Behind Your Period Pain : What every woman must know

Just like Akua, it’s common for many young girls and women to have mild or moderate pain with their period for some days each month. However, if your pain is not relieved with pain killers, and you miss school or you can not participate in your daily activities because of it, then you may have “dysmenorrhea” (pronounced: dis–men–o–ree–a).

Dysmenorrhea is a medical term that means “difficult or painful periods”. There are two types of dysmenorrhea; primary and secondary.

Primary dysmenorrhea is the most common kind of dysmenorrhea. Cramping pain in the lower abdomen (belly) can start from 1–2 days before your period begins and can last 2–4 days.

Secondary dysmenorrhea is when cramps are as a result of a medical problem such as endometriosis. Endometriosis is a condition that occurs when tissue similar to the lining of the uterus is found outside its normal location. This usually causes pain before and/or during a young woman’s menstrual period.

What causes dysmenorrhea?

The cramps you feel as a result of dysmenorrhea are caused by uterine contractions (when your uterus tightens and relaxes, allowing blood to leave your uterus). The lining of your uterus releases special chemicals called “prostaglandins”

During your menstrual period, your uterus contracts to help expel its lining. Hormonelike substances (prostaglandins) involved in pain and inflammation trigger the uterine muscle contractions. Higher levels of prostaglandins are associated with more-severe menstrual cramp. (pronounced: pross–ta–glan–dins). These chemicals are released from the lining of the uterus and increase the strength of the contractions, especially during the first couple of days of a woman’s menstrual cycle. High levels of prostaglandins may also cause nausea, diarrhea and lightheadedness.

What are the symptoms of dysmenorrhea?

Most young women who have dysmenorrhea have;

Lower back pain and cramping in the lower area of the abdomen during their period. Other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, bloating in the belly area, headaches, all of which can be mild to severe.

Is it normal to have cramps during your period?

Yes, it’s normal to have mild or moderate cramps during your period, because of uterine contractions(the tightening and relaxing of the uterine muscles). The uterus is a muscle that tightens and relaxes. This can cause cramp–like pain. However, if the discomfort is not relieved with pain killer or causes you to miss school or other daily activities, it could mean that there is another reason for your symptoms.

Sometimes these problems may start a day or two before your menstrual period and can last for part or all of your menstrual period. These signs could be caused by other medical conditions and therefore it’s important to seek medical attention about all of your symptoms.

Is it okay to exercise when I have my period?

Generally, it’s fine to exercise when you have your period, and it’s a great way to stay fit and healthy. Ama would like to exercise when in her period; Akua feels uncomfortable exercising during her period. It all depends on you.

Are menstrual cramps the same as PMS (Pre–Menstrual Syndrome)?

Menstrual cramps are not the same as PMS. Symptoms of PMS such as mood swings, breast soreness, and bloating happen before a woman’s period begins and get a lot better when it starts. On the other hand, with dysmenorrhea, cramps are usually worse the first few days of a woman’s period and have a different cause and treatment.

How is dysmenorrhea treated?

If your menstrual cramps are painful, you may want to take an over–the–counter medicine medication for 1–2 days of your period.

If your pain is severe, you may want to begin taking an NSAID(drugs that reduce pain,decrease fever etc) such as Aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen 1-2 days before your period starts. These medications are “anti–prostaglandins” (pronounced: an–tee–pross–ta–glan–dins), meaning that they work to stop the cramping effect.

They help to relieve discomfort, make your flow lighter, and cause your uterus to cramp less. Is important to eat well before you take these drugs.

Is there anything else I can do to treat dysmenorrhea?

Yes,home or natural remedies are good for treating cramps and dysmenorrhea.

Soak a towel in water,wring out the excess water and then heat it in the microwave for one minut.Place it on the lower abdomen until the towel cools.Repeat every few minites until the pain is gone. Even taking a hot shower may relieve pain and make you feel more relaxed.Be sure to check that the towel is not too hot to avoid skin burning.

Ginger is a wonder herb and can effectively ease menstrual cramps.It lowers the leve of pain-causing prostaglandis.

Grate a small piece of ginger and boil with a cup of water for 10mins.Strain it and add a little honey and lemon juice.Drink it three times daily during your menstrual cycle. Add ginger in your food while cooking.

Eating pawpaw is equally effective in reducing period pain.It has nutrient like carotene,iron,calcium and vitamin A and B that help soothe the uterine walls and ease muscle contractions.

Drinking plenty water can also help reduce period pain.

Along these remedies you can do yoga and cardiovascular exercises to help get rid of menstrual cramps.

Hey don’t forget to take a warm bath to help reduce cramps.

Consult your doctor if your pain is beyond remedy.

Read more at Centre for young women’s Health.

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