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Am I Dying Or Is It Just My Period? A Gyno Answers Our Existential Questions

I’ve survived multiple tattoos, nipple piercings, and monthly Brazilian waxes, but I am no match against my period cramps. The crazy thing is that I only get my period for three days out of the month. And while you might be thinking, “What’s it like being God’s favorite?” the reality is that those three days are my own personal hell. Aside from my boobs feeling like they’re 100 pounds and feeling like I got hit by a truck, the cramps are unbearable. No, seriously, one time I went to the hospital because I thought I was literally dying, and it turns out I had really bad cramps. Cool, cool!

If you’ve had a similar experience with your period, you’re probably wondering what’s normal and what should make you book an appointment with your gynecologist stat. (Or, should you start getting your funeral arrangements in order?) I get it. Periods can be so confusing: Am I dying, or is my period? And because everyone’s body is different, we all get our periods differently, too. There was a time in my life when I was getting full-on sick anytime it was my time of the month.

But to help you sort through your worrisome menstrual cycle, I asked Dr. Jillian LoPiano, OB/GYN and chief health officer at WispWhen should you be concerned about your period pain?

What Are “Normal” Period Symptoms?

AM-I-DYING-INLINE

“Normal” is such a hard thing to determine when it comes to your period. But there are a few qualifiers that help us figure out if our bodies are on the right track.

“Common or ‘normal’ symptoms include mild to moderate cramps, light to moderate bleeding, breast tenderness, bloating, mood changes, and fatigue,” Dr. LoPiano tells Betches. “A good indicator for symptoms that aren’t ‘normal’ is when pain is severe and cannot be managed by over-the-counter medications.” And if your pain is so bad that you can’t go out or move, it may be a sign that something else is wrong.

Sometimes, when you notice that your period is causing changes in your body that are super out of character, you might want to go to a doctor and check for issues like endometriosis, adenomyosis, PMDD, and PCOS.

“If the timing of your menstrual cycles is sooner than 21 days or longer than 45 days, or if you skip periods for more than three cycles, then it is time to get an evaluation with a women’s health provider,” Dr. LoPiano says. “Significant changes in your normal routine menstrual cycle, bleeding in between periods, heavy bleeding (frequent changes of super pads/tampon/menstrual cups, saturating clothes or sheets, anemia) are also reasons to see your doctor.”

Looks like I need to make an appointment!

Why Are My Periods So Painful?

Nothing will put you in quite a “woe is me” mood than when you’re keeled over in pain, clutching your stomach because your cramps feel like they’re going to actually kill you.
And while period pain feels like a cosmic “fuck you” to people blessed with uteruses, there’s a scientific reason behind why you feel so fucking awful.

“The uterus is made mostly of muscle,” Dr. LoPiano explains. “It is lined with what is called the endometrium, which is the tissue that is shed with blood each month, AKA your ‘period.'” And when the lining sheds, the uterine muscle cramps cause — you guessed it — pretty bad pain.
“Sometimes the pain can refer to back hips and down legs,” Dr. LoPiano says. “Additionally, there are hormonal and inflammatory markers that can contribute to pain.” And if you think you may be having hormonal issues or that the stuff you’re eating is causing inflammation, it’s time to call your gyno.

How To Get Rid Of Period Cramps Fast (Preferably In Bed) 

Listen, you get no award for riding out period pain. I don’t know why we always think we need to tough it out, but I am an advocate for not feeling pain when I don’t have to. And so is Dr. LoPiano.

“I recommend starting with over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen and comfort measures for pain,” she says. And by “comfort measures” she means heat therapy (a heating pad or hot towel), light/low-impact exercises (ugh, I know!), good nutrition, hydration, and any other relaxation techniques you can think of.

Also, being the sex and dating writer that I am, I’m also going to recommend getting fucked. That’s right — sex can actually help ease menstrual cramps. And personally, I just love having period sex. But if you read that and thought, “I’ll kill someone if they touch me,” I totally get it. In that case, I’d just go to a gyno and talk about other options for pain management.

Syeda Khaula Saad
Syeda Khaula Saad
Syeda Khaula Saad is a sex & dating writer at Betches despite not remembering the last time she was in a relationship. Just take her word for it.