Ow. Cramps. What did women do before Midol, etc.?

See title. :wink:

I just finished a bowl of chocolate ice cream, and I feel moderately better.

But what about our foremothers, who didn’t have chocolate or painkillers?

I read a (fiction) book where the girls (1800s era) were expected to rest during their time of the month. Counting PMS, I would be out of commission 7 days a month!

Help fight my ignorance, please! :slight_smile:


I wondered about this myself.

I have the super-cramps from hell, even with daily hormonal medicine. I can’t imagine how I would have survived back then.

Alcohol, various herbal remedies, heating pads.




Laudanum (bolding added).

They toughed it out. They played hurt. Same as they did before Ibuprofin, chemotherapy, Root canals, etc.

Prolly one of these helped…

I’d vote for that. We’ve had a couple of cousins write up family trees. If you go back 100 years, you’ll find women who had eight to twelve children. But if you go back 200 years, you’ll find a few who had eighteen. That doesn’t leave much down time.

When I was a teen, I was told to take aspirin, or I was told that menstrual pain was all in my head.

I’ll tell you something my wonderful gynecologist told me long ago, when I had heinous cramps regularly. It really works.

Cramps are caused, in part, by the contractions of the uterus trying to get a clot out of the cervix. (Clotting is natural. The cervix is pretty much pinhole-sized.)

So here’s what you do: make one hand flat and stiff, as if to deliver a karate chop. Put the inside edge of the hand against your abdomen, just above the pubis bone. (you can easily feel this bone, it goes to about six inches up from your crotch. The idea is to not have it in the way, but to be as close to it as you can.)

Now take your other hand, and push the karate hand in firmly. It’s not necessary to hold it; you might want to do it more than once.

This pushes the clot out. It doesn’t hurt. Do be prepared for increased flow, for obvious reasons.

I’ll echo what has been said above.

Back in the covered wagon days, when I was a young 'un, the remedy for headaches and cramps was the almighty APC. Aspirin+phenacetin+caffeine. Wonderful stuff. The FDA removed phenacetin from the market when there was evidence the stuff destroyed kidneys.

Consider the APC to be the forerunner to Excedrin, which is aspirin+acetaminophen+caffeine.

Aspirin, which is the original NSAID, is effective for cramps but CAN make you bleed more.

Before APCs, of course, there were hot water bottles and hootch.

Early 19th century boasted Lydia Pinkham’s Compound, which was a patent medicine marketed to women. Its big ingredient was laudanum, which is an opium derivative. Lydia Pinkham’s became famous not only for the comforts it gave to women themselves, but babies given a slug of Lydia’s slept soundly. Women who worked in factory sweat shops would dope up the kids before going to work, and then sip on a bottle of Lydia’s throughout the working day.

When the US Government exposed patent medicines, Lydia Pinkham’s Compound was re-formulated to an herbal concoction containing iron. I don’t know if it’s still available today.

Many herbal teas have pain relieving and anti-spasmodic qualities. Willow bark tea was probably a popular selection for cramps. It contains a natural aspirin-type ingredient.

At least one pregnancy can provide considerable relief from cramps. It was theorized that the stretching of the womb “killed off” the nerve endings that caused the pain from cramps. Or perhaps the experience of labor gave a woman a pain comparison?

Looking back, the absence of ovulation during pregnancy and its resultant hormone fluctuation probably allowed any endometrial tissue to slough away.

I’ve recently discovered chocolate wine. OMG. I bet it works wonderfully on PMS and cramps. Since that part of my life is over now, I’ll raise a glass or two in the spirit of sisterhood for my fellow cramp sufferers.

This would explain why, when I have cramps and Mr. Horseshoe gives me a belly rub, it helps. He’s learned to do this slow, deep movement into my abdomen - I bet it accomplishes much the same thing.

Inside edge of the hand (thumb-side), or outside edge of the hand? Inside edge seems rather contortionistic (if that’s even a word).

This sounds like the same type of treatment the nurses do to newly-delivered moms, to make the uterus clamp down. I call it the “Let’s see if we can make it shoot to the end of the bed” maneuver.

I doubt they were nearly so prone to them, what with more pregnancies, lactation amenorrhea, and a much higher activity level. I had terrible cramps for years, I changed my diet which helped, but exercise has really been the key for me. I hardly get cramps at all now that I am biking up to 80 miles per week on top of working an active job, walking my dogs and doing some yoga. Of course I also spend plenty of time sitting or lying with my computer. :wink: I don’t think most of us can even imagine how CONSTANT the labor was for many of the women in our recent family trees.

As other posters said, non-NSAID painkillers and/or suffering were the only options.

Inside (thumb-having) edge of the hand, palm facing down. I guess you’re pretty much pushing the heel of your hand plus your thumb into your abdomen, and down.

Aha, okay, got it. I was envisioning keeping the thumb AWAY from the rest of the hand, and it seemed difficult to do! But by keeping the thumb close to the hand, you are nearly mimicking the technique used by the Labor and Delivery nurses.

And I can see why that would be VERY effective!

I would dissuade any woman from trying this little trick if she has an IUD. There could be a chance of dislodging it or even expelling it.

My mom gave me half a shot of whiskey mixed with coca-cola.

It’s all gone downhill from there.

(Actually I use birth control pills and can highly recommend Lutera - my periods are less than 3 days and this past one was only a day. Still get the cramps though.))