Everything you need to know about dysmenorrhea

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Many women are plagued monthly by menstrual cramps. Check out this article to know more about dysmenorrhea, plus how you can make yourself more comfortable during that time of the month.

Many women experience pain in their lower abdomen right before and during their periods, this is likely caused by a condition called dysmenorrhea, more commonly known as menstrual cramps. Aside from the stomach pain, women with dysmenorrhea may also experience dizziness, nausea, headaches, and loose bowel movement.

For some, the pain is merely a nuisance. In others it can be so severe, with pain radiating to as far as the lower back and thighs, it interferes with their daily activities.

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Dysmenorrhea can strike on the week before and during your period.

What causes menstrual pain?

There are two types of dysmenorrhea, categorized by what causes the cramping and pain. The first is called Primary Dysmenorrhea, wherein there are no underlying causes behind the pain. The cramps are merely a result of prostaglandins released as your uterus contracts to expel its lining. Higher levels of prostaglandin mean more painful periods.

The second type of menstrual cramps, wherein another condition is causing the pain, is known as Secondary Dysmenorrhea. The underlying conditions that may cause menstrual discomfort could be any of the following:

  • Endometriosis, which is when the tissue that commonly lines your uterus is implanted outside of it
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease, an infection which is commonly caused by sexually transmitted bacteria
  • Uterine fibroids, which are non-cancerous growths on the walls of the uterus
  • Adenomyosis, wherein the tissue that lines your uterus starts to grow into its muscular wall
  • Cervical stenosis, a condition where the opening of the cervix is so narrow that it obstructs menstrual flow, causing pressure which in turn causes pain in the uterus
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Higher levels of prostaglandin could mean intensified pain during periods of dysmenorrhea.

Who is at risk of dysmenorrhea?

The occurrence of menstrual cramps is more common in women with the following characteristics:

  • Below age 30
  • Early onset of puberty, at age 11 and below
  • Heavy bleeding during periods
  • Irregular menstrual cycles
  • Have never given birth
  • With a family history of dysmenorrhea
  • Smokers

Can dysmenorrhea lead to fertility issues? Find out on the next page.

Dysmenorrhea, fertility issues, and other complications

While it may cause severe discomfort, dysmenorrhea has not been found to lead to any medical complications. Some may worry about pregnancy or fertility issues brought about by their menstrual cramps, but there should be no cause for worry, particularly with Primary Dysmenorrhea.

Women who are suffering from Secondary Dysmenorrhea could have issues, but these come as a result of the underlying conditions they have been diagnosed with. For example, endometriosis has been associated with fertility problems. In these cases, you should consult with your doctor with regards to the best course of action to take.

Treating dysmenorrhea

To provide relief for dysmenorrhea, you may opt to take over-the-counter pain relievers like Ibuprofen. Some locally available brands in the Philippines are Alaxan, Skelan Forte, Dolan, Medicol, and Advil. A hot water bag or bottle placed on your lower abdomen or back, as well as a light massage could also help relieve your cramps.

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A hot water bag or bottle can provide symptomatic relief for your dysmenorrhea.

There are also natural and home remedies that you can turn to in order to make your periods less painful. First avoid food and drink that contain caffeine before and during your period—this includes coffee, tea, energy drinks, and chocolate—as caffeine can cause blood vessels to constrict, causing cramps.

In place of your usual coffee or tea, choose an herbal tea instead. Peppermint, ginger, and chamomile tea are known to be soothing, and may help lessen pain.

You should also avoid standing and walking for long periods, but stretching and yoga can be of help. One effective exercise is the pelvic tilt. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees bent, and hand on your hips. Then, rock your pelvis forward and backward about 15 times.

Remember that in cases where the pain you experience is extreme, even crippling, it may be time to see your doctor for a checkup.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Patricia de Castro-Cuyugan

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