Period Pain and Problems
There are many uncomfortable things about being on your period but period cramps top the list.
A friend once said that allowing women to experience menstrual cramps is nature’s way of preparing women for the pains of labor during childbirth.
This statement might not make any sense to women who only experience mild cramps during that time of the month. Some women are lucky enough to feel only some mild discomfort, but for some women, the pains are excruciating and better described than experienced.
This begs the question, why do some women experience pains that are sometimes severe enough to send them to the emergency room, while some women experience pains that aren’t even enough to disrupt their normal daily activities?
Menstrual cramps are caused by the shedding of the lining of the uterus. Every month, the female body prepares itself for possible fertilization (pregnancy). One of the ways it prepares itself is to thicken the walls (lining) of the uterus to allow for successful planting of the embryo.
If you don’t get pregnant after your ovulation, your uterus has to shed the lining since it’s no longer needed. The lining, along with other waste material, is expelled during your period.
The shedding of the uterine lining is the primary cause of menstrual cramps, although high levels of the hormone, prostaglandin in the body can cause muscle contractions that would make the pain even more severe.
Types of Menstrual Cramps
There are two types of menstrual cramps:
Primary dysmenorrhea is characterized by a dull or mildly severe pain in the lower abdomen that may occur a day or two before your period, and last for 2-3 days after your period begins.
Primary dysmenorrhea may also be accompanied by the following symptoms:
- An intense and continuous ache in the lower abdomen
- Loose or frequent stooling
- Loss of appetite
- Lower back pain
Primary dysmenorrhea is relatively common and can be treated easily at home. There are a good number of home remedies that can give you quick relief from primary dysmenorrhea.
Some of them include:
Fresh Ginger Drink:
A research published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine compared the effects of ginger and ibuprofen on women suffering from primary dysmenorrhea, and the researchers found that taking 250 milligrams of ginger powder four times daily can produce the same effects as taking ibuprofen.
You can try drinking a glass of lukewarm water with grated fresh ginger and a tablespoon of cinnamon two times daily 2 days before your period and a day or two after your period begins.
If your pains are usually severe, you can drink 2 extra cups daily.
This drink goes a long way in aiding the reduction of period cramps, especially when you start drinking it days before your period.
Applying a hot water bottle or a hot towel to your lower abdomen can also numb the pain.
Heat stimulates the pain receptors in the skin, thus bringing about a reduction in the transmission of pain signals to your brain.
For heat compression to be more effective, make sure the source of heat is at least 104F/40C.
Warm Soaks with Essential Oils
A study carried out in 2017 found that women who applied a blend of essential oils to their private area saw a significant reduction in the severity and frequency of their menstrual cramps by helping to relax vaginal muscles.
Essential oils like lavender, rosemary and clary sage oil are beneficial – just add a few drops to your bathtub filled with warm water, and soak yourself in it for a few hours.
Avoid using scented essential oils or anything that can upset your vagina’s pH. It’s more advisable to use an essential oil blend or bath bomb that is specially formulated for the prevention of menstrual discomfort.
Another remedy that helps is a massage. Massage is particularly helpful for people who suffer from severe cramps. It aids the promotion of blood and oxygen circulation to the muscles. In turn, this circulation numbs pain while promoting relaxation and sleep, which helps you feel better during your period.
Exercise promotes the release of endorphins, also known as the ‘feel-good hormone’ and can be very helpful for numbing the pains associated with menstrual cramps.
Eating Certain Herbs and Superfoods
You can also consider adding a few herbs and foods to your regular diet. Herbs like turmeric, fennel, chaste berry (Vitex), and French Maritime Pine Bark (Pycnogenol) are suitable for reducing prostaglandins, the hormones that contribute to menstrual cramps.
There’s nothing wrong with taking OTC medications to numb the pain. OTC medications like Ibuprofen (Advil) and Naxopren (Aleve) are recommended. However, we advise that you consult your GP if you decide to take the OTC route.
Secondary Dysmenorrhea – When to See a Doctor
Secondary Dysmenorrhea is when a woman who has always had no, or mild cramps suddenly starts feeling severe pains before, during, and after her period.
Secondary dysmenorrhea, unlike primary dysmenorrhea, calls for concern because it is usually accompanied by underlying medical conditions such as cervical stenosis, endometriosis, pelvic inflammation, uterine fibroids, or adenomyosis.
You should see a doctor if you are experiencing any of the symptoms of secondary dysmenorrhea, especially severe cramps accompanied by:
- Irregular or heavy menstrual flow
- Pains in the lower back, thighs, and abdomen
- Large blood clots during period
- Pains that last longer than a day or two before and after your period
- Foul-smelling period
- Bleeding in between periods
- Painful sex or bleeding during sex
Though period cramps are usual for most women, it shouldn’t be so severe that it disrupts your day to day activity. Period cramps that severe might be an indication of an underlying medical condition that needs to be treated. If that’s the case, we advise that you see your doctor as soon as possible.
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Dani Fogel. is a Communication Coordinator at Brandable, based in Los Angeles, CA. She works on the Queen V brand within the company’s Digital and Ecommerce department.