Every month I have to miss school and sports practice because I have such bad cramps. Is there anything I can do to treat them?

Great question! Dealing with bad cramps during your period is a huge pain-in-the-uterus, especially if it’s causing you to miss out on your life once a month! Painful periods are especially common in teens, as it can sometimes take a few years for the menstrual cycle to regulate. Since menstruation tends to be a taboo topic, many young people grow up without any education or discussion on the subject beyond hearing it called “the curse.” Because of this, a lot of young people suffer from their period-related agony in silence, reasoning that it’s just part of growing up. However, though some discomfort during your period is normal, debilitating pain that causes you to miss out on activities is a reason to see a medical professional.

During your period, your uterus, which is a muscle, contracts in order to shed its lining. This is triggered by hormone-like substances called prostaglandins, which cause pain and inflammation. This process is what you’re feeling when you’re getting bad cramps. You have a few routes to take to disrupt this and get some relief! Old-school methods like heating pads and hot baths help to relax both your mind and your muscles. If you’re going the medication route, over the counter NSAID painkillers (Advil, Motrin, Midol, and Aleve) are prostaglandin inhibitors. This means that they take action to fight the root cause of the cramps in addition to soothing the pain, which makes them the right choice for that time of the month. If you’re having consistently painful periods, talk to your medical provider about trying a form of hormonal contraception (pill, patch, ring, implant, shot, or hormonal IUD), which can help to defang your miserable menses!

Period cramps can be painful, but you don’t have to suffer alone. Visit your medical provider to tell them about your symptoms. They will make sure any serious conditions are ruled out, and talk to you about options to make your whole month as painless as possible!