Period Pain, A Roundtable: On Cramps, Endometriosis, and Everything In Between

This is a conversation about period pain, and everything that goes along with that.

One day in the Autostraddle Slack “office” we were casually chatting about tracking our periods and our partner’s periods; soon our banter turned into a rousing discussion about period pain, uterus pain, the medical establishment being incompetent at best and harmful/dangerous at worst (often both!), PMDD, and how we as individuals manage the pain that people are so often told is simply “part of having a period / uterus / body!” You know, just a regular day at the office.

We decided to collect our thoughts, feelings, and experiences about period pain into a roundtable for you. Here it is!

My partner is a butch lesbian who is currently taking a light dose of testosterone. Xe says hir periods had always felt heavy and painful, and lightened up significantly when Xe started taking testosterone — but the cramps and pain actually got way worse.

I admit that I’m one of those people who had the wrong idea about period pain and testosterone: that is, I definitely thought any amount of T would stop periods completely or at least take away the intensity of period pain and discomfort. I don’t think it’s a stretch at all to put this topic in a broader context: butch/gender-nonconforming lesbians experiencing exclusionary behavior from feminine cis women, even in the same communities and relationships. Would a butch complaining about cramps receive the same sympathy as a femme?

Like my partner, I also experience pretty intense period pain and I know the frustration of having this pain minimized or misunderstood by others. While I’ve mostly only experienced this from men and my socially conservative family, gender-nonconforming women also face similar experiences from other women and LGBT people (on top of your usual, run-of-the-mill misogyny).Topics like period pain seem to expose a form of misogyny that even feminine cis lesbians like myself often unknowingly participate in.

“It would have meant the whole world to me if I had seen some sort of representation or conversation about trans people in discussions of reproductive justice when I was growing up. It would have helped me in my process of figuring out who I was and made it less self-betraying. Like, I tried to be a trans man, or thought that I should, because there just wasn’t a conversation about folks like me. It felt like there was a stigma within the trans men community about talking about periods at all, and I didn’t feel like I was accepted in lesbian communities because of my masculinity.” — Loba, 23

Ryan Yates, Writer

Lately when I think of “period pain” I think both of the migraines I’ve suddenly started to have in the days just before I menstruate and ovulate, and also of crying on my bathroom floor, the floor and I covered in blood, trying to get my compact-sized menstrual cup to somehow fit in my usually size-queer vagina and completely perplexed and frustrated with how it will not. (Yes, I’ve tried other cups. Yes, I tried water-based lube. Yes, at the point I started to try it I was pretty relaxed and not yet feeling frustrated and weird.) Previously I’ve tried Thinx, and when they were new I was obsessed — they were my favorite high-waisted underwear, how great to get to wear them on my period — but I didn’t notice how much they had started to almost burn after more than an hour or two of wear until I used tampons for a cycle and didn’t feel wildly uncomfortable the whole time. RIP Thinx. I’ve also tried sea sponges on and off over the past five years, but have yet to find one that doesn’t feel like it’s exfoliating my insides during insertion and that doesn’t just wring itself out if I sneeze. Since I’m normally pretty in touch with what my vagina is and is not into, all of this trial and error makes me feel pretty frustrated and weirdly like it’s some sort of professional failing instead of a totally reasonable and unremarkable process to be going through.

I also think of cramps. I am lucky to have a degree of cramps that let me still be somewhat present in my body and life, as long as I use a transdermal painkiller and wear soft clothes and don’t have anywhere to be and can nap, but I get them during ovulation, too, so before I made the connection (and set up an elaborate series of Clue reminders so I’d remember it) I spent a lot of time feeling extremely grumpy and uncomfortable and unable to perform to late-capitalist standards of productivity without knowing why. Knowing what’s up doesn’t totally make it better, but it helps.

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, Managing Editor

I am incredibly lucky that when I was growing up, my mother let me know it was perfectly acceptable to miss school due to period pain. Back then, I often got flu-like symptoms leading up to and during the first couple days of my period. Headache, chills, vomiting, pain, all of it! I’m really glad that I don’t experience that anymore (I’m not sure what exactly changed to make it stop, but it stopped once I hit my 20s). But I do still deal with intense cramps, especially on the first two days of my period and occasionally lasting longer. I also have never had a “regular” cycle in my whole dang life, which is very frustrating because no matter my attempts to chart and track my periods, they just kind of come when they want to, so I can’t really prepare for them. While I take over-the-counter pain medication for the cramps and also use things like heating pads and a gravity blanket to ease some of the cramps, often the best solution I have is to just sleep. I can sleep for a whole ass day on day one of my period, and sometimes when it’s a really bad one, I do. I’m lucky that I have a flexible work-from-home life since calling in sick due to period pain still isn’t normalized in most office cultures (to which I say: FUCK THAT!!!!!!). The intensity of the pain definitely varies cycle to cycle, but one consistency I’ve found is that the more weeks there are between my periods (sometimes I go 8+ weeks between periods), the worse the pain is. When I was briefly on birth control, my cycles became more regular which made that less of a thing BUT my body and mind did not react well to hormonal birth control so I don’t foresee myself ever going back on it as a way to regulate my period.

Ro White, Sex & Dating Editor

I am incredibly lucky to be a bleeder who doesn’t experience much physical pain with my period, but my body sure loves to double down on every other kind of discomfort — epic fatigue, ballooning boobs and depression, plus 24 hours of intense anxiety exactly one day before my period starts. I’ve done a lot of work on my mental health over the past few years and am in a much more stable place, but my emotional period pain (if one could call it that) consistently flares right before I menstruate. Last year I had a routine appointment with my gynecologist, and she suggested that I might have PMDD, which is basically when PMS hulks the hell out. I’ve made some life adjustments to manage it for now, but I might look into medication options if these mood lows continue to be gnarly.

When I was first trying to hack PMDD, I read a LOT about the menstrual cycle and was shocked by how much I didn’t know. One of the most helpful books I read was Woman Code by Alisa Vitti. The language in this book is AGGRESSIVELY gendered and oriented towards cis straight women, but once I learned how to grit my teeth and look past that, I found a ton of information about how to plan your work and goals around your cycle, which is something I had never even considered! Now I set my biggest writing goals just before ovulation when I have the most energy and focus and take on work that requires less brain power during my luteal phase, when I’m most likely spiraling into a deep, dark pit of hormone-induced despair. Taking advantage of where my hormones are at during different parts of the month has been incredibly empowering.

Oh period pain, my first friend, my enemy. For as long as I can remember I have had miserable, horrible cramps the first two or so days of my period. Puking, lower back pain — sometimes I am just covered in sweat?? It’s horrible. When I was younger, I had pretty regular, not super heavy periods for maybe four or five days. Now that I am post 30, the first three days of bleeding are mind bogglingly heavy, like did you know that there is that much blood inside of your whole body type heavy. It’s exhausting, honestly. I’ve been lucky enough that I have had jobs that I could call out of work when I needed to, but I had a hard time thinking that my period was enough of a reason to stay home, even when it made me throw up. Another fun thing I’ve noticed now that I am over 30 is that my emotions are bananas the week before. I am not a particularly emotional person, usually? So when I am like “All I want to do is watch episodes of Grey’s Anatomy and eat a sheet cake but also beef jerky and lightly cry,” I am very confused, even though it happens every month! It seems likely that I have some kind of fibroid situation, and I certainly should look into it, but *sigh* I am dreadfully lazy!

Heather Hogan, Senior Writer + Editor

When I was 27, I started having really bad periods. Like really bad. Heavy bleeding, excruciating uterus and back pain. I went to my primary care physician and to my OBGYN and they both just shrugged at me. I was an unmarried, not sexually active woman living in the rural south. They both thought I should just get myself a husband and some babies and that’d do the trick. It did not do the trick, and when I was 29, in addition to the period pain, every time I went for a run, about ten minutes in, I would suddenly start feeling like someone was, quite literally, stabbing me in the vagina with a knife. That always lasted maybe five minutes, and then intense uterus cramps and rectal cramps, followed by waves of nausea.

My PCP and my OBGYN and my newfound GI doctor all three shrugged again. Period pain was normal, they said. I said, “No, this vagina stabbing is ALL THE TIME when I go for a run.” They told me to stop running. I did. It started happening to me the week before my period when I would ride my bike, so that meant I could exercise two weeks a month only, because exercising on my period was out of the question. For eight years, my period pain kept getting worse and worse and worse. To manage, I ate Advil and Tylenol like candy and kept one heating pad on my back and one heating pad on my uterus for the week of my period, barely able to get out of bed. Finally, one day, on my way to Rite Aid to get more Advil during my period, I was hit with such an intense wave of pain that I passed right the fuck out on the sidewalk.

My partner, Stacy, had tried talking to me repeatedly about how this much pain wasn’t normal, but all I ever heard when she told me that — both because I was in pain and because I had a lot of feelings about what butches should be able to handle — was that I wasn’t strong enough, and that my pain was a disappointment to her. And anyway, hadn’t the doctors told me there was nothing they could do for me? When I passed out that day, she put her foot down and I made an appointment with an OBGYN who specializes in uterine dysfunction. And well, it turns out that I had SEVERE endometriosis. And also I was VERY anemic. I was bleeding so heavily on my period — both vaginally and rectally, my friends — that my red blood cell count was low enough for me to have a transfusion. Because the endometriosis was ALL OVER THE INSIDE OF BODY. It was on the outside of my uterus, the outside of my ovaries, the outside of my bladder, the outside of my intestines. It had punched a hole in the recto-vaginal wall. It was like every single one of my internal organs besides my heart and lungs was having its own period once a month.

I had endometrial ablation surgery, and when the surgeon was wheeling me to recovery, he said, “How were you even walking around?”

Well, doc, because I didn’t think I had another choice.

Since my surgery, I started taking oral birth control continuously, which means I don’t have a period anymore and never will again. I won’t stop taking it until I hit menopause. And also since my surgery, I have not had ONE SINGLE MINUTE of period pain. Not once! I cannot even begin to describe the quality of life difference. It changed everything for me. I wish I’d known enough when I was 27 to push for answers or find better doctors. I lost at least one week of my life every month for over a decade because my doctors wrote me off! Never again!

Valerie Anne, Writer

I got my period at 11 years old (First in my class! A terrible burden to bear!) and it has been a constant nuisance in my life ever since. Cramps so bad I couldn’t sleep, heavy flows that would last days, constant paranoia that I would stain whatever chair or car seat I was on. Plus there were the migraines that would lay me out for a day or two, lower back pain so bad I have been known to think my kidneys were failing, mood swings so extreme they were alarming even to me. I don’t even remember how young I was when I first went on birth control, but it was definitely before I was sexually active. I’ve been on and off it ever since, and have experienced all kinds of fun side effects from it. In my early 20s I would often have to go off my birth control for a few months or a year at a time because my refills would run out and I couldn’t afford a co-pay for a new appointment, which also resulted in exciting symptoms. At one point in my late 20s, my period decided that as soon as the birth control was out of my system, I would just… bleed. Not as heavy and without a lot of the PMS symptoms of my youth, but just… constant. Which is mostly just annoying, but can sometimes trigger anemia. I think at this point four months straight was my record. I went to one doctor and she gave me some ultrasounds and just kind of shrugged and said she can’t tell what’s wrong but it’s probably because I’m overweight so just lose weight and take birth control and probably it’ll get better. I think my lifetime of debilitating period cramp pain is part of the reason my pain tolerance is so high that no one believed me when I broke my rib coughing from pneumonia. Doctor after doctor was just kind of like, “hm yeah your hormones must be out of whack, take birth control,” without ever diagnosing me with anything. The last doctor I went to listened patiently to my history and the look of horror on her face when I told her that the last doctor didn’t feel like diagnosing me because the answer was probably birth control was oddly comforting. She was kind and compassionate in a way no doctor of any kind had ever been with me, told me that while being overweight sometimes can affect periods there’s no way to know if that’s a factor until we get a diagnosis, etc. She was a miracle! She ordered me some more ultrasounds and sent me on my way, promising we’d figure it out… then there was a global pandemic. So now I’m just bleeding and waiting until it’s safe to have someone shove a camera all up in me so this nice lady can look at my wonky ovaries and see if the PCOS or endometriosis that runs in my family is lurking inside me.

Oh and also? Since I’ve basically just turned this into a diary entry about my period? Once when I was like 12 or 13, and my mother was talking to my aunt about how my period was heavy and irregular and painful and she turned to me and assured me that when I was older and started having orgasms more regularly, it would get better. Not only was this EXTREMELY HUMILIATING at the time it was also extremely untrue for me and I will never forget this lie I was told. I have plenty of orgasms and my period is just as fucked up as ever.

Carly Usdin, To L and Back Co-Host

I love talking about my journey with endometriosis — not because it is fun (it is not!) but so maybe other folks won’t have to go through what I went through.

In my mid-20s I started getting this very specific lower abdominal pain during the week leading up to my period. Initially, before realizing the pattern, I thought it was just cramps or gas or something. I remember telling my OBGYN at the time and they were unsure what was causing it. So I just went about my business, thinking maybe it would just go away eventually. Instead, it progressively got worse.

Then in my later-20s it was starting to affect my quality of life. Every month, for 10-12 days, i would experience a sharp pain in my lower abdomen every two hours, like clockwork. This would stop once my period started. Additionally, I couldn’t exert physical energy of any kind, as it would trigger an even more painful 20-30 minute spurt. Walking briskly (I lived in NYC!), any exercise, sex… I couldn’t do anything. I found a new OBGYN, desperate to figure out what was wrong with me. She had me try several birth control pills (which is a not-fun, slow process) but none of those did anything. She actually told me that I couldn’t possibly have endometriosis, since it would have reacted to the birth control. I took her word for it — she was a doctor, after all! But my symptoms only worsened. I now had nausea and pain so severe I had to lie down in the fetal position anytime it hurt. I still didn’t know what was wrong with me so I had to make up excuses for why I was cancelling plans with friends or calling out of work. Over-the-counter pain meds didn’t work at all, so I had a very small ration of oxycodone which helped but I was also terrified to take too frequently.

An average month for me was about 2 weeks where I spent 20 minutes every 2 hours in debilitating pain. I barely slept. Finally I found a pelvic pain specialist and went in for a consult. I described all of my symptoms, all of my attempted remedies, everything the other doctors told me. And he looked at me and said, “I can almost guarantee you have endometriosis.” But there’s really no way to diagnose it for certain without surgery. A few weeks later I had a laparoscopic procedure. I wound up in there for over 6 hours. The surgeon at one point told my very concerned wife that it was “Stage 4” (I still don’t know what that means) and that it was “everywhere.” They also found some fibroids and cysts while they were in there, and took out my appendix for good measure.

After healing from that I got an IUD to slow the regrowth of the endometrial tissue, and let me tell you, THAT was actually the worst pain I’ve ever experienced in my life. I screamed so loudy the people in adjacent exam rooms must’ve thought I was being murdered. The fact that doctors do not offer a shot of pain meds before insertion as standard procedure is absolutely criminal. Now when I go back I insist, I won’t let them near me without it.

In the end it took over 6 years to be properly diagnosed. Endometriosis has no cure — I know I could wind up in terrible pain again someday, but the surgery really helped so, so much, and the IUD will help keep it from escalating again. Plus now my doctors know to look for it, and I know what the symptoms feel like, so if it ever gets bad again I’m confident I’ll be on top of it. I still have some pain, but it’s less frequent and less intense and much more manageable. But the psychological effects are something that still affect me and I am trying to work through. A few years after my diagnosis, my sister was diagnosed as well. And then once we described our symptoms to our mother, she determined that she probably had it too.

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  1. I’m really glad you guys did this roundtable! About a year after I started my period, I began to have OVERWHELMING pain during periods, ate ibuprofen constantly and still had pain. Luckily I had an aunt who had had endometrioses and she convinced my dad and me that I should go to an OBGYN, so when I turned 18 I went to Kaiser and had a great experience with the doctor there. I told him my family history and symptoms and he diagnosed me with endometriosis, although like you guys said he acknowledged he needed to do a surgery to get an official diagnoses. I got put on progesterone only birth control and take it continuously and haven’t had a period since! My quality of life is much better and I’m so glad it works for me. I’m also glad my aunt ignored all the other females in my family who were telling me its nothing to go see an OBGYN and that my dad is a sensitive man to my pain and encouraged me to make the appointment. I guess I’m going to be on birth control most of my life until I want to have kids? After the pandemic I want to schedule another appointment just to make sure my endometrioses isn’t somehow getting worse even if that means a laparoscopy, I’m curious what anyone elses experiences with laparoscopic procedures are? I can’t stand the thought of knives, and cutting…. But I also want to be in control of my health!

    • Hey I got laparoscopic surgery done when I was 27 (2018) and it was the best decision ever. I did, however, do my research and went to one of the best medical centers in california for this (UC San Diego). Surgery took about an hour. Healing time was pretty fast and my scars are itty bitty. I’ve heard some doctors leave you with big scars. The only thing I regret was getting an IUD. The side effects were terrible for me. I recently had it removed and I feel like a new person.

  2. Thank you everyone for sharing.

    Adding one experience here that’s not covered above: mittelschmerz! (I.e., ovulation pain.) Personally, this shows up for me as a random stabbing sensation on one or the other of my pelvis, lasting anywhere from 5 minutes to a couple of hours on-and-off, and sometimes coming with light cramping. Shows up about 2 weeks before I bleed…

    • oh so THAT’S what that is!! sometimes it’s so bad i have to rebound-test myself to make sure i don’t have appendicitis and every doctor i’ve mentioned it to has just been like “yep sounds like a Reproductive Clusterfuck Problem but there’s nothing funky on the ultrasound so…who knows?”

    • It’s so validating to read all of your stories. I’m getting a hysterectomy next week due to endometriosis and suspected adenomyosis. It’s so frustrating that there aren’t more options for those with periods, other than years of gaslighting, medications, and surgeries.

  3. I’m in menopause, my last period was in late 2017 and I STILL sometimes get menstrual cramps! Yet one more thing that I had NO IDEA to expect with perimenopause and menopause (see also night sweats, insomnia and brain fog).

  4. Y’all, after years of obscene pain and so much bleeding, I finally found an ObGyn who offered a partial hysterectomy (remove the uterus and cervix, but leave the ovaries), which means I have no more pain and bleeding, but still technically cycle so no immediate menopause. This was one of THE BEST decisions I have ever made. It isn’t talked about much since doctors always think we might change our mind and want to grow babies in that uterus. (Nope, not I! No regrets here!) So maybe your doctor won’t suggest it as an option, so I’m telling you about it so that you can ask if it seems like a reasonable option to any of you reading this who feel like you may never find relief.

    • I just had a partial hysterectomy this summer due to a pretty large fibroid which had been causing relatively intense bleeding and gosh, I am so happy about it. I’m lucky that although I did want babies, my wife wanted to grow them, so I can feel unreservedly happy about never having a period again. The surgery is no joke if you can’t have it laparoscopically, but 10 out of 10, would recommend.

  5. I’m so thankful this team is willing to share such personal info. It’s incredibly encouraging to know other people struggle with endometriosis and period pain too. Malic has inspired me – I’m going to renew my abandoned efforts to plan my work month around my cycle and endo pain.

  6. I appreciate Kayla mentioning flu-like symptoms; I don’t get those, but I do get what I describe as a really bad cold for several days ahead of my period most cycles. Since that syndrome now overlaps with covid symptoms, it’s an extra fun time. (If anyone else gets this or knows what it’s about, I’m so curious about what’s going on in my body! My surface research suggests that no one is sure whether it’s real or not.)

    I also grew a (non-cancerous) ovarian tumour a couple of years ago and am so so grateful to have been prepared for a journey of self-advocacy by everyone who had written or talked about their experiences with medical practitioners who were SO SURE it was just “a normal bad period” or “this is what happens as you move into your 30s,” without any real investigation.

    • It took me about two years of being like “I feel like getting a cold every single month and then it just goes after a couple of days” before I realised this was always a few days before my period. Don’t know the cause but it’s 100% real and it’s exhausting when other people don’t think stuff like this is real just because they don’t experience it.

    • Chills and fever sound like your hormones are messing with your thermoregulation – it happens to me too, right before my period I feel hot and sweaty for about 48 hours and then suddenly REALLY REALLY COLD as soon as I start bleeding. No idea what causes it though – bodies are just WEIRD.

    • I’ve experienced cold/flu symptoms too, in relation to another cause of hormone change. Mine were caused by a contraceptive injection, I got flu like symtoms for a full 2 months after each injection (low level high temperature, painful joints and huge levels of fatigue), just when I was starting to feel better, another injection was due and made me ill again. This all stopped as soon as I stopped having the injection (I had 3 so it basically took a year of my life away). The only reason why I was able to know exactly to the day when the temperature started was because I was asked to keep an eye out for infection symptoms from the injection site (a temperature being one of them), so for a few days I thought it was that, but after it was completely healed a few days later it was clear that it wasn’t that. I reported my symptoms but was told it wasn’t one of the listed side affects, and it was highly unlikely to be the reason. I’ve always struggled with symptoms of a hormone imbalance (not made better by the hormone pills my gp kept chucking at me), I often have 2 week long periods that wipe me out energy wise (I now take iron, high strength vitamin b complex, magnesium and zinc, which has helped greatly, I rarely get bad fatigue now). I think the injections just exacerbated an already existing issue.
      Anyway, yes, in my experience, hormones changes can make you feel ill!

  7. I feel like I need to make this PSA about endometriosis: ablation is not a cure, nor is hysterectomy. Please please look into excision surgery for endometriosis – it is the only way to actually remove all of the endo tissue and not have it grow back (like with ablation). And ultrasound cannot prove the absence of endo (only laparoscopic surgery) so don’t listen to any doctor who tells you you don’t have it because they couldn’t see it on a scan.

    Nancy’s Nook is a FB education group which is hugely informative and I beg anyone who suspects they have endo to spend some time researching there.

    • Thanks for this article. I wishwe’d talk more about how much pain we’re all in each month. It’s ridiculous how we just put up with it or with the fact that doctors don’t really do much about it.

  8. That was very interesting and also horrifying. Shows me another insight in the American healthcare system. (And once again it’s not pretty…) So sorry you had to go through that. Heather I once had a patient in a nursing home with a vaginal-rectal fistula and I remembered the gynacologist I consulted said it’s most likely cancer, because the other causes are generally only seen with people in developing countries without access to healthcare.

    Something that’s not known by everybody so I’m just putting it out here because it’s important: if you (or a loved one) is post menopauze (12 months without a period) and has a bleeding that feels or looks like a (light) period – you need to see a doctor! They need to do at least a pap smear and ultrasound. There is a risk of malign causes, and that risk rises with age. (It’s very rare under 50.) Endometrium carcinoma has a fairly good survival rate, but early diagnosis is key.

    Some years ago I had a myoma, a benign uterine tumor, that ended up weighing about 500 grams when it was removed. Size of a large grapefruit. Before it was taken out I was bleeding so much in one hour I lost several clots of blood the size of my hand and was not able to stand up anymore because of how faint I was. Fun times. Right now there’s some minor issues and a small spot of endometriosis but I’m thankfully doing okay.

    Endometriosis is a weird disease, some people have one tiny spot and need opiates for the pain, others have large amounts of tissue in their abdomen and have fairly little pain and symptoms. You can have endometrial tissue in your lungs even – and start coughing up blood periodically.

    Oh and for who wants to track their periods, I like the app Clue. No gendered language and a very informative and inclusive website too. If I go to my gynacologist I just show her my phone with all of the statistics. Very convenient.

  9. Thank the Goddess I’m now past all that but I. Suffered. So. Much. from the age of 9 to 53. And I also so felt alone and of no importance to the medical profession.

    I calculate that in total I lost three years of my life to intense pain. So I feel you, and I’m so grateful that you’re talking about this to break that ridiculous cycle of misinformation and neglect.

  10. Re: Kayla’s part, for me sleeping helps with period pain, too! 🙂 If my cramps are bad, I’ve found that lying in bed, sleeping/dozing and moving as little as possible is about the best thing I can do. Unfortunately it’s not always possible to do that, e.g. I once had an important math exam on the first day of my period (which for me is generally the worst day in terms of pain). Not fun.

    Thankfully, most of my periods aren’t too painful, but I do have some experience with crying, vomiting, and (almost) fainting from period cramps ☹ So I’m sending virtual hugs to everyone who experiences that level of pain every month ❤🩸

  11. Thanks for sharing about this!

    A couple of thoughts: I have developed no shame letting my school principal know that I’m taking a day for cycle pain. It should be normalized!

    Also, so glad to hear that folks are finding treatment for endo. Ask your Docs about Orilissa – it’s a non-hormonal, hormone blocker and it’s been a dream for me. It’s new and only FDA approved for a 2 yr treatment right now. It might be a good option for someone (like me) who is adverse to IDUs and the pill.

  12. wow! i wonder if i have the ovulating pain thing!?! i always thought it was gi related, but! now i am so curious.

    i have had great success with motherwort tincture for making cramps and the whole period experience more mild and manageable. i think many generations preceding us relied on plants to even things out over our hormonal cycles and much of that knowledge is lost. on that note the book “this is yr brain on birth control” was suuuper validating about how the medical system knows next to nothing about how our hormonal cycles affect us, so we all gotta find our own way !

    plus one for cups (smallest size anywhere!) just not working for me and that being frustrating!

  13. woof, my main issue is PMDD mood swings and near constant mograines (both of which are much more manageable now due to monophasic birth confrol and triptans), but i sometimes get random bouts of extreme abdominal pain and nausea and like, stop digesting food? like I’ll eat pizza on Wednesday night and barf up undigested pizza 24 hours later while thinking “i KNOW i chewed more than that”

    and i just called it gastroparesis…

    but now I’m like:

    is it actually endometriosis??

    when it first started i went to a gynocologist for an ultrasound thinking i had cysts and he refused to give me a pap smear because i was “too low risk” and kept referencing my “history of drug use” even after I explained that I didn’t have track marks, I had blown several IVs from my last extreme abdominal pain ER visit after the nurse refused to heed my advice re: pediatric needle size

    never did get that ultrasound, either

    • Was there a clear connection in timing to your cycle? (Harder to tell now you’re on monophasic birth control.) If not, endometriosis as a cause seems very unlikely as a cause for gastroparesis. If there is, I’m still having a hard time making a connection on a biomedical level between the two that can explain it. Most often the cause of gastropareseis is unknown unfortunally. Hope you can find something that helps!

      • it happened either when I ovulated or right around my period, but some people think that gastroparesis can be effected by hormone levels. The pain was intense – came in waves and had me doubled over.

        It’s murky because this was also around the time when I started getting lax about being vegan, but I think it mostly had to do with supplements I was taking to help with my hormonal migraines, which can raise progestin levels? I didn’t get a migraine for three months – incredible!! – but then the stomach thing started.

        I still have a Weird Stomach and now I throw up everytime I get a head cold?? Also the summer of 2019 I ended up in the ER with colitis when everyone else just barfed for two days so who the fuck knows?? Didn’t have insurance so I didn’t come back for the biopsy they wanted to do on my insides ~~~

        So basically now I just get panic attacks when I feel even remotely nauseated

  14. Thank you so much for talking about this! I always tell people that I’ve been in a violent car accident (as a pedestrian, smashed between cars, jaws of life had to pull me free) and I’ve had terrible periods, and I’ve preferred the car accident. It took a decade of doctors not believing me to finally get a diagnosis of hormonally induced abdominal migraines, which I was told ‘no one really knows much about’. Maybe it’s caused by a cyst or fibroid? It’s like if food poisoning and a migraine had a baby, and my favorite symptom feels like nausea radiating through my arms and legs. I’ve had multiple occasions where I had to immediately lay down wherever I was, even if I was walking on a public sidewalk (true story!). The only thing I’ve found that helps is taking massive amounts of ibuprofen the second I get my first PMS symptoms (crying at random commercials) and continuing for the ~3 days before my period starts and the ~3 more days until the worst of my symptoms are over. I always have the 1,000 count bottle of ibuprofen on hand and if anyone ever tried to take it from me I’d probably fight them to the death.

  15. Thank you so much for this article, it made me feel so much less alone re: Horrible Horrible Pain and also not being able to use menstrual cups. I feel so bad that I’m still using disposable pads but my vagina just refuses to accept a menstrual cup without Cirque de Soleil contortions and the thought of carrying a dirty fabric pad in my bag, even if it’s turned inside out and secured in a ziploc, makes me feel vaguely sick.
    On that note, my favorite (sarcasm) period symptom is the Horrible Unending Nausea that I get during the first day and then again for a day or two after it ends. Granted my body generally reacts to anything happening by trying to turn itself inside out but this is extra bad. (Though it did bond me with my grad school bestie who got me a paper towel and held my hair when she walked in on me puking in the library bathroom.)

  16. The effects of CBD vary from user to user, mainly depending on the reasons the user uses it. It is reported that those who use CBD oil to treat pain, especially pain caused by inflammation, quickly feel noticeable effects when taking enough CBD oil.

  17. Great article! I agree with Elisabeth’s comment above. My parents use CBD oil to help with arthritis pain and it works like a charm. Most doctors would prescribe pain relievers that they eventually got addicted to before discovering that they can easily replace them with

    The best part is, you never develop a tolerance to it. I have no idea why or how but it is one of the best things about it. If you don’t develop a tolerance, you will never get addicted to it.

  18. Thank you for this very important topic! I am so sorry all of you have had and are having such horrible painful ordeals! The medical world is so fucked and doesn’t give a shot about women, other ppl with uteruses, or trans ppl. No research, no diagnoses, no treatments, no cures. And often no understanding and no empathy.
    I had a few years of stabbing pain in my vagina/cervix that would get worse if I moved. It was scary and just so horribly painful. I got the endometriosis/birth control pills response and was like, fuck no, I’m a lesbian, and just suffered until I went to an acupuncturist/herbologist. I was afraid of the pain of needles so she prescribed herbs and I drank the horrible tasting tea for several months maybe one year and my symptoms gradually went away. I was also doing intensive therapy and healing work in recovery from childhood sexual abuse and I still believe it was connected. I think the pain could have been flashbacks of rape. There’s no way to know, and the pain never came back, so I’m just grateful that something worked.
    I hope everyone suffering gets excellent care and treatment and a cure!

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