I am 14 and I have the worst cramps ever. Every time I have my period they seem to get more painful and last longer. I have tried aspirin and other painkillers. How do I deal with these cramps? There are times they are so painful I can't walk. My mom said I could get on birth control, but would that even help for cramps?
– Tysha*

Lots of girls get cramps at the beginning of their periods. Sometimes, medicine like ibuprofen may help (but aspirin shouldn't be used because of the risk of a rare but serious disorder called Reye syndrome).

Getting regular exercise can also help reduce cramps in some women. Soaking in a warm bath or putting a warm compress on your stomach won't make cramps disappear, but may help your muscles relax a little.

It may sound strange, but when these methods don't work, birth control pills can actually help with cramps — and are often prescribed for this reason.

Birth control pills work because they decrease the amount of prostaglandins — chemicals your body produces to make the muscles of the uterus contract. With fewer contractions, there is less pain. Birth control pills also can decrease the amount of blood flow with a girl's period.

Even if you don't think you're interested in birth control pills, if you have severe cramps that keep you home from school or from doing stuff with your friends or that seem to be worsening over time, visit your doctor or nurse practitioner for advice. That way you can find out what's going on and the best way to handle it.

*Names have been changed to protect user privacy.

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