Is Paracetamol or Ibuprofen better for period pain?

Find out which is best?

Period pain can have a significant effect on your life. We’ve all been there; wanting to do nothing but curl up on the sofa with a hot water bottle. Sadly, life still happens, and we have to drag yourself to work/school and get on with the day. The severity of cramps is often underestimated, even amongst women as not everyone experiences them in the same way. Painkillers can be a staple every month, easing the pain and allowing you to forget the pain and carry on with our daily schedule. 

 

Which painkiller is best? 

Ibuprofen is generally deemed to be more effective at easing period pain than paracetamol. It reduces pain while also relieving swelling in the body, making it ideal for cramps. It’s also possible to take both types of painkiller together- never take two types of painkillers at the same time, make sure to space them apart. It is best to take Ibuprofen with food or on a full stomach.

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What else can I do to ease period pain? 

If you experience issues with your period, including PMS and irregularity, the combined pill is a good option for managing this. It makes your period lighter, less painful and easier to track. Other methods include: 

  • Gentle exercise 
  • Holding a hot water bottle against your tummy 
  • Taking a hot bath 
  • Restorative yoga 
  • Nerve stimulating devices such as Livia

 

Why do I get period pain? 

When you get your period, the walls inside your womb contract while the womb lining is shed, in the form of menstrual blood. As your womb is shedding it's lining, the blood vessels are constricting so that blood and oxygen cannot flow into the womb- this only happens temporarily while you are having your period. The lack of oxygen triggers chemicals signals which the body manifests as pain. 

Period pain can vary between women. Some may experience cramps for a couple of days leading up to their period while others might only experience pain in the first day or two.  If you have an IUD (Intrauterine device), this can also cause painful periods, particularly in the first couple of months. 

If you suffer with period pain regularly and you have an important event on the horizon, you can delay your period with mediation like Utovlan and Norethisterone

 

Can period pain be a sign of an underlying condition? 

There is a possibility that your period pain could be linked to an undiagnosed health condition. For example: 

 

  • Endometriosis is a long term condition which causes endometrial tissue (the kind of tissue that lines your womb) to unnaturally grow in other areas of your body. During your monthly cycle, the endometrial tissues build-up; however, when the lining sheds, it cannot leave the body, resulting in pain and inflammation. Endometriosis can cause significant and chronic pain. 
  • Fibroids are non-cancerous growths which can appear around the womb. In most cases, they are asymptomatic and eventually disappear on their own.
  • Adenomyosis is a condition where there is an excess of tissue within the womb, where it has started growing within the muscular wall itself in addition to lining the womb. 
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection which causes the womb, ovaries and fallopian tubes to become inflamed. If untreated treated, PID can spread further into other areas of the body and can be fatal. 


Most of the time, period pain is normal. However, if you are experiencing pain that's having an impact on your day to day life or you're having other symptoms (excessively heavy bleeding, pain in between periods, anything out of the ordinary) then report this to your GP. It can be difficult to diagnose conditions like endometriosis, so don't feel discouraged if you need to get a second opinion or make return visits to report ongoing symptoms. 

 

Sources

NHS> Period Pain: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/period-pain/

Endometriosis UK> Understanding Endometriosis https://www.endometriosis-uk.org/understanding-endometriosis

Health Line> What causes painful menstrual periods and how do I treat them? https://www.healthline.com/health/painful-menstrual-periods

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