What Is Dysmenorrhea?
When you’re having your period, you can often suffer from severe period pain, in your tummy and your back. Painful periods, known medically as dysmenorrhea, are very common: one in three girls and women suffer from them. Dysmenorrhea can be described as primary and secondary. Primary dysmenorrhea is when there is no gynaecological disorder causing it. Secondary dysmenorrhea is when there’s a reason for it, for example when you’ve been fitted with an IUD (intrauterine device, or coil), or when you have polyps or myomas in the uterus, ovarian cysts, endometriosis, or pelvic inflammatory disease. In most women, the dysmenorrhea is primary. Secondary dysmenorrhea is not that common. If you suffer from excessively severe menstrual cramps that can’t be relieved by the usual over-the-counter painkillers, you should see your doctor.What’s The Pain Like?
You may only experience some slight pain during your period, or you may suffer from severe period pain. This is normally a cramp-like feeling. These severe menstrual cramps can start in the lower part of your womb and spread to your back and legs. You may also feel dizzy and sick and may even suffer from diarrhoea or vomiting. If you suffer any of these symptoms, you should see your doctor. Many women find that their period pain starts a few hours before their period starts and that it gradually wears off once their period has begun. But in some cases, the pain can continue throughout the second and even the third day of their period.What Causes It?
Every month the lining of the womb grows in preparation for a possible pregnancy. If this happens, the egg that has been fertilised adheres to the lining for nourishment and to grow into a foetus. If the egg has not been fertilised, it is expelled and substances known as prostaglandins are released, causing the womb to contract to help loosen the endometrium (the mucous membrane that lines the womb), which is expelled during menstruation. Various studies have shown that women suffering from dysmenorrhea produce an excessive amount of prostaglandins during their period and are extremely sensitive to them.What Can I Do About It?
There are lots of things you can do to relieve severe period pain. The trick is to find what works for you. If you can, lie down as soon as you feel the pain coming on and put something warm against your tummy. A relaxing hot bath will also help to reduce severe menstrual cramps, as well as massaging the painful area. If the pain is excessive, in other words, if it is very severe and unrelenting, go and see your doctor, who is the best person to advise you or recommend a particular type of treatment that will work for you. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice.Late, Irregular Or Infrequent Periods
Girls can often suffer from late, irregular or infrequent periods. It can take a few years for your menstrual cycle and your periods to settle down and in the meantime, you can experience some irregularities. Going more than six weeks between one period and the next is usually nothing to worry about during the first few years of your periods. Weight loss, certain illnesses, changes in your diet, taking too much exercise or suffering from stress can all delay your period or make you think that you’re “missing” a period. At this age, it’s very important to make sure that you have the right calorie intake, because if it’s not high enough, your body will start using up its nutrients for energy, rather than for its development. If you’re at the end of your fertile life, this delay can also be a sign of early menopause. If you notice a change in your menstrual cycle, if you’re bleeding between periods, your periods stop or you have other symptoms, you should see your doctor.Heavy Periods
Every woman has her own particular cycle pattern, so it’s tricky to know whether your flow is heavier than the norm, as comparing or measuring it is no easy task. Having said that, if you think that you’re bleeding too heavily, you should see your doctor. Heavy periods don’t necessarily mean that there’s anything wrong; sometimes they can be caused by an IUD or by coming off the contraceptive pill.
Heavy periods are also normal after giving birth or in women who are approaching the menopause, but if you suddenly get a heavy period for no obvious reason, you should see your doctor. The change may be due to a hormonal imbalance, which can be controlled by medication, or due to some other cause that can be treated.