Take Ibuprofen Before Your Menstrual Cramps Start

I’ve known for a long time that NSAIDs like ibuprofen can counteract menstrual cramps, but they never seem to work for me. It turns out I was using them incorrectly – they work best if you take them before the cramping builds up.

“We advise people to start taking ibuprofen or naproxen the day before you think you’re having your period,” says Heather Jumbo, a New York City emergency pediatrician. (Not everyone’s cycles are regular enough to predict their periods of the day, but if you have one, you’re in luck.)

Both ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen sodium (Aleve) help because they block the production of prostaglandins . Prostaglandins cause your uterus to contract, which is part of the expulsion of menstrual blood, but violent contractions can be painful and this is what causes cramping.

The idea is to curb the production of prostaglandins, before it gets out of control. This means that the sooner you take these pain relievers, the more effective they are. Wait too long and you’re out of luck until next month: “When you have prostaglandin, it’s already there,” says Jumbo. So it turns out that my old habit of waiting to see how bad the seizures get and then deciding if I wanted to take Motrin was not the best strategy.

Jumbo also notes that people with a history of certain medical conditions , such as a history of stomach bleeding, should not take these drugs, so check with your doctor if you have not taken them before.

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