When you have children, you won’t have cramps anymore. That’s what my mother used to tell me as I sat bent over double, sharp pains slicing through my lower abdomen. Every 28 days, waves of hurt would leave me gasping. Gynecologists never found anything wrong; it was just “cramps.” They’d get better when I grew up and had a family. Except I didn’t.
From age 13 to menopause at age 53, I suffered horrible cramps. My best friend stayed home when she got her period, but my mom did not believe in babying me. I took those cramps to school and work. I suffered through algebra tests and physical education classes, through interviews and deadlines.
You might say, “Why didn’t you just take something for it?” I took what was available at the time. Aspirin did nothing. We took the ’70s version of Midol, really just aspirin with caffeine, which wasn’t much help either. I tried getting drunk, which left me bombed and still hurting. I didn’t just need a pain reliever; I needed an “anti-inflammatory” drug. Ibuprofen was not available until near the end of my first marriage. And then I needed a prescription. The first time I felt the relief from that miracle drug, I couldn’t believe it. I wanted to hug my doctor. And when it became available over-the-counter, oh my God. I still experienced cramps, but at least I could do something to mute them a little.
What I’m saying is my cramps were horrible, and I never experienced the permanent relief that childbirth might bring. Toward the end of her life, my mother confessed that she had never had cramps, so she didn’t know what I had been feeling or whether giving birth to me made any difference for her.
Dysmenorrhea is the formal medical term for painful periods. The sharp pains are caused by the uterine muscle constricting and tightening. Most experts say that the stretching of childbirth eases the cramps. An article at Parents.com http://www.parents.com/pregnancy/my-body/changing/benefits-of-pregnancy/ suggests that childbirth eliminates some of the prostaglandin receptor sites in the uterus. Prostaglandins are the hormones which direct the uterus to contract during labor and may also be involved in monthly menstrual pain.
If there’s something wrong, such as endometriosis, periods can become absolute agony. It’s important to get medical treatment, but for plain old cramps, the only hope seems to be medication and motherhood.
I’m no medical expert. I have read comments online from women whose periods have gotten worse after pregnancy, but in general it seems to offer relief—relief we will not experience if we never have children.
Doesn’t seem fair, does it? Have you experienced killer cramps? Have you seen relief via childbirth? I would love to hear your experiences in this area.
BTW, menopause was a picnic compared to my monthly periods and now my cramps are gone, so that’s something to look forward to.
Male readers, I know this is one of the girl subjects you don’t want to hear about, but maybe someone you love is having cramps right now. Give her some love. They hurt like hell.
5 thoughts on “Sometimes childlessness physically hurts”
When I was 20, a GP told me that my cramps would go away when I had a baby.
When I finally hit menopause, I remember thinking, ‘What? I went through all that for *nothing*?’
Thanks for talking about this! Yes, I had horrible cramps too as a childless woman. My cycle was even shorter than 28 days, too. Nobody ever gave a crap when I specifically pointed out that a pregnancy would bring such relief. They all said pregnancy is bad for your body, pregnancy brings more pain. Umm, bs! I just had a baby four weeks ago and it was a breeze. The delivery was made easier due to medical help, and I’m nearly back to feeling normal. So it’s too soon to tell with the cramps, but I don’t care. Everyone was wrong!
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I also had severe cramps growing up. My mother always said they would get better after I had a baby. About 10 years ago, my doctor retired and his replacement noticed fresh chemical burns on my abdomen. Heat helps relieve cramps, and monthly I burned myself with those hand warmer things by using too many for too long, but oh they felt so good when the heat soaked in. The doctor was shocked by how much ibuprofen I was using and put me on a continuous pill. I have not had a period in 10ish years. Yes, it’s wierd, but surviving the cramps was wrecking my body. I never did have a baby. Now my husband is disabled, I’m 40, and the time will never be right. Anyway, talk to your doctor. They can help with severe cramps.
Chap, thank you for sharing this. I made myself sick with Ibuprofen trying to conquer the cramps. The doctor suggested way too high a dose and my stomach couldn’t take it. One should definitely see a doctor for problems with cramps, and if their advice seems wrong, seek another opinion. One of the great things about menopause=no more cramps.
Use birth control. That will solve the problem. In fact, some forms of birth control cause you to NOT have periods (Depo Provera, birth control pills taken continuously without the sugar pills). This is known to be completely safe. Do it! You’ll love it.