From the age of 13 to 60 years, women are accustomed to a monthly visitor which is a normal period of bleeding which lasts for as most five days; this phenomenon is termed menstruation. This happens every month to prepare a woman for conception and when conception don’t happen the uterus weeps and the body lets the blood out through the vagina for a period of days.
Most times menstruation can come with pains, cramps and other discomforts like sore breast, bloating, irritability, mood swings, lower back pain, food cravings, diarrhea, bloating, headaches, dizziness, loss stools, leg pain radiating down the legs, nausea, vomiting, irritability and weakness. Some women experience severe pains than others that it disrupts their normal activities like school, work or house chores; some are usually hospitalized every month during the course of their period while some experience fainting spells and other extreme signs and symptoms.
It is estimated that 50% of women experience period pains and 15% of them are severe. While herbs, essential oil, heat, massages, exercises, chromotherapy, good nutrition, supplements and some lifestyle changes can help ease menstrual pain in some women; it does not work for some with severe menstrual pain, these ones need a physician or a good and experienced naturalists who can help to discover the root cause of the problem and then treatment will be made easy than just trying to treat the symptoms.
There are some things that can put a woman at high risk of having painful menstruation and some of them are:
- Early menstruation (if a lady started menstruating at or before the age of eleven)
- Have never been pregnant before
- Sedentary or inactive lifestyle (mild exercises help one overcome period pains)
- Being younger than 30 years of age
- Being overweight
- Having a family history of dysmenorrhea
- Heavy menstruation that last for more than three days
- Irregular menstruation
- Physical and emotional stress
- She smokes cigarettes and drinks alcohol
In this article, we will be looking at some of the causes of painful menstruation (also known as dysmenorrhea) and the possible treatment.
High levels of prostaglandins: This chemicals are produced by the tissues that lines the uterus and they are the cause of many symptoms associated with menstrual pains; this chemical is meant to make the uterine to contract but when a lady has high levels of this chemical she will experience more contractions of their uterus and more pains. This chemical is also responsible for headaches, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting that comes along with period pains.
Endometriosis: This is a condition that occurs when the tissues that are meant to be in the uterus appears outside the uterus or on other structures throughout the pelvis, ovaries, fallopian tubes, bladder, pelvic floor and in more severe cases, this tissue can be found in bowel, diaphragm, liver, lungs and even the brain; the way it causes severe menstrual pain is not yet known but it may have to do with the location of the tissues. This condition cause chronic inflammation, adhesions, cysts filled with blood (chocolate cysts) and internal bleeding; all these leads to excruciating pelvic pains during periods.
Non-cancerous growth in the uterus: Benign growths in the uterus like uterine fibroids and adenomyosis; uterine fibroids are non-cancerous growth and tumors on the walls of the uterus, uterine fibroids cause severe period pains when the uterus contracts to expel large blood clots while adenomyosis occurs when the tissues that lines the uterus grows into the muscular walls of the uterus. In adenomyosis, the uterus acts like a bruised muscle and it can cause painful period cramps and painful sexual intercourse which can hurt for up to two days; it occurs commonly in women over 30 years of age and it can also occur in teenagers.
Defects in the structures of the uterus: A female fetus develops her own uterus while still in her mother’s womb using two structures called Mullerian ducts and in few cases the uterus doesn’t form properly; and this can lead to infertility, severe period pain and painful intercourse. Structural abnormalities of the uterus includes: Bicornuate uterus (which occurs when two uteri leads to one cervix), Septate uterus (which is a normal uterus with fibrous band of tissues dissecting it), unicornuate uterus (is a uterus that develops from only one Mullerian duct), uterus didelphys (which is characterized by two uteri, two cervices and a membrane dividing the vaginal canal; menstrual pains comes from this blockages and membranes that divides the vagina and uterus.
Infections in the reproductive organs: This can also lead to menstrual pains; it causes other discomforts like stinging in the vagina, coloured discharges (usually yellow or green) and painful menstruation.
Pelvic inflammatory disease: This is a sexually transmitted infection that is caused by a bacterium; it can cause inflammation, scarring, painful menstrual cramps and infertility if left untreated. Menstruation makes the hormones to influence the uterus and surrounding structures including the scar tissues and adhesions; this cause increased pain, inflammation and bleeding.
Abnormal pregnancy: Ectopic pregnancy is an example of abnormal pregnancy; in this case the fetus sits in the tubes, outside the uterus
Birth control methods: Copper Intra-uterine-device (IUD) used for birth control to prevent pregnancy for up to ten years can make bleeding heavier and more painful compared to the progestin IUD.
Narrow cervix: Also known as cervical stenosis which is characterized by a small opening of the cervix; this limits menstrual flow and increase the pain felt during menstruation.
Ovarian cyst: Ovarian cyst occurs when the sacs or pockets in the ovaries or on its surface are filled with fluid. This condition can lead to severe pain and cramps during menstruation, it can also lead to heavy bleeding.
Stress: Stress increases the levels of prostaglandins and this will definitely increase the amount of pain and cramps during period; so avoid stress when you are approaching your period and during your period. Strainous work and hard exercises and labour should also be avoided when one is flowing because during the first two days of menstruation, like a snake, the womb sheds its inner lining; these process effort and concentration from the body and immune system because the womb is fragile and sensitive. So hard labour, physical strain and stress can lead to intense period pain during the first two days of a menstrual flow.
Bad diet: Too much intake of refined white sugar, processed and junk foods, regular eating of foods that are made with white and processed flours; all these and more like foods sweeteners, additives and colourings increases menstrual pains because they cause inflammation in the body; they are inflammatory foods and they increases the level of prostaglandin. Take foods that have been cooked, eat lots of fruits and vegetables, take lots of clean water, fruit juices, herbal teas and vegetable smoothies. These foods will prevent inflammation and will help you to overcome other symptoms of menstrual pains.
Negative attitude towards your body and self: Negative words, thoughts, emotions and attitude against ourselves and our bodies can cause this; it has been proven by many studies and even religious groups that the thoughts we think and the attitude we carry can affect us either positively or negatively. A positive thought or attitude bring healing and prevents illnesses while a negative thought and attitude does the opposite. Love your body, change your attitude and stop seeing menstruation as a drag and a nuisance and you will see that the pain will lessen or even disappear.
How is the cause of severe menstrual cramp diagnosed?
This is done by a professional health personal; and the process involves series of questions to know your detailed medical history; you will be asked the timing of the cramps in relation to the start of the menstrual period, type and duration of the pain, the age you started menstruating and the age when the pain started, history of irregular periods and if there is any recent changes in the pain, if you experience painful sexual intercourse, pelvic infections or if you are using birth control measures.
Pelvic examination will be done to explore any problems by doing a blood test and culture of the cervix. A pregnancy test will be done if the woman is not using birth control pills and is having irregular flow. An ultrasound examination may also be conducted if the doctor notice any abnormal mass during the pelvic exam by using special imaging tests.
A laparoscopy or minor surgical procedure is used to directly look into the pelvic cavity with a fiber-optic scope.
A hysteroscopy is done by inserting a hysteroscope (a light instrument) through the cervix and interior of the uterus, this will help the doctor to see inside the cervix and inside the uterus without incisions.
Treatment of painful menstruation
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: Most times, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are given to these patients to reduce the production and activities of prostaglandins and to lessen its effects. To prevent severe pains from reoccurring, it is advisable to take the prescribed drug two days before your period and for the first two days of your period; this will stop or reduce the severity of the cramps. For best result this pills should be taken on a scheduled basis and not when the pain starts.
Birth control pills: Sometimes birth control pills are given to women with severe menstrual pains in low doses; these oral contraceptives will help to balance the levels of hormones because they contain estrogen and progestin which can prevent ovulation and reduce the production of prostaglandins which in turn will reduce the severity of the cramping.
Surgeries: In severe cases, surgeries are recommended and done on these women to reduce the pain; some of the surgeries done are:
- Dilation and curettage: In the past many women go through D and C to remove the lining of the uterus but less of this is done today.
- Hysterectomy: This termed as an “ultimate solution” to menstrual pains and problems; in this surgery procedure, the whole uterus is removed.
- Endometrial ablation: This surgery procedure is done for women who have abnormally heavy and painful bleeding during their period; in this procedure, the lining of the uterus is destroyed by various devices.
Other therapies employed are:
Acupuncture: This Chinese practice can help in relieving severe menstrual pains and symptoms; get a good acupuncturist to carry on this healing technique on you.
Counseling: Counseling is needed if the patient has a bad and negative attitude towards her sex, body and life; the thoughts can physically affect a person’s health. In this case a psychotherapist is needed to sit down with the patient, ask a lot of questions so that the therapist can know the root cause or which thought pattern is causing this. The therapist will also help the patient overcome this by suggesting new thought pattern and giving the patients reasons to see the good side of everything. If this is the root cause of any case of dysmenorrhea and it is corrected at the thought level; the pain reduces and even seizes instantly in most patients.
Healthy lifestyle: Bad diet, sedentary lifestyle, sexual promiscuity and intake of alcohol and smoking are some of the unhealthy lifestyles that increase the risk of one coming down with severe menstrual pains; so to avoid this, these lifestyles should be avoided and healthy lifestyles should be adopted and made a habit. Healthy lifestyles to adopt are good nutrition quit drinking and smoking, engage in physical activities and mild exercises, avoid having multiple sexual partners because it raises the risk of infection which can lead to severe cramping during periods.
Exercise fights inflammation and releases endorphins that makes the body feel good and relaxed; good feeding fights inflammation, releases nutrients that helps the body fight off the symptoms of dysmenorrhea. The effect of this choice is fast and long lasting. It also has a general impact on your health and builds a stronger immune system and can increase the lifespan of the patient. Also remember to hydrate your body regularly and drink more water when you are on your period; it prevents bloating, water retention, reduce cramps, pain, headache and other symptoms of painful period and it helps the brain to maintain its function by preventing mood swings, depression, anxiety and other brain related symptoms.
Positive attitude towards self, body and life: As said earlier; negative thoughts can affect the health negatively, so the best way to do this is to change your mentality, thinking and believe about yourself and your body. Positive thoughts bring good health and also affect how you feel during your period.