and IUDs. These birth control methods can make periods lighter, more regular, and can even reduce periods altogether, depending on what type is used. Birth control options can be  effective for helping with period cramps and with period bleeding because they work to thin the lining of the uterus–decreasing bleeding and limiting the muscle contractions of the uterus (the cramping you feel) to shed that lining.  

It is totally normal and healthy to be on birth control for period symptoms, even if you aren’t sexually active. Being on birth control does not reduce future fertility. 

As always, make sure to seek advice from your doctor if you have any questions or concerns. 

Do you think your PMS symptoms are outside the “normal” range? Read more here.

Looking for more information on taking care of your period? Take our course for new menstruators

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