Midol Vs Ibuprofen: Which Is Better For Period Cramps?

Menstruation can be a pain for those who experience it — literally. Every month, the female body prepares itself to go through pregnancy by expelling an egg from the ovaries. In the event that the egg is not fertilized, pregnancy does not occur, and the uterus sheds its lining during the menstrual period. During this period — which can last up to seven days, on average — people often experience a range of symptoms, including cramping, bloating, and nausea. However, the pain that comes with menstruation varies, depending on the individual. In some cases, period cramps can interfere with daily life. This leads many to turn to over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, to cope during their period. Some medicines, like Midol, claim to be specifically formulated to target menstruation symptoms, but are they better than alternatives like ibuprofen?

Midol is categorized as an analgesic combination drug, as explained by Drugs.com. This means that while it contains a pain-killing ingredient (in this case, it is acetaminophen), it includes other ingredients and does not cause sleepiness. Ibuprofen is categorized as a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), according to Drugs.com. NSAIDs relieve pain in addition to inflammation. The best OTC for period cramps often varies, depending on the person. However, ibuprofen targets the cause of the pain.

How ibuprofen and Midol work in the body

Ibuprofen is an NSAID, which means that it is designed to block cyclooxygenase, a protein in the body. Cyclooxygenase is essential to the development of a chemical in the body known as prostaglandin. Prostaglandins create inflammation, meaning that ibuprofen as an NSAID can reduce it and relieve period pain. However, this doesn't mean that Midol would be ineffective in alleviating menstruation pain.

Midol primarily includes acetaminophen for pain relief, which is not an NSAID, but can still be effective. Acetaminophen works by blocking chemicals in the brain that are responsible for the body feeling pain. Different variations of Midol also include ingredients, such as caffeine and pyrilamine. The combination is meant to target multiple symptoms that come with menstruation, such as bloating and fatigue.

With all of this in mind, it can be difficult to name a one-size-fits-all medicine for period cramp pain, as the level of discomfort varies depending on the person.

Understanding the side effects of ibuprofen and Midol

Regardless of whether you choose ibuprofen, Midol, or a different pain reliever for period cramps, it's important to understand the potential side effects. Some of the commonly reported side effects that accompany ibuprofen include hypertension (high blood pressure), hemorrhage, and vomiting. There are also side effects associated with Midol (acetaminophen and pamabrom), including fatigue, stomach pain, hives, swelling, and chest tightness, which may be indicative of an allergic reaction — this may require immediate medical attention.

Before taking any medicine to treat period cramps, it's critical to talk to your doctor to address underlying medical conditions, as well as potential side effects. Some pain relievers, such as acetaminophen, might not be recommended to those who are taking other medications. A doctor can determine which medicine is best for period cramps based on a person's specific health.

If you are experiencing unusual period cramps or other menstrual cycle irregularities, such as bleeding changes, don't hesitate to reach out to your doctor. They can provide you with insight into the causes, as well as any treatment options that may be necessary.