If you’ve already experienced menstrual cramps or, more technically, “dysmenorrhea,” you know how painful they can be, before and during your period. For some teens, these cramps are mild and annoying with dull, throbbing pain in your lower abdomen, but for others, it can be extremely painful with pain radiating to your lower back and thighs. Yikes! Some women even experience nausea, vomiting, loose stools, sweating, dizziness, and migraines. And these symptoms can last for a few days.
Try relaxing and taking care of yourself. The mind-body connection is a vital pathway. Here are some ideas for feeling better:
- Massage and meditation are two methods that can be effective in relieving menstrual cramps.
- Taking a hot bath or putting a heating pad on your lower abdomen can help alleviate the pain.
- Eating well and getting enough sleep is always a good idea.
- Taking ibuprofen might help. If this isn’t effective, you can try oral contraceptives, which, of course, need to be prescribed by a doctor. Speak to your physician before taking any medication.
- Avoid caffeinated drinks and high-sugar foods, even though they might be tempting.
- Exercise – stretching, yoga, or low-impact exercise (walking) – is always a healthy choice.
- Just taking it easy and avoiding stressful situations can be key as well.
Finally, try tracking your periods over several months (use the BodiMojo online journal). Observe your diet, stress, premenstrual cramps or irritability, as well as how long your the menstrual flows lasts and when your cramps subside. You can track this with the private online Journal in BodiMojo’s My Page. If you keep a record, over time you will be able to predict which days of the month to take it easy or know to have ibuprofen handy in your backpack.
Closer Look at Periods
Remember, every girl’s period is different – for some women, their menstrual cycle can last 2-3 days; for others, a week or longer. Flow, or the amount of blood that is released, is different as well. It might seem like a lot of blood, but for most women, the average amount released is about two tablespoons for the entire period, with the heaviest flow at the beginning. If you think you’re losing too much blood – for example, if your period lasts longer than 7 days; you have bleeding in between periods; you soak through more than one pad every 1-2 hours; or your periods are irregular – definitely talk to your physician.
Having menstrual cramps when you’re young is normal. But if you have heavy bleeding, are buckled over in pain, and have to stay home from school several days a month, then you should see a physician or obstetrician/gynecologist (OB/GYN). This kind of doctor specializes in women’s reproductive anatomy, periods, birth control options, and helps women deliver healthy babies. Bringing the menstrual journal that you’ve been recording can be helpful when you speak with the doctor. The OB/GYN will probably ask you about your periods and symptoms (when you started; how long you bleed; how light or heavy your flow is, etc.) and might give you a pelvic exam, especially if you are sexually active. This examination can rule out or diagnose certain conditions that can cause menstrual cramps. Depending on the results from your examination and tests, your OB/GYN can offer you a treatment plan.
But remember – your periods shouldn’t get in the way of having fun, enjoying life, and exercising. It’s just another sign of how your body is maturing, changing, and developing into all of its fullness.
Check out Headspin interactive tool for other changes that are going on in the teen body.