Dysmenorrhea Management : Important Facts You Need to Know
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, close to 20% of women suffer from dysmenorrhea; period so painful, it negatively impacts their lives. However, with the right dysmenorrhea management tips, you can go on to live your regular life.
A lot of women view that ‘time’ of the month with a slight indifference; they get a period which typically lasts a few days and then its over.
For a few other women however, things are much different as they get racked by pain so severe, it disrupts their regular activities. When this occurs, these women are said to have dysmenorrhea.
Dysmenorrhea : What It Is?
Dysmenorrhea is a medical term used to describe painful period. Every woman would typically experience some light pain her menstruation each month which lasts a day or two during , but with dysmenorrhea, the pain is usually more intense and lasts much longer.
The pain that comes with dysmenorrhea also begins a few days earlier than the regular menstrual cramps and could also disrupt your regular schedule.
Why Dysmenorrhea Comes with Such Pain
Menstrual cramps occur as a result of your uterine walls contracting. During this time, your womb tightens, then relaxes to allow the flow of blood through.
It also releases a chemical called prostaglandins from your uterine lining and this chemical determines the strength of each contraction.
When an excess of prostaglandins is produced, it results in excessively strong contractions and your uterine muscles end up pressing against blood vessels, cutting off the blood supply and oxygen to certain parts of these muscles.
It is the deprivation of this oxygen to the muscles, even for short periods, that brings about this intense pain experienced.
Besides causing such pain, excess prostaglandins also causesvother symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and dizziness.
More on Dysmenorrhea : The Different Types and What You Should Know About Each
Most women aren’t aware there are more than one type of dysmenorrhea, even women experiencing it.
There are two types of dysmenorrhea:
- Primary dysmenorrhea
- Secondary dysmenorrhea
Primary dysmenorrhea is intense menstrual cramp that just occurs. It is a common type of painful period you experience and isn’t a symptom of any underlying health condition.
Some facts you can expect to notice with primary dysmenorrhea include:
- Pain that occurs a day or two before your period.
- A pressure-like feeling in your lower abdomen.
- Nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and diarrhea.
While primary dysmenorrhea typically starts a few months to a few years into your menstruation, a few women report experiencing a reduction in the level of pain they feel as they age and this pain could cease completely when they have a baby.
Secondary dysmenorrhea shares the same symptoms with primary dysmenorrhea. However, the one differentiating feature between both is that secondary dysmenorrhea occurs as a result of one or more underlying health conditions.
Health complications that could cause secondary dysmenorrhea include:
- Uterine fibroids
- Ovarian cysts
- The use of certain intrauterine device (IUDs)
- Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)
- Stenosis (narrowing of the cervix)
Another distinguishing feature between both dysmenorrhea types is that, unlike with primary dysmenorrhea, pain might occur in secondary dysmenorrhea without the other accompanying symptoms like nausea and vomiting.
What Causes Dysmenorrhea
Each month, your body prepares to receive a baby and prepares for it. One of the ways it does this is that your uterine lining thickens. However, when a pregnancy doesn’t occur, your uterus returns to its previous state by shedding this thickened uterine lining.
To assist in the process of this shedding, some hormones are released, causing your uterus to contract, a process that helps expel the shed lining.
Ordinarily, this shedding should present just mild discomfort, however, in some cases, the hormones released are too much, causing stronger contractions which press against nearby blood vessels resulting in the interruption of oxygen to your uterus, which in turn causes the intense pain and discomfort experienced.
Both types of dysmenorrhea are caused by different factors. While primary dysmenorrhea is caused by the production of excess prostaglandins, secondary dysmenorrhea occurs as a result of certain genological complications.
This condition, medically termed dysmenorrhea or painful period, is experienced by no fewer than 10% of women worldwide and starts just after you get your first period.
Some Less Common Cause of Dysmenorrhea
Other causes of dysmenorrhea include:
- Having an abnormal uterus structure
- The presence of abnormal growth in your uterus or ovaries
- The presence of an IUD
- Having a narrow cervix
Symptoms of Dysmenorrhea
Some symptoms of dysmenorrhea you can expect to have include:
- Severe pains in your lower abdomen.
- Intense cramps and back aches.
- Feelings of restlessness
- Pain in your thighs and hips that comes and goes
Other Facts About Dysmenorrhea You Should Know
- An estimated 10% – 15% of women with primary dysmenorrhea report experiencing pain so severe, it disrupts their regular daily activities.
- Dysmenorrhea pain can be worsened by certain lifestyle habits like smoking, drinking, and a lack of exercise.
- Taking food high in caffeine also heightens this pain..
- Having a womb that tilts backwards has also been known to aggravate the pain.
Risk Factors of Dysmenorrhea
While any woman could develop this health complications, certain women are more at risk of it.
Such risk factors to look out for include:
- Girls who had their first period before the age of 12.
- Women with a family history of dysmenorrhea.
- Women with common health complications like PID, endometriosis, and uterine fibroids..
- If you’ve never been pregnant.
- Unhealthy lifestyle habit like smoking.
- If you are grossly overweight.
- If you’ve been diagnosed of medical condition like enometriosis or Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
How is Dysmenorrhea Diagnosed?
Dysmenorrhea is usually diagnosed upon carrying out a pelvic examination by your doctor.
Some doctors also choose other methods like running a blood test or performing an ultrasound.
Upon diagnosis, your doctor will place you on the right treatment or combination of treatment for your case.
Dysmenorrhea Management Tips
The right dysmenorrhea management tips will bring you fast relief from the pain. For primary dysmenorrhea, your doctor will typically place you on pain relieving or antiinflammatory drugs like ibuprofen, aspirin, acetaminophen.
In some cases, you could be placed on hormone or oral contraceptive drugs.
Secondary dysmenorrhea on the other hand, would require a more serious treatment, depending on the underlying health condition it’s accompanying, as this would need to be treated.
Dysmenorrhea Management Tips for Fast Relief
While dysmenorrhea can be treated effectively with such over-the-counter medication, some other quick remedies you can turn to for fast relief include:
- Placing a hot water bottle or heating pad to your lower abdomen. This works pretty fast as the heat will help relax your uterine muscles. You should however ensure the water bottle isn’t too hot or it would burn your skin.
You might want to place this heating pad on your cloth, instead of directly on your skin.
- Taking a warm to hot bath (as hot as you can stand).
- Drink a hot liquid or beverage (non-caffeine).
- Avoiding stressful situations.
- Performing regular exercises ( on the directive of your healthcare provider as exercising has been reported to worsen the pain for some women).
- Get a massage done on your lower abdomen (gently) and your lower back for relief.
- Getting adequate rest.
- Reduce your sugar and unprocessed food intake, especially in days leading up to your menstruation.
- Practising some yoga moves.
- Take vitamin supplements or eat food rich in Vitamins B1, B3, B6, C, and E.
- Also eat food rich in omega-3 fatty acid, calcium, and magnesium.
- Herbs like black cohosh, Dong quai, wild yam, chaste tree, oregano, turmeric, and raspberry also bring relief.