Why Does Period Pain Ruin My Day?

Period pain is often accompanied by a wide range of symptoms that endeavour to make life more difficult.  Not only are you feeling stomach cramps but you are also bloated, tired, irritable, feeling low and bleeding.  All of which can certainly ruin the enjoyment of any day. The medical term for period pain is dysmenorrhea.

Nine out of ten women suffer from varying degrees of period pain every month.  The condition is caused by contractions in the womb.  There are two types of period pain primary and secondary.  Primary period pain is generally caused by conditions such as endometriosis while the secondary pain has no specific reason.

Many women battle on every month carrying on with everyday life while experiencing agonising pain.  Over the counter painkillers such as Ibuprofen are purchased to reduce the discomfort.  If the pain continues Mefenamic Acid can be prescribed.

If the pain doesn’t respond to any pain treatment further investigation may be required to find the source of the pain.

What Happens When You Have A Period?

Women will have approximately 500 periods during their lifetime.  Most start at around 12 years old.  Female relatives and schools prepare young girls for their rite of passage into adolescence. Period pain is often described as, ‘discomfort’, without going into detail as to how painful it can be.

The menstrual cycle essential prepares the body to grow a baby.  An average cycle lasts for 28 days.  Over the course of a month, the lining of the womb builds up in order to prepare for pregnancy.  Ovulation occurs where an egg is released if fertilised the zygote attaches to the womb lining and a new human being is made.  If the egg is not fertilized the womb lining sheds in the form of a period.

Periods typically last for a week and are either classed as heavy or light.  Blood clots are also expelled and the texture of the blood is slightly gloopy.  Tampons (which are inserted into the vagina) or sanitary towels are used to catch the flow.  

Contrary to popular belief (exciting advertising campaigns) women rarely feel like roller skating in white jeans during their period.  Eating chocolate and lying with a hot water bottle on their stomach is a much more realistic interpretation.

What Causes Period Pain?

Period pain or dysmenorrhea is essentially caused by the uterus contracting to encourage the lining to shed.  However extreme period pain is caused by underlying health conditions.  If your pain is caused by the former it is more manageable than the latter.

Primary dysmenorrhea is caused by regular menstrual cramps.  The pain can vary from being bearable to so intense that it causes fainting and vomiting.  Pain starts one or two days before the blood starts to flow.  It usually lasts for up to three days and subsides as the cycle ends.  As women get older pains can lesson and having a baby can reduce them even more.  However that there will be older women with children who still experience intense pain.

Secondary period pain is caused by a disorder in the female reproductive system.  Endometriosis, adenomyosis and uterine fibroids are conditions that fall into this category. If these conditions are the cause then you will be referred to a specialist who will organise a course of treatment that will help to ease your pain.  You are unlikely to feel faint and vomit from this type of pain but will feel it much earlier in your menstrual cycle.

How To Ease The Discomfort

The NHS Choices website suggests the following ways to ease the discomfort of period pain.

  • Stop smoking.
  • Exercise.
  • Hot water bottle.
  • Warm bath or shower.
  • Massage.
  • Relaxation techniques.
  • Tens Machine.

Painkillers such as Ibuprofen, aspirin or paracetamol can ease the pain.  If these are not effective then Mefenamic Acid may be prescribed.  It is important that you take the recommended dosage and follow the instructions from your doctor.

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