Dysmenorrhea or a painful menstrual period is a condition that refers to the pain and discomfort associated with menstruation. The pain can be of a dull, aching or cramping nature and can be accompanied by constant backache.
Research shows that almost 15% of women have period pains that are severe enough to interfere with their daily activities.
In addition, period pains are quite worse in adolescence and tend to improve, as women get older. In fact, the periods pain for many women reduces considerably after they have had their first baby.
Types of Dysmenorrhea
There are two general types of dysmenorrhea, which include:
i) Primary dysmenorrhea: This refers to the menstrual pain that occurs in otherwise healthy women. This category of pain is not related to any specific problems with the uterus or other pelvic organs.
ii) Secondary dysmenorrhea: This is a menstrual pain associated to some underlying disease or structural abnormality, either within or outside the uterus.
Some of the most common symptoms experienced by a majority of women include:
· Exhaustion and lethargy
Secondary dysmennorhoea can be caused by a number of reasons including:
· Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
· Stress and anxiety
· Pelvic inflammatory disease
· Sexually transmitted diseases
· Ovarian cysts
· Intrauterine Device (IUD)
Management of Painful Periods
This may include:
A) Home care
These are generally the first set of measures adopted by most of the women. The main self-care home remedies include:
· Apply a heating pad to the lower abdomen
· Take warm showers or baths
· Drink warm beverages
· Do light circular massage with your fingertips around the lower abdomen
· Walk or exercise regularly
· Follow a diet rich in complex carbohydrates (whole grains, fruits and vegetables), but low in salt, sugar, alcohol and caffeine
· Eat light but frequently
· Practice relaxation techniques
· Lie on your side with knees bent
These are prescribed in case the self-care measures do not work. The main medications that are prescribed include:
· Stronger anti-inflammatories, such as diclofenac
· Stronger pain relievers
· Oral Contraceptive pill (OCP)
The below nutritional supplements should be taken over a period of three months, after which the improvements should be reassessed.
· Multivitamin and Minerals
· Vitamin B6
· Vitamin B1
· Vitamin B12
· Vitamin E
· Vitamin C and bioflavonoid
· Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)
When to seek medical help
Though medical intervention can be sought for intense period pain, there are certain symptoms that need immediate medical attention. These include:
· bleeding between periods
· bleeding after intercourse
· pain during or after intercourse
· unusually heavy periods