I've heard that menstrual cramps are supposed to get better with age, but so far, that hasn't happened. Now, at age 28, my cramps are just as bad as they were when I was 13.
I did take birth control pills (oral contraceptives) for over 10 years, and they helped a lot.. My period lessened and the cramps disappeared. However, now I'm not taking them, and it's been awhile* since I've stopped them, and it seems like my PMS is back big time. Not only do I have the pain, but I also have breast tenderness on the days before my period and sometimes diarrhea along with the cramps.
I used to wonder if the birth control pills were causing some of my bipolar symptoms, and basically the answer seems to be no. The only times when they worsened the mood disorder is when I took the generic instead of the brand name, and when I tried the patch. But for most of those 10 years, I had bipolar disorder and it wasn't the birth control pills causing it.
Like most women, I do have some moodiness associated with PMS. A little more emotional, but for me it's usually not disastrous.
I tried taking Natrol PMS Control for two cycles, and unfortunately, it didn't help with the cramps at all. It did help with my mood some. Looking at its ingredients, I see that it has St. John's Wort in it, which is a natural anti-depressant, so I've ditched the useless PMS formulation, and I've been trying a little bit of St John's Wort by itself... It seems to help when I feel down.
As I said, my PMS mood problem isn't usually severe, but this month the timing coincided with an external stressor, and I did feel really down for at least a day. In response, I took St. John's Wort, Methyl B12, and Magnesium, and that all seemed to help.
So I am still looking for a natural or at least over-the-counter medicine or supplement for cramps. I am taking ibuprofen, which works, but only at high doses, and I'd rather not take such a high dose. I don't exceed the 24 hour limit of 3200mg, but the high dose makes me feel tired and out of it. Plus I am concerned about other side effects. If anyone knows an alternative let me know.
I've read that avoiding dairy before your period can make cramps less, and I think I might have to give that a try next month.
* When your body is used to birth control pills, it takes awhile for your body to go back to normal after stopping them. Any doctor who says that your period will return to normal immediately is wrong. From my experience, it can take well over a year before your body returns to normal.