Pain is one of the most common complaints that women have during menstruation. While some amount of pain and discomfort is considered to be normal, an excessive amount that causes you to miss work, double over, or cramp for a prolonged period of time is not.
The common medical term for painful menstruation is called dysmenorrhea. It can be of two types: primary or secondary. The first is when women have pain before and after their periods, while the secondary type is where the women have had normal periods that start to get pain during their later years.
Causes of pain during periods
Not every case will have a clearly identifiable cause for pain, however, there are certain risk factors that have been identified such as:
- Being less than 20 years of age
- A family history of having pain during periods
- Not having had a child
- Cigarette smoking
Certain medical conditions like endometriosis, presence of fibroids in the uterus, pelvic inflammatory disease, cervical stenosis, adenomyosis, or premenstrual syndrome can be the cause of having pain in the abdomen and belly during periods.
Cramps can occur during periods because of contraction of the muscles of the uterus. This contraction can sometimes be strong enough to cut off the blood supply to the uterus for a brief period of time resulting in pain and cramping.
At home measures for pain during periods
Mild pain and cramping can be taken care of by over the counter pain medication such as acetaminophen, naproxen, or ibuprofen. Some other simple things like using a heating pad in the area of the pelvis or the lower back, undertaking some light exercise, taking a comfortable warm bath, eating well, and practicing some yoga or other relaxation techniques can help provide relief from dysmenorrhea as well.
Women who suffer from these pain should also minimize or avoid completely the intake of caffeine, tobacco, alcohol, and salt.
The use of vitamin supplements or others like omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, and magnesium have also been associated with a reduction in the occurrence of pain and cramps during periods.
When to see the doctor?
If you notice an increase in the amount of pain or discomfort than what you normally feel during menstruation or that the pain and cramping have been continuing for a few days then it is time to see the doctor.
The doctor will take a thorough medical history, maybe do a pelvic examination and check for any abnormalities in the uterus or ovaries. A test of the vaginal fluid may also be done. If everything turns out to be normal then the same course of over the counter pain medication with a closer observation will be advised. If, however, it is suspected that the pain and cramping are due to the presence of secondary dysmenorrhea then the underlying conditions will have to be treated.
Medication for painful periods
Depending upon the clinical and lab findings, your doctor may choose to prescribe you some non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, antidepressants, or birth control pills to help relieve some of the symptoms that you are suffering from.
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