Science Worked Out What Makes Period Pain Worse So You Can Live Cramp-Free

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Many of us have experienced (and bemoaned) period pains at some point. For some, it's light cramps for a day or two, letting you know your time of the month is imminent. For some though, it's full-on, need-a-hot-water-bottle-and-a-duvet-and-a-day-off-work kind of pain, known medically as dysmenorrhea. If you're wondering why is my period pain getting worse, you might be surprised to know some of the factors that go into exaggerating your pain.

Around 80 percent of women will experience period pain at some point, according to Women's Health Concern, and for five to ten percent of women, that pain is extreme enough to disrupt regular routine. Women are often reluctant to speak out about it for fear of moaning, but really, it can be debilitating and it's worth making sure you're treating symptoms properly and making them known when necessary. While I know that copious amounts of Ben & Jerry's and re-runs of Keeping Up With The Kardashians can do wonders for my period pains, I didn't know that certain things actually make your period pains worse, from eating certain foods to lifestyle choices. With that in mind, I've gone on an investigative hunt to find out more, and below are the things I've learnt you should and shouldn't do in order to minimise the monthly struggle that is period pain.


Lack Of Sex

It may be the last thing you feel like doing, but having sex on your period can help with period pain. "The uterus is a muscle and many women will actually have a uterine contraction when they orgasm, which will cause the blood to expel more quickly, which will in turn decrease menstrual cramps," women's health expert Dr. Lauren Streicher told the Mirror.



According to Women's Health Concern, smoking makes us more likely to get period pain as it reduces the supply of oxygen to the pelvic area. A study in the journal Tobacco Control reported that the more cigarettes you smoke, the worse the pain will become.


Salty Foods

This one's a personal blow, because Kettle Chips go perfectly with the aforementioned Ben & Jerry's. But sadly, salt causes water retention which then causes bloating, which makes cramps far more uncomfortable than they already are. If you're being vigilant, check the labels on processed foods and avoid fast food, as these often contain hidden salts. Epsom salts in your bath are the only way to go when it comes to salt and periods. "Minimize salty foods during your period, so it’s not an extra thing that’s contributing to your bloating," obstetrician Dr. Shree Chanchani told Reader's Digest. "Bloating is common and typically goes away after your period."


Lack Of Sleep

When you get our period, your body temperature spikes, which can leave you feeling hot, uncomfortable, and unable to sleep. The unfortunate knock-on effect to this is that lack of sleep makes you feel pain more acutely, so your regular cramps will feel worse. Lack of sleep can also cause longer periods, according to Stellar. So, get an early night when you can and make getting sleep a priority. Dr. Colleen Krajewski, a gynaecologist and birth control expert, tells Bustle: "Anytime you're sleep deprived, you're going to tolerate what might be normal on another day less well."



This one's my least favourite, but chocolate, unless it's dark (dark chocolate is your friend), will do you no good. Sugar not only causes inflammation, but basically makes all pain worse, according to Liver Doctor. Sad but true. Instead, try anti-inflammatory foods such as chia seeds, spirulina, and turmeric, nutritionist Amy Morris suggested on Net Doctor.


Medical Issues

Fundamentally, if you're worried, go to a doctor. According to Narendra Pisal, consultant gynaecologist at London Gynaecology, the most common reasons for painful periods ares endometriosis, fibroids (common benign lumps of the uterine muscle), and adenomyosis (where the lining of the uterus is in the wall of the uterus and can cause bruising during periods, which is painful). "Painful periods could be an indicator of an underlying health condition," Dr Pisal told Women's Health.



Is it me, or are period pains made worse by most of the things I want to eat and drink? Skip the cappuccino on your period. Essentially, caffeine can act as a vasoconstrictor, meaning it narrows blood vessels and constricts flow of blood around the body, including to the lining of the uterus. "Caffeine is a vasoconstrictor," Dr. Lori Shemek told Bustle. "It makes blood vessels constrict and may cause the vessels that feed the uterus to tighten."



Cheese, milk, yogurt... whatever your poison, dairy contains the omega-6 fatty acid arachidonic acid, which induces further cramping. A lot of dairy products contain saturated fat, which can cause inflammation, according to Byrdie. You don't need to go cold turkey, but cutting back may help.



Fact: stress makes period pains worse. A study in the Journal of Women’s Health found that women who were stressed two weeks before they got their period, were two to four times as likely to have moderate to severe symptoms during their period as those who didn't feel stressed, according to Psych Central. If you figure out how to be permanently relaxed, let me know.


Period pains can be hard, but you're never alone. When you're struggling with cramps, let people know, and be kind to yourself. And you never know, if you take heed of the above you may just feel a bit better.