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Normal Menstrual Cycle - Managing Menstrual Cycle Symptoms and Bleeding

Keep a calendar and mark the day you start your menstrual period each month. If your cycle is regular, it can help you predict when you'll have your next period.

If you're trying to figure out whether you have a pattern of premenstrual symptoms, it may be helpful to keep a premenstrual daily symptom diary(What is a PDF document?).

You can improve your body's ability to handle menstrual changes by getting regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, limiting alcohol and caffeine intake, and reducing stress. Nonprescription pain relievers can also help reduce some symptoms.

Medicine for menstrual pain and bleeding

Try a nonprescription medicine to help relieve your pain and bleeding. Start taking the recommended dose of pain reliever when symptoms begin or 1 day before your menstrual period starts. If you are trying to become pregnant, talk to your doctor before using any medicine. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (for example, Advil), reduce menstrual cramps, pain, and bleeding by lowering the level of the hormone prostaglandin.
  • If NSAIDs do not relieve the pain, try acetaminophen, such as Tylenol.
  • Take the medicine for as long as the symptoms would normally last if you did not take the medicine.

Be sure to follow all labels and directions. Do not take aspirin if you are younger than 20 because of the risk of Reye syndrome.

Additional ways to relieve menstrual cramps

  • Apply heat to your abdomen with a heating pad or hot water bottle, or take a warm bath. Heat improves blood flow and may decrease pelvic pain.
  • Lie down and elevate your legs by putting a pillow under your knees.
  • Lie on your side and bring your knees up toward your chest. This will help relieve back pressure.
  • Get regular exercise. This improves blood flow, produces pain-fighting endorphins, and may reduce pain.
  • If you have vaginal pain with cramps, try using pads instead of tampons.

For more information on managing menstrual cramps, see:

actionset.gif Menstrual Cycle: Dealing With Cramps.

Managing menstrual bleeding

You can choose from a range of pads, tampons, or menstrual cups to manage menstrual bleeding. Follow all directions included with the product of your choice.

  • Pads range from thin and light to thick and superabsorbent. They protect your clothing, with or without using a tampon. Pads may be your best choice for use at night.
  • Tampons range from small to large, for light to heavy flow. You can place a tampon in the vagina by using a slender tube (that is packaged with the tampon) or by tucking it in with a finger. Be sure to change a tampon at least every 4 to 8 hours. This helps prevent leakage and infection.
  • Menstrual cups are inserted in the vagina to collect menstrual flow. You remove the menstrual cup to empty it. Some are disposable and some can be washed and used again.

Whichever you use, be sure to change it regularly. Tampons or menstrual cups are ideal for activities that pads aren't practical for, such as swimming. They should be changed at least every 4 to 8 hours, so they may not work as well for nighttime use. It may take some experimenting to find the right products for you.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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