Twelve-year-old Cindy woke up one morning and felt familiar pain in her lower belly.
She knew what it was and grumbled, "Oh, no. Here comes another period."
Cindy started her period over a year ago. She's learned to handle using pads and
tampons, but the cramps are really bothering her. Sometimes Cindy feels so bad that
all she can do is lie down.
Let's find out what cramps are and what to do if you're a girl who gets them.
What Are Period Cramps?
Lots of girls experience cramps before or during their periods. Cramps are caused
by prostaglandins (say: pross-tuh-GLAN-dinz), chemicals a girl's
body produces to make the muscles of the uterus contract. The contracting muscles
help push the blood out through a girl's vagina during her period.
You probably know periods usually come once a month. Sometimes, younger girls aren't
that regular, so they may skip a month. But as a girl's periods get more regular,
cramps are more likely.
They can be mildly annoying to extremely painful, and they usually last for a few
days. Cramps may worry some girls at first if they don't know they're often a normal
part of having a monthly period.
Some girls are more likely to have cramps. They include:
girls who are younger when their periods start
girls who have longer periods or heavier blood flow
girls whose female relatives had or have period cramps
girls who smoke
It may seem weird that cramping would be genetic,
but it appears to be true. If other girls and women in your family are crampers, you
might be a cramper, too. You might want to ask a female relative — like your
older sister, cousin, mom, aunt, or grandmother — if she had cramps with her
periods. You'll still be cramping but at least you'll know you're not alone! And the
good news is that cramps often get better the older you get.
Crush Those Cramps
In the meantime, a girl wants to stay comfortable. Some cramps are noticeable but
don't really get in the way of a girl's normal routine. Other cramps might make a
girl feel lousy and less able to do stuff. For bothersome cramps, a girl can talk
with her mom or dad about taking a pain reliever. Check with a doctor to find out
about pain relievers and other treatments that can reduce cramps.
If you get them, don't let cramps sneak up on you! It's best to start taking pain relievers slightly in advance of the cramps. Your mom or
dad can help you decide when to start taking pain relievers and give you the correct
dose of the medicine.
A parent also can set a schedule so you can take another dose of pain reliever
at the right time. You'll want to take it before school, for instance, and maybe have
it on hand at school so the nurse can give you a dose at the right time. By taking
pain relievers on a schedule at the beginning of your period, you can keep cramps
away so you can go about your normal day without feeling awful.
What else can you do? Exercise! Being physically active can ease cramps, probably
because exercise releases endorphins, chemicals in the body that make you feel good.
Eating right and getting enough sleep also can keep you feeling your best.
Some girls say putting a warm water bottle or compress on their belly helps them
feel better if they have cramps. A nice warm bath is another option. Ahh ... feel
those cramps just floating away.