Effective pills for relieving period cramps

While people who do not want to get pregnant often look forward to seeing their menstrual cycles, many of them dread seeing their periods. We share some period cramp relief medications that can help you get through some painful periods.

Woman combining postinor 2 and ampiclox medications

Key takeaways:

  • Some common period cramp relief pills include ibuprofen, piroxicam, and diclofenac. They are mostly NSAIDs that are also taken as general pain relievers.
  • Not everyone that sees their period will require a cramp relief pill. People who experience little or no discomfort during their period may not need medication.
  • Irrespective of whether you are taking an over-the-counter or prescription medication, it is safer to speak to your doctor first to get their opinion. A physician will be in a better position to recommend medication after checking your medical history.

Sometimes, periods come and go, causing only a little or no discomfort. But, some people often experience painful menstruation, making it difficult to go about their daily activities. Pain experienced during the menstrual cycle is part of the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, sometimes referred to as period flu.  

During your menstrual flow, the womb wall starts to contract more vigorously to help the womb shed its lining as blood. The contraction compresses the blood vessels lining the womb. This act temporarily cuts off the blood and oxygen supply to the womb.

Without oxygen, the tissues in the womb release a chemical that triggers pain. While this happens (releasing pain-triggering chemicals), prostaglandins are produced, which causes the womb muscles to contract even more, further increasing the pain level.

Health experts are uncertain why some people have more period pain than others. It may be that those who experience more intense pain have a build-up of prostaglandins, which causes them to experience stronger contractions.

Aside from adopting some period cramp hacks, some medications could help relieve this pain, making it more bearable. Most of these pills are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). NSAIDs are a therapeutic drug class that reduces pain by preventing or stopping the production of substances and chemicals responsible for the pain.

For period pain, NSAIDs reduce the production of prostaglandins which is responsible for the pain. It also decreases inflammation and fever and prevents blood clots.

Sometimes, doctors prescribe medications to help people experiencing severe menstrual cramps. The following are examples of some period cramp relief pills.

1. Piroxicam

Piroxicam, an oxicam derivative, is an NSAID known by the brand name Feldin. It helps relieve period pain by preventing the production of endogenous prostaglandins in mediating pain, stiffness, tenderness, and swelling. Generally, it stops the body's production of the substance that causes pain, fever, and inflammation.

2. Hyoscine

Hyoscine, usually known by its brand name, Buscopan, is an anticholinergic medication used to treat crampy abdominal pain, esophageal spasms, renal colic, and bladder spasms. It is also very effective for painful menstruation.

3. Diclofenac

Diclofenac is also an NSAID that works by reducing substances in the body that cause pain and inflammation. It treats mild to moderate pain and, therefore, can be taken as a menstrual pain relief pill.

Diclofenac come in brand names such as Cambia, Zipsor, Zorvolex, Cataflam, Voltaren, Voltaren-XR, and Dyloject. Even though their brands are different, they all have the same mechanism of action.

There are cases where you need not take this drug. For instance, people with a history of allergic reactions to aspirin or NSAIDs should not take diclofenac, as it increases the risk of fatal heart attack or stroke, especially when taken long-term or in high doses. People should take diclofenac only when their doctor prescribes it.

4. Ibuprofen

Ibuprofen is a common period cramp relief pill. It is an NSAID that can relieve pain caused by cramps by blocking the production of prostaglandins in your body. This means that they target the cause of menstrual cramps. It could come in brand names such as Advil, Motrin, IB, General, and Proprinal.

They are NSAIDs that work by reducing hormones that cause inflammation and pain in the body. It is also used to reduce fever and treat pain or inflammation caused by symptoms and health conditions, such as headaches, toothaches, back pain, arthritis, menstrual cramps, or minor injuries.

Unlike Diclofenac, Ibuprofen is available over the counter (OTC). This means you can buy it at your local pharmacy without a doctor's prescription. However, people should not misuse Ibuprofen, as excess or prolonged intake of the medication can lead to stomach ulcers.

5. Meclofenamate

Meclofenamate, also an NSAID. It is used to reduce swelling and treat pain, and can also work as a pain-relief pill for painful menstruation. It may be used to treat osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

6. Naproxen

Naproxen is the generic name of a period cramp relief pill with brand names such as EC-Naprosyn, Flanax Pain Reliever, Aleve, Naprelan, and Midol Extended Relief.

It is also an NSAID that reduces hormones that cause inflammation and pain in the body. It is used to treat pain or inflammation caused by conditions such as arthritis and menstrual cramps.

It can also treat acute pain caused by other conditions not listed in this medication guide but is best taken with a doctor's prescription.

7. Ketoprofen

Ketoprofen is the generic name for NSAIDs with brand names such as Orudis, Oruvail, Actron, and Orudis KT. It is used to treat pain or inflammation caused by arthritis.

The regular capsule is also used to treat mild to moderate pain or menstrual pain. Only ketoprofen extended-release capsules are used for treating arthritis. This form of ketoprofen will not work fast enough to treat acute (immediate) pain.

Hormonal birth control pills that can help relieve period cramps

While contraceptives are mostly prescribed to people who do not want to get pregnant, sometimes they can help relieve period cramps. Some come as pills, while others come as rings and patches. Some hormonal birth control methods that can help relieve period cramps include:

Combination contraceptive pills

Birth control pills containing estrogen and progestin relieve period pain more effectively. This is because both hormones have been linked to preventing pain.

Taking pills that contain both hormones (called combination hormonal birth control pills), without breaks, will likely improve pain better than taking pills on a regular cycle (21 days of active pills, with a 7-day break). An example of a combination birth control pill is Levofem.

Progestin-only contraceptive pill

These are birth control pills that contain only progestin. Progestin-only pills can be used to treat gynecologic conditions, such as endometriosis, and may help reduce period pain. However, no current research has studied whether progestin-only birth control pills affect period pain.

Hormonal IUD

Studies suggest that progestin-releasing intrauterine devices decrease period pain compared to copper IUDs or no treatment at all.

Birth control or vaginal rings

The progestin-releasing vaginal ring can lessen period pain. The ring and the patch can make periods lighter, more predictable, and less painful. You can also use the pill, patch, and ring to skip your periods safely.

Can dietary and lifestyle changes help relieve period cramps?

A healthy dietary lifestyle can help relieve menstrual cramps. Eating foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes, and seeds naturally decreases inflammation, reducing menstrual cramps.

These foods contain vitamins and other chemicals in their natural state that relieve menstrual cramps. It would be best to reduce or completely avoid salt and caffeine, as they cause fluid retention, abdominal bloating, breast swelling, and pain. High caffeine intake can cause irritability, poor sleep, and severe menstrual cramps.

Mild exercises like yoga and brisk walks are also helpful for cramps because they are activities that release hormones that are beneficial to the body, especially weeks before or during your period.

Where to buy period cramp relief pills in Nigeria

Period cramp medications can be bought in pharmacies, especially over-the-counter pills, and hospitals. For any medication you decide to go for, always seek a doctor's opinion first.

Wrap up

If you experience severe pain and cramps during your period, you may want to try out cramp relief pills. Keep in mind that most of these medications are pain-relieving. They don't make the pain disappear completely, but they make it bearable.

Also, it's hard to know what type of hormonal contraception works best for period pain and how these treatments compare to other medical and non-medical treatments. Even if a treatment works for some or most people, it might not work for you. That is why seeking a healthcare professional's advice or opinion should always come first.


  1. Nobuaki Ishihama, Seung-won Choi, & co (2020). Oxicam-type nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs inhibit NPR1-mediated salicylic acid pathway
  2. Better Health Channel (2021). Medications - non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  3. Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (n.d). Using foods against menstrual pain
  4. The women's the royal women's hospital (n.d). Exercise, diet & periods
  5. Center For Young Women's Health (2022). PCOS: the oral contraceptive pill
  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2021). Contraception
  7. Planned Parenthood (n.d). What are the benefits of the birth control ring?
  8. Robert F Casper (2017). Progestin-only pills may be a better first-line treatment for endometriosis than combined estrogen-progestin contraceptive pills