Maybe you’re here
because you’re
experiencing menstrual
cramps. Or perhaps you
want to know how to stop
period cramps. Either
way, you’re in the right
place for a complete
guide to period pain, plus
expert tips on how to
make period cramps go
away (yes, plz!).

What are period cramps?

People often combine period pain and premenstrual syndrome (PMS), but the two aren’t actually the same—PMS can cause symptoms like bloating, irritability, and fatigue, but those usually fade when menstruation begins. Pain or discomfort during your period, like menstrual cramps, is classified as dysmenorrhea. It’s another way of saying “painful periods.”

Menstrual cramps 101

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    But what are period cramps, exactly?

    During the first half of your cycle, your endometrium (mucous membrane lining the uterus) expands to prepare a blood-rich environment for pregnancy. If you aren’t pregnant, your uterine lining sheds (this is your period) and muscles contract to help expel it.

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    How long do period cramps last?

    Anywhere from half a day to three days; the worst pain tends to coincide with your heavy days. Period cramps can last briefly, come and go, or remain persistent. While they are most common during your period, cramps can sometimes occur before it, too.

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    What do period cramps feel like?

    Often described as a deep ache within the lower abdomen, but can radiate into your lower back and legs. Cramps may feel like a dull throb, a sharp stabbing pain, or a combination of both. Period pain is unique for everyone. Some can have debilitating cramps for days, pain on one cycle but not on another, or some may never have cramps at all!

What causes period cramps?

Now you know cramps result from your muscles contracting, but what makes them “cramp”?

The process starts with prostaglandins. A group of hormone-like compounds produced in the uterine lining, they trigger muscle cramps (and not just in the uterus, either). Our prostaglandin levels are often highest early in our menstrual cycles, which is why period cramps tend to worsen the first few days.

Because of this link, the more prostaglandins your body produces, the heavier your bleeding and the severity of cramps will likely be.

What makes period cramps worse?

Nothing causes menstrual cramps other than your body doing its thing, but these may intensify them.

  • Dehydration: Keep a water bottle handy.

  • Your period products: Many of us start to use tampons and never look back... but they may be making your cramps worse (more on that below).

  • Inflammation: Try to eat whole foods and avoid triggers or allergens, like gluten, dairy, or soy.

  • Certain medical conditions: Endometriosis, vaginismus, pelvic inflammatory disease, and vulvodynia can cause severe cramps. If your cramps are debilitating, suddenly increase, or worsen after age 25—contact a healthcare provider ASAP.

To relieve menstrual cramps, try some home remedies like applying heat (heating pad or heating patches) or take Ibuprofen such as, Advil, Naproxen, or Aleve. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) may help, but it’s not as effective relieving pain.

What about tampons and period cramps?

To be clear, we’re not (totally) knocking tampons. They have pros—and some real cons, like the risk for TSS, a tendency to leak, and the potential to make period cramps worse.

Usually made from cotton or a blend of cotton and rayon, tampons are designed to trap and absorb menses within their porous fibers. Tampons expand as they absorb, putting pressure on your vaginal walls. They’re relatively rigid and unable to move with your body when your uterus contracts. Plus, they block the vaginal canal, trapping a little bubble of oxygen internally.

These factors can make your menstrual pain feel worse and for those with medical conditions like vulvodynia or vaginismus, a rigid product that expands isn’t an option.

Why Flex?

At this point you may be asking: What period products are best for cramps? We’d say: Everyone’s vagina is different, but menstrual discs are a better option for those who find that tampons worsen their period pain or who want a more comfortable period.

Menstrual discs: Can they help get rid of period cramps?

Unlike tampons, menstrual discs collect blood instead of absorbing it and they sit in the widest part of the vagina known as the vaginal fornix. The fornix has fewer nerve endings, making it an ultra comfy spot to wear a period product.

Menstrual discs are designed to reduce cramps. In fact, 64% of surveyed Flex Disc users experienced reduced cramps compared to their previous period product. Flex has designed three unique discs: Flex Disc, Flex Reusable Disc, and Flex Plant+ Disc.

P.S. Are you unable to use internally-worn products? Pads and period underwear are also great options.

Why everyone is making the switch

Flex Discs are the all-in-one solution for your period—and they are comfortable, too! Over 97% of surveyed users found Flex Disc more comfortable compared to their previous period products.

Our 3 discs: Flex Disc, Flex Reusable Disc, and Flex Plant+ Disc, offer 12-hour leak protection so you can sleep-in, run, travel, swim, squat, even do some aerobic exercises without worry. Plus, they’re designed to reduce cramps, irritation, even odor!


How do I know if my Flex Disc is
inserted correctly?

You’ll know your Flex Disc is inserted correctly when you don’t feel it internally. In other words, if you can go about your day without feeling Flex Disc, you’re good to go! However, if the disc is uncomfortable or if you’re experiencing lots of leakage, it might not be inserted far enough back. It’s also possible that the front rim might not be tucked behind your pubic bone.

Here's how to check if your disc is inserted correctly: First, wash your hands, and then use a clean finger to try to push your disc further down and back into the vaginal fornix (angled towards the floor). Once the disc is pushed as far back as it will go, make sure to tuck the front rim all the way up behind your pubic bone (think about pulling it up towards your belly button). Still having trouble? Get in touch with our Flexperts for help!

Can I reuse Flex Disc or Flex Plant+ Disc?

Flex Disc and Flex Plant+ Disc are not reusable. Both are disposable, single-use menstrual products that have been tested and approved for up to 12 hours of wear. After 12 hours, you must remove Flex Disc or Plant+ Disc and throw it away. Flex Disc and Flex Plant+ Disc cannot be washed and reinserted. If you are looking for a reusable period product, check out Flex Reusable Disc or Flex Cup!

Can I really use a menstrual disc during sex?

We get it—it’s hard to imagine. How can you wear a menstrual disc and have sex at the same time?! But you totally can, and it’s one of our favorite benefits of using a disc. Here's some more detail: 

The vagina expands and elongates during arousal and intercourse. This allows a menstrual disc to be worn during sexual activities without it getting in the way or coming out. It already sits at the back of the vaginal canal, in the fornix, and it should move well out of the way when you’re turned on and once penetration takes place. 

In other words, a menstrual disc should be comfortable for both you and your partner during period sex—and that includes sex of all kinds (from penetrative to oral). There is a chance that one of you may notice the rim, but there shouldn’t be any pain or irritation. How much you or your partner may feel the disc depends on your position, your anatomy, and your partner’s anatomy. 

Warning: You may have stronger orgasms while wearing a disc! This is because it gently rubs on the cervix during intercourse for additional stimulation. 😉

FYI: Only menstrual discs (Flex Disc, Flex Plant+ Disc, or Flex Reusable Disc) can be worn during penetrative sex. If you’re using a menstrual cup like Flex Cup, you’ll need to remove it beforehand. 

What is the difference between a menstrual disc and a menstrual cup?

Both menstrual discs and cups offer many benefits over traditional period products: They can be worn for up to 12 hours at a time, have a higher capacity and produce less waste than traditional period products, don’t cause dryness or irritation, and are made with biologically inert materials that do not disrupt vaginal pH

What’s the difference between the two?

Menstrual Discs:

A menstrual disc is a flat, flexible period product that collects blood while worn in the vaginal fornix. ICYMI, the vaginal fornix is your vagina’s ‘rear wall’—it’s the widest part of the vagina, just beneath your cervix. Menstrual discs are held in place by the pubic bone. They have a wider diameter than a standard (bell-shaped) menstrual cup, which is worn lower down in the vaginal canal. 

The term ‘menstrual disc’ was coined by Flex Founder & CEO Lauren Schulte Wang in 2016—even before The Flex Company had officially launched. Not long after, Wang acquired Softdisc, a product then known as Instead Softcup and categorized as a menstrual cup. Even in the company’s earliest days, Wang recognized the need to create a distinct category for this unique product. 

Because of their placement in the fornix, menstrual discs do not block the vaginal canal. This helps to alleviate common yet aggravating period symptoms, like cramping and irritation. In 2018, Flex conducted a survey of 357 customers in which the following was reported:

  • 64.67% responded that they had experienced less cramping with Flex Disc compared to their previous period product.

  • 79.94% responded that they had experienced reduced dryness with Flex Disc compared to their previous period product.

  • 86.89% responded that they had experienced less irritation with Flex Disc compared to their previous period product.

The flat fit design also allows menstrual discs to be worn during period sex for an experience that’s completely mess-free. 

Menstrual discs are either disposable or reusable. The first menstrual disc on the market, Softdisc—still a part of the Flex family of brands—is a single-use, disposable product. Flex Disc and Flex Plant+ Disc are also disposable menstrual discs. All disposable discs offered by Flex are made with medical-grade polymers and can be worn for up to 12 hours at a time (after 12 hours, they must be removed and thrown away). 

Flex also offers a sustainable, 100% medical-grade silicone menstrual disc that can be washed and re-worn, just like a menstrual cup: Flex Reusable Disc. The Reusable Disc lasts for years and simply needs to be cleaned with a mild soap or cleanser in between wears and prior to storing. 

Menstrual cups:

Menstrual cups, on the other hand, are always reusable. Most are made with silicone (Flex Cup is made with 100% medical-grade silicone, just like Flex Reusable Disc). There are hundreds of menstrual cups on the market today—but all are not created equal. 

Menstrual cups, including Flex Cup, are worn in the vaginal canal (the same place a tampon sits) and are held in place with suction. To insert a menstrual cup, you can use one of several different types of folds, like the “C fold,” shown below. To insert a menstrual disc, you simply pinch it in half. Both products pop back open once inserted, creating a seal that helps to prevent leaks. 

When it comes time to remove your menstrual cup, it’s important to “break the seal” and release the suction before pulling it out. Traditional menstrual cups must be removed by inserting two fingers, gripping the base of the cup, and pinching to manually break the seal. Flex Cup is the only period cup in the world that features a patented pull-tab that breaks the seal for you—so removing your cup is as easy as pulling out a tampon. 

Flex Cup is available in two sizes; Flex menstrual discs are available in one size designed to fit most vaginas. Keep in mind that only menstrual discs can be worn during penetrative sex; cups must be removed before sex. 

Have any other questions? We've got answers! Reach out to us at—we're happy to help!