Painful periods are pains associated with menstruation in a woman. This pain is usually called Dysmenorrhea. It happens when a woman has her monthly menstrual flow and could last for different durations in each woman. For some women, it could be so devastating that it practically stalls the normal day to day routine of the person affected. It is sometimes called menstrual cramps or Dysmenorrhea.
Dysmenorrhea which is the condition that leads to these painful periods is of two types namely Primary Dysmenorrhea and Secondary Dysmenorrhea.
Causes of Dysmenorrhea
Primary and secondary dysmenorrhea is traceable to completely different causative factors.
Primary dysmenorrhea is triggered by the presence of a chemical compound (hormone) which is known as prostalglandin in the uterus. This chemical is supposed to promote the breakdown of the uterine lining in the womb or uterus leading to the flow of blood from the vagina.
The pain caused by the presence of prostalglandin in the blood stream decreases as the day go by since the quantity of this hormone decreases as the menstrual flow progresses.
Secondary dysmenorrhea on other hand, is any painful period caused or triggered by an existing disorder in a woman’s reproductive system. These disorders could be caused by varying factors ranging from untreated bacterial and viral infections, abnormal growths in and around the uterus to other salient factors.
It is therefore important that the medical expert is consulted to ensure proper diagnosis, treatment and care. Also, these disorders could act alone or in combination to produce secondary dysmenorrhea.
At what age can a female develop painful period (dysmenorrhea)?
There is no particular age limit for the onset of dysmenorrhea. It could start within the first year of menstrual flow for a young girl or much later in life. The basic point is for the female involved is to easily identify when she started feeling such pains and the duration of the pains. This will help the doctor make the right diagnosis and give proper counsel on what option of treatment is available for the patient.
For how long should the pain last?
Dysmenorrhea which is of the primary classification usually starts at the beginning of a monthly menstrual flow. This is as a result of the build-up of the hormone prostalglandin in the blood stream in readiness for the contractions it would have to carry out in the uterine lining to shed it in the absence of a fertilized egg.
Pains associated with primary dysmenorrhea usually last for about 2 – 3 day. For some women, this pain gradually reduces and stops, while for others it stops only when they start giving birth to children.
However, the pains resulting from secondary dysmenorrhea could last for more than 3 days and most likely gets worse as time progresses. This is because the underlying cause is usually not the presence of prostalgladin but the something else which can only be determined by the doctor.
Myths about painful periods
Several myths surround the experience of painful periods especially in certain parts of Africa. Some people believe that having painful periods could be as a result of unborn children seeking out wombs to be born in. As such, when a woman keeps having painful periods she is advised to conceive especially if such a female is already married.
Others believe that painful periods could be as a result of a womb (uterus) that is not in its’ rightful place, or the presence of lumps in the uterus which can be massaged away by women with special gifts.
Some others believe that a virgin who suffers from painful periods needs to have sexual intercourse with the opposite sex to end the painful experience as surgery is a ploy to enrich the doctors.
Lastly, there are some who believe that a person who experiences painful periods may not be able to conceive and have children.
It is worthy of note to state at this junction that these myths about painful periods are definitely not true. Lots of married women have had children as a remedy to ending the pain they go through as a result of dysmenorrhea without achieving the desired result of a painless period.
Massaging the uterus does not stop dysmenorrhea especially if the cause of the pain is something more complex than what can be placated with a massage. Neither does sex stop painful periods so, always seek medical advice and treatment.
When should a person with painful periods seek medical help?
A person with painful period should seek medical help when the pain they feel lasts for too long that is when the menstrual pains last more than 3 days or becomes unbearable.
When the menstrual pain still continues even after the blood flow has stopped.
When there is a constant feeling nausea all through the duration of the menstrual flow.
If there is a bout of diarrhea in association with the pain experienced during the menstrual flow.
Reproductive disorders which can cause painful periods (secondary dysmenorrhea)
There are a number of reproductive disorders which can cause secondary dysmenorrhea in a woman, they include but are not limited to the following.
- Fibroid: This abnormal growth that grows inside of woman’s uterus. But some fibroids tend to grow in the wall of the uterine muscles or on the walls of this muscle. Wherever the fibroid is located, painful periods become a norm for such an individual.
- Situations where there is an abnormal growth of this tissue in the wall of the uterine muscles. A condition which is also known as Adenomyosis
- Endometriosis is a medical condition in women, where place specific tissues like those that are supposed to be found in the uterus lining begin to develop elsewhere like on top of the uterus, and other body organs where it is not expected to be. And because they are intended to breakdown leading to the normal menstrual flow, when this happens at a place where it is not supposed to happen, there is severe pains.
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). This is a condition caused by the entrance of infection in a woman’s reproductive system.
What available test can I do to ascertain the probable cause of dysmenorrhea
Where a woman experiences painful periods, the wise decision is to seek medical help. The doctor will look at her medical history, note all the symptoms she presents as at the time of examination or before coming for the consultation record her cycle and carry out a proper examination of the pelvis.
Where necessary, an ultrasound will be carried out to determine the probable cause of the pain. Other tests which can be carried out include the Laparoscopy. At the end of the tests, the result obtained will form the basis for the course of treatment advised by the medical doctor
What treatment should I take to stop painful periods
Since painful periods are caused by the presence prostalgladin, taking pills which will reduce its effect in the body could be taken after due prescription from a medical doctor. The doctor will recommend the right pain reliever and the required dosage. Although over the counter pain relievers could come in handy, there is the danger of under or over dosage of the drug, and, an inclination to stick to self-medication which is very bad and must be discouraged.
When we consider the fact that secondary dysmenorrhea is caused by more complex factors it is recommended that the doctors’ opinion be sought. However, the listed option may offer some relief.
- Taking hot tea during menstruation
- Application of hot compress
- Lying down with the abdomen placed on a strong pillow
Taking hot tea could help reduce the pain associated with menstruation and cause the blood to flow better. As much as possible those suffering from dysmenorrhea should stay away from cold drinks.
Applying a hot compress on the abdomen offers a bit of comfort as it soothes the pain and gives a feeling of relief. This method though does not do much for someone suffering from a combination of reproductive disorders.
Lying face down with the abdomen placed on a strong pillow could do a world of good to a person suffering from primary dysmenorrhea. As it places pressure on the uterus and increasing blood flow from the vagina and relieve the pain.
Exercises can also be used to reduce the pain felt during menstruation as the movements generated by exercises could cause the uterine lining to bleed faster and in turn decrease the amount of prostalglandin in the blood stream.
What should I avoid if I experience painful periods?
At all cost avoid the use of herbal concoctions which are peddled as alternatives to orthodox medicine. These medications which may provide temporary relief do not have dosage limits and could be abused leading to more harm than good to the person taking
Avoid taking very cold drinks including chilled water. As much as possible, consume more of warm water or hot tea or beverages all through the duration of the menstrual flow. It has been medically proven that warm water is more beneficial to the body than cold water.
Avoid too much consumption of sweetened and carbonated drinks as these contain artificial sugars and gas which could likely aggravate the pain felt by the individual.
Avoid the temptation of choosing cheaper alternative treatment places instead of consulting a qualified medical practitioner for proper treatment.
Avoid self medication even when you have previously had a consultation with a medical practitioner who may have prescribed certain medicines. Always do a routine follow up as the pain felt may not be dysmenorrhea but an underlying indication of something worse.
What type of medicines are used to treat dysmenorrhea
Certain drugs can be used to treat dysmenorrhea. These drugs will potentially reduce the pain felt during menstruation. But the best medical advice on medication can be obtained from medical experts after due consultation.
- Over the counter pain relievers
- Birth control pills
- Certain implants used for family planning
Many pain killers can be bought over the counter in most pharmaceutical store without a prescription form. These could relieve the pain felt during menstruation but the best choice of action is to see the doctor.
Birth control pills have been reported to relieve the pain felt during menstruation. So, this could be of advantage to women as it does the double function of eliminating painful periods because it releases a hormone which cancels out the painful effect prostalglandin.
Implants used for child spacing are also reported to stop or reduce the pain felt during menstruation. This action is achieved much the same way as birth control pills only this time the individual does not have to swallow anything. The active ingredient is imbedded in the implant which is usually put under the skin.
Can painful periods caused by reproductive disorders be treated?
Painful periods caused by reproductive disorders can be treated by the doctor using the right procedure. Once the cause of the pain is known, the necessary procedure needed to alleviate the pain is carried out by the medical experts with the patients’ consent. These procedures include
- Surgery to correct or remove abnormal growths
- Drugs to reduce the pain
At what point is surgery necessary?
The doctor would tell when surgery is the only way out of pains associated with secondary dysmenorrhea
What are the specific cases that may need surgery?
Surgery may be recommended by the doctor for fibroids and endomentriosis. But the doctor should be the one to recommend this to the patient.
What if surgery fails?
If a surgery is performed as part of the treatment dysmenorrhea and it fails, the last resort may be to perform a hysterectomy and this option should be a last resort.