I convinced you to stop your birth control in my previous article, but now that your birth control is gone your menstrual cramps are back! Cramping around your period could be just that, menstrual cramps. But cramping could also be a sign of pregnancy. This is only more of a reason to avoid ibuprofen and try to find relief for menstrual cramping without medicine.
Early pregnancy cramps vs. Menstrual Cramps
Uterine cramps can be caused by ovulation, implantation (pregnancy) or your period. Cramping caused by implantation makes sense. As the egg burrows its way into your uterus your uterus responds by cramping. You may have also heard of ovulation cramping, or mittleschmerz. Ovulation pain is caused by the rupture of the ovarian wall allowing for the release of the egg. With ovulation cramping, the pain typically only lasts a maximum of a couple hours and is typically localized to one side. The pain also occurs in the middle of your cycle, at the point of ovulation. Women who experience ovulation cramping typically experience it with every cycle.
Menstrual cramps are typically more severe and last longer. The best way to determine if cramps are menstrual cramps or implantation cramps is whether or not they result in a period. However, you may experience bleeding even with implantation. Checkout my article on implantation bleeding to help differentiate between implantation bleeding and a period. You can also read my article on “10 Early Signs of Pregnancy” to know what other signs to look for.
In either case you want to try to avoid taking medication for cramping. If you are trying to become pregnancy, ibuprofen (advil, motrin) can decrease your fertility.
So what can you do for the pain? How do you relieve period cramps without medicine? Is there anyway to prevent yourself from lying in bed in the fetal possible for 3-5 days? Menstrual cramps are no joke, and when they are bad, they are really bad. I’ve rounded up my period cramp suggestions. You can try them one at a time, or if the pain is bad you can try them all at once.
#1 Hot Packs
First, try placing a hot pack on your lower back. The heat can help relax your muscles and decrease the pain. It is also a good distraction from the pain. Studies have actually found heat to be as effective as Ibuprofen and more effective than Tylenol (I know, I was shocked too)! With heat you don’t need to worry about the effect on fertility or unknown side effects. So the answer to “How do you relieve period cramps without medicine?” is heat!
To make a hot pack: Take an old long sock and fill it with dry rice. Then tie off the sock and put it in the microwave for 30 seconds-1 minute. If it isn’t hot, put it back in the microwave for another 15-30 seconds until it is warm. This smells nice and will stay warm.
#2 Eat Ginger
Some studies have suggested an improvement in menstrual cramps with the ingestion of ginger. It makes sense because ginger is anti-inflammatory and pain is caused by inflammation. While the validity of this association is questionable, there is no harm in eating ginger. Additionally, ginger has other great properties. It is anti-inflammatory so it can help with stomach upset, reduce nausea and help lower blood sugar. As always, avoid too much. There has been an association between very high ingestion of ginger and miscarriage. When possible, consume ginger in the purest form. Add fresh ginger to tea, juice and sauces.
#3 Stay Hydrated
I’m sure you’re already tired of hearing me say hydration. But honestly it is so important. Staying hydrated will help relieve your cramps. Let your period cramps be a reminder to drink a glass of water. Hydration will also help with if you have a headache and will help improve your skin that has possibly suffered as a consequence of going off birth control.
#4 Stay Active
Exercise! Someone recently asked me if it is ok to exercise while ttc. Of course! In fact I encourage it. As much as exercising may seem like just adding more torture on top of torture, it does really make those pesky cramps better. Exercising improves blood flow, which in turn decreases the pain sensation. Not to mention, exercise has the added benefit of helping women who are overweight attain a healthy BMI which improves fertility. Exercise also improves diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular health which all impact fertility. The secret to life ladies and gentlemen is exercise and eating well- no secrets there.
#5 Sip Red Raspberry Leaf Tea
Red raspberry leaf tea is known in the birth world as uterus tea. It helps with contractility of the uterus and is often recommended for women in the third trimester to prepare the uterus for labor. However, few women know it can also help with menstrual cramps. And dont worry- it wont put you into labor. Advocates for the tea recommend drinking it daily starting 3 months before TTC. This lines up perfectly with when you stop your birth control. If you have experienced multiple miscarriages in the past, you can discontinue the tea when you confirm pregnancy and restart it during the second trimester. Any red raspberry leaf tea will work, but here is a link to one if you are interested.
#6 When all else fails, Tylenol
If my above suggestions just aren’t cutting it, reach for Tylenol. Unfortunately, ibuprofen is more effective at decreasing period cramp pain, but ibuprofen is also associated with decreased fertility. Additionally, ibuprofen is contraindicated in pregnancy. So if you are in fact pregnant, you definitely don’t want to risk taking ibuprofen. Tylenol is considered safe in pregnancy and it doesn’t impact your fertility. In high doses Tylenol intake during pregnancy has been associated with an increase in childhood asthma, but one or two tablets during your period isn’t going to have any effect.
Hopefully these suggestions will help you manage your menstrual pain without reaching for birth control or ibuprofen. If you cave and take ibuprofen don’t worry. The effect is small if any. And your glimmer of hope? Once you are pregnant you wont need to worry about your period for at least 9 months! If these relief measures aren’t cutting it, talk to your doctor or midwife at your preconception visit.
Next Up: Check out my Article BPA & Soy: The Good and the Bad for Getting Pregnant