I used to suffer from period cramps so painful, I couldn't even move. They also came on so suddenly that I found myself in difficult situations, like being at school or work and unable to get up from my chair. For a while, I used a prescription painkiller to combat my debilitating cramps. It worked, but understandably, my doctor's office eventually updated their guidelines to only prescribe this drug if a patient has had surgery. I tried going on the pill next, and while it also worked, it wasn't a long-term solution for me. For starters, I didn't want to prevent pregnancy.
Eventually, I did get pregnant. My period came back just seven weeks after I gave birth, but this time, without the pain. In fact, breastfeeding seemed to erase my cramps. It wasn't until my baby weaned that the cramps came back with a vengeance. Because birth control pills and nursing a baby both helped ease the pain, I knew there had to be some sort of hormonal solution to this problem, but I wasn't sure what. Then, one day my doctor prescribed magnesium for an unrelated reason — migraines — and I finally found something that worked.
The magnesium didn't help my migraines, but it did help my cramps. My period has become largely pain-free since I started taking it daily. Although I do experience some discomfort over the first two days of my cycle, it's much less severe. Curious about the connection, I reached out to board-certified ob-gyn Ruth Arumala, DO, MPH, NCMP, to learn more.
Can Magnesium Help Soothe Period Cramps?
Dr. Arumala explained that she often prescribes magnesium supplements to patients who suffer from primary dysmenorrhea, or recurring cramps that are unrelated to a disease such as endometriosis. She noted that many menstruators who experience dysmenorrhea are actually have a magnesium deficiency, which can cause painful periods.
When taken regularly, magnesium can work both to relax the muscles that cause cramps and as an overall pain reliever. "Magnesium causes relaxation of the uterine smooth muscl, which decreases prostaglandin-mediated lower back and pelvic pain during menses," Dr. Arumala told POPSUGAR. "It also blocks receptors which primarily act to promote pain via the central nervous system, leading to an overall decrease in pain hypersensitivity."
How Much Magnesium Should I Take to Relieve Period Pain?
While you should always consult your doctor before beginning a supplement, Dr. Arumala explained that she typically suggests 250 milligrams of magnesium daily to combat painful cramps. However, she noted that you can also get more magnesium directly from your diet, by eating plenty of leafy greens and seeds. If this doesn't help, you should see your doctor, who can help you get to the bottom of your painful cramps. "This could be a sign of an anatomical cause, such as fibroids, adenomyosis, or endometriosis," Dr. Arumala explained.