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Ugh. Nothing makes you want to curl up in a ball and stay under the duvet all day more than a heavy, painful period.

Why is this happening to me, you may think. Well, we’re here to make sense of your heavy, painful periods and indicate when it’s totally normal and when to reach out for help. (The medical kind, not the chocolate ice cream and romcom kind…)

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1 Some pain is normal!

First things first. Period cramps are normal. Period pain is caused by a substance released by your body called prostaglandins.

They make your uterus contract so that it squeezes out its lining – aka your menstrual fluid. These contractions are what you feel when you have period cramps.

The intensity of your period cramps can vary from month to month, and even from day to day of your period.

Many girls experience their most intense period pain and heaviest flow on the first day of their periods and then notice that their period pain tends to taper off gradually over the rest of their period.

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2 But what if my periods are really painful?

No one should suffer excruciating period pain. Really severe period pain isn’t something that should be ignored. If you find that you experience extreme period pain that is significantly disrupting your day-to-day life, you may have a condition called dysmenorrhea.

How do I tell the difference between normal pain and extreme pain?

Regular cramps feel like mild to average, prolonged pain in your lower abdomen, lower back, and even your upper legs.

Severe period pain and extreme cramps are the ones that keep you home from school or work on a regular basis or that don’t respond to over-the-counter pain killers.

A severe period pain on the first day of your period can be caused by a medical problem. In these cases - you may want to consult your doctor.

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3 What can I do to help reduce the pain?

Staying warm can help your muscles loosen up and relax, instead of cramping up and causing intense period pain. Try cuddling up with a warm water bottle, wearing sweats, or snuggling under the duvet.

Staying hydrated also helps counteract extreme period pain. Bloating can make period pain feel more intense. Drinking lots of water reduces bloating by flushing out excess retained liquid from your body. Be sure to increase your water consumption during your period for some extra relief.

Surprisingly, light exercise and stretching can also help with painful periods. Exercise not only loosens up and relaxes your muscles, it also releases endorphins – your body’s very own feel-good messenger molecules that actually change the way our brains perceive pain.

Cool, huh? It doesn’t need to be really intense. A brisk walk or some light yoga may do the trick. Listen to your body and do what you can.

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4 What protection to use for heavy, painful periods?

Having a heavy, painful period – though an all-around unpleasant experience – can be just a regular part of being a menstruating human being.

[Always Ultra sanitary towels] (/en-gb/feminine-products/sanitary-towels/always-ultra/) come in a whole range of sizes and absorbencies for 100% leakage protection no matter how heavy or painful your period.

Always Ultra pads turn menstrual liquid into gel and gel can’t leak, so you stay dry, comfortable, and confident on your period.

Take comfort in the fact that it’s something that half the population experiences. It means you’re growing up.

Pick out the right Always Ultra pad for your flow, grab some chocolate and some crisps, and cuddle up on the couch in your sweats with the rest of us.