Awww, poor girl.
Almost all women have discomfort that time of the month; menstrual pain is (unfortunately) normal. One in every two women has some pain and discomfort during their period for one to two days every month, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
Common menstrual issues like pain and cramps are treatable.
However, some women have more intense menstrual pain that disrupts normal activity. This condition is known as dysmenorrhea. Worldwide, there are women and girls who miss school and work due to it. Thankfully, even the severe cases can be managed.
Symptoms of dysmenorrhea
Before we can talk about treatment and management of dysmenorrhea, it’s important to know the difference between normal and severe menstrual cramps. Pain in the lower stomach that is throbbing, as well as aches in the lower back and thighs, are common symptoms.
However, for some women, the pain is accompanied by nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea, headaches, and dizziness. Understanding the causes of pain is essential for the right prescription.
Main causes of pain
In preparation for pregnancy, a lining of the uterus is formed. If the egg is not fertilised, the body starts shedding the lining. It does this by contracting the uterus to force it out, thus the pain and bleeding. The contractions vary from woman to woman. Some are so severe, that they constrict blood vessels feeding the uterus, which results in intense pain.
- Sexually transmitted bacterial infections known as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) can result in very painful periods.
- The growth of tissue that lines the uterus elsewhere may cause severe pain. This can be in the fallopian tubes, ovaries, or tissue lining the pelvis. These conditions are known as endometriosis.
- Another similar condition is adenomyosis, where uterus tissue grows in the muscular walls of the uterus.
- Another major cause especially here in Africa is fibroids; noncancerous growths in the wall of the uterus. Fibroids are a major health concern in Kenya.
- Some women have a very narrow opening of the cervix (Cervical stenosis) which hinders the menstrual flow, resulting in pressure in the uterus and pain.
- Genetics could also play a part. Women with a family history of dysmenorrhea are more likely to have the same condition than those without.
What you can do to reduce pain
- Sex and exercise are a great place to start; both activities help alleviate pain by releasing pain-killing-feel-good chemicals known as endorphins.
- Over-the-counter painkillers can relieve pain.
- Heat therapy is another option for those who don't want to use drugs. Placing a hot water bottle on the lower abdomen or soaking in a hot bath can help with the pain.
- Avoid alcohol and smoking, as they can make cramps worse. Stress can also increase the intensity of menstrual pain.
- Some birth control methods contain hormones that stop ovulation, therefore reducing menstrual pain. This must be prescribed by a doctor, as birth control could have many unwanted side effects.
- After childbirth most women have less cramping and pain subsides.
When to see a doctor
In most cases menstrual cramps lessen with time, thus there is no need to see a gynaecologist. However, if the cramps are disrupting your day-to-day life, then you must visit your doctor. Especially for girls who enter puberty at 11 years or younger.
Also, any woman who bleeds excessively (soaks at least one pad an hour for several hours), as well as those with irregular periods need to see a professional.
If you have severe cramps for more than three days, and if you have a fever or have unusual discharge and/or foul smell you should see a doctor. The same goes for menstruation longer than a week and passing of blood clots.
What is your go-to remedy to relieve period pain? Share your wisdom below or on our Facebook pages, Love Matters Kenya and Naija. For period trouble, head to our discussion board.