Your period pain Qs, answered
MANILA, Philippines – Dysmenorrhea is, quite literally, one pain of being a woman.
So much so that sometimes, when the pain gets too bad, we’re actually hindered from performing well at work or in school!
Many women experience dysmenorrhea when they have their period. But every woman experiences it differently. For some, it can be extremely painful. While for others, it’s almost non-existent.
And while it’s a pretty common experience, just like menstruation, we still talk about it in hushed conversations as if it’s taboo. As a result, there isn’t enough awareness to understand why it happens or know how to deal with it when it hits.
Here are 10 of your most pressing questions on dysmenorrhea, answered by Dr. Maria Rosario Silverio, MD, FPOGS to help us understand what it is, why it happens, its implications, and ways on how you can cope with it.
What causes dysmenorrhea? Is it genetic? Why is it so painful?
Silverio: Dysmenorrhea is defined as pain felt during menstruation. It usually occurs during menses. Pain may be at the lower abdomen (puson), at the back and thigh area. It usually starts prior and during menses.
There are 2 types of dysmenorrhea:
Primary Dysmenorrhea is described as pain felt 1-2 days prior or during menses and usually lasts between 1-3 days. As the menses progress, the intensity of the pain decreases. More often, it is accompanied by abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, fatigue and sometimes irritable bowel or diarrhea.
The most common cause of primary dysmenorrhea is the production of prostaglandins, which causes uterine contraction. If the uterus contracts strongly, it may impinge blood flow, causing a decrease in the supply of oxygen to the uterus. Pain is felt when there is loss of oxygen. Primary dysmenorrhea usually regresses when a woman has given birth or as she advances in age.
Secondary Dysmenorrhea, on the other hand, is characterized by presence of organic or pathologic entity in the female reproductive system. Endometriosis, adenomyisis infection, cervical stenosis, and uterine fibroids are the most common causes of secondary dysmenorrhea, where the pain usually increases in intensity during menses and may last longer than 72 hours. It is not associated with fatigue, nausea, vomiting, or bowel irritability.
Why does the level of pain vary? Are there certain types of food or activities that can possibly intensify the pain?
S: For primary dysmenorrhea, the level of pain varies because of the level of the prostaglandin and the temporary loss of oxygen in the blood vessels in the uterus.
Likewise, pain tolerance may also play a factor which is quite subjective. Women who regularly exercise experience little to no pain during menses. It is best to avoid alcoholic beverages, caffeine, salty food, and smoking.
Why do some women experience it while others don’t?
S: There is no hard and fast rule why this happens, but women who exercise regularly usually experience less occurrence of dysmenorrhea or none at all. Also, the presence of prostaglandin F alpha causes uterine contractility which compresses the blood vessels and lessen oxygen supply.
Is dysmenorrhea connected to fertility?
S: For primary dysmenorrhea, no. But for secondary dysmenorrhea, yes, it is.
Is there any truth to non-medical remedies like eating hot soups, drinking cola or beer, avoiding caffeinated drinks and salty food, intake of vitamin C-rich juices and fruits, and the like?
S: Basically, these suggestions may decrease the pain except for drinking cola and beer. They may help shorten the duration of abdominal cramping and pain experienced during menses.
I’ve been experiencing dysmenorrhea practically every time I get my period for years. Should I be worried? When should I stop self-medicating and go to the doctor?
S: It is best to always consult a doctor if symptoms persist. It is important to be evaluated to know what causes the pain. It might not be primary dysmenorrhea, after all.
Will dysmenorrhea go away as I age?
S: Advancing age diminishes dysmenorrhea.
Are there any exercises or food and drinks that I can do or intake in between periods to lessen the chances of having dysmenorrhea?
S: A healthy balanced diet is key to attain wellness. Enough sleep and exercise to energize our body. Healthy living is needed to have a fit and disease-free body.
How do painkillers work for dysmenorrhea? Are there any long-term effects that I should be aware of?
S: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) – paracetamol, ibuprofen, mefenamic acids, et cetera – are mostly prescribed analgesics for dysmenorrhea. They decrease intrauterine pressure and lowers the prostaglandin (PGF2alpha) levels.
Common adverse effects include hypersensitivity, gastritis, dyspepsia, and diarrhea. If taken on a long term basis, it may lead to gastroduodenal problems, fluid retention, liver dysfunction, and renal failure.
Is it true that you’ll become dependent on painkillers when you take them regularly?
S: My advice will be to take pain killers only if there is severe pain. There are certain painkillers that when you take it on a regular basis, when severe pain occurred, it will no longer be effective. Their tolerance to pain becomes low and so the dose will be higher for them. Of course, it will always be a case-to-case basis.
The women of today are go-getters. They won’t allow anything to get in their way – not even dysmenorrhea. This is why it’s important to truly understand it and how it affects your health.
And while a healthy diet, regular exercise, and painkillers can help alleviate the pain, it’s still important to consult with an OB-GYN. Remember that every woman, every body, is different, so do get medical advice as well instead of only asking your friends or self-diagnosing after Googling information. – Rappler.com
Dr. Maria Rosario Silverio is a resource person for this article and not in any way affiliated with Buscopan Venus.
All content found in this article were created for informational purposes only and are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Kindly seek the advice of your attending physician regarding questions you may have about a medical condition. Please do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of information you obtained from this article.