If asked about what my thoughts are about period… I would have to say that I have an undeniably love-hate relationship with my period. Why? Because, for as long as I can remember, I was thrilled when I got my very first period back in 7th grade. I finally became a woman, so to speak. However, the process that I had to experience was very taxing — a day filled with crappy feelings like tiredness and pain.
As time goes on, after encountering numerous “first day”, it becomes quite clear that pain is included as a complete package of period and womanhood. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that every woman undergoes a different kind of level when it comes to menstrual cramps and pain. Some have them mildly and not disrupting daily activities, while others might not be able to function properly for the day and require to have bed rest.
What's Normal and What's Not?
Many women have painful periods, also called dysmenorrhea, where they experience menstrual cramps — a throbbing, cramping pain in the lower abdomen. Other than the cramps, the uneasiness from period may also be symptoms like lower back pain, nausea, diarrhoea, and headaches.
Period pain is considered ‘normal’ if…
- The pain is only experienced on the first 1-2 days of period
- The pain goes away if period pain medication or contraceptive pill is consumed
- The pain does not impair the ability to do normal daily activities
If the pain isn’t like the above, then it is not normal.
What Causes The Pain?
There are two types of dysmenorrhea, primary and secondary, where each has different causes.
- Pain in the uterine (womb) muscle (myometrium), especially if the pain is on the first one or two days of a period
- Pain from certain conditions on the uterus or other reproductive organs, especially if the pain is present for more than one to two days before the period starts.
Primary dysmenorrhea is the most common kind of period pain, that is usually caused by having too many prostaglandins — the chemicals that uterus makes. These chemicals make the muscles of the uterus tighten and relax, and this causes the cramps. The pain can start a day or two before your period. It normally lasts for a few days, though in some women it can last longer.
Secondary dysmenorrhea often starts later in life and is caused by conditions that affect the uterus or other reproductive organs, such as adenomyosis, endometriosis and uterine fibroids. Many women with strong period pain have both these problems, and women with adenomyosis have a more painful uterus than other women, even if it looks normal. This kind of pain often gets worse over time, which may begin before the period starts and continue after the period ends.
How to Relieve the Pain?
The discomfort of period pain can be overcome in several effective ways that can be done easily. But, if your period cramps seem severe or you don't get relief despite trying some of these options, check with your doctor to rule out more serious health issues.
1. Improving Diet
Research has shown that reducing fat and increasing vegetables in your diet may help ease monthly cramps. "A low-fat diet actually decreases overall levels of inflammation in the body," says Aldo Palmieri MD, an ob-gyn at UCLA Health. Overall, try to get 25–35% of your total daily calories from healthier fats found in fish, nuts, and vegetable oils.
2. Pop a Safe Painkiller
Moderate use of a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAID), such as Advil (ibuprofen) or Aleve (naproxen), can help to lower prostaglandin production and decrease overall inflammation and pain. Check first with your doctor to be sure NSAIDs are a good choice for you, especially if you have a history of bleeding or kidney issues. Other than that, birth control pills may also help relieve painful cramps, as reported in a Cochrane review of 10 studies that was published in October 2009.
3. Herbal Tea
Teas have been used traditionally to help with menstrual pain, and research shows that herbs in herbal tea may act as estrogens. One example of a herbal tea that people use for menstrual discomfort is cramp bark, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore. Tea with peppermint oil may also help, says Sonya Angelone, a registered dietitian nutritionist in the San Francisco Bay area.
4. Massage with Essential Oils
According to a study in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Research, certain aromatic essential oils such as lavender, clary sage, or marjoram essential oil can relieve menstrual cramp pain. Investigators assigned 48 women with menstrual cramps and other symptoms to massage either essential oils or a synthetic fragrance on their lower abdomen. Based on the women's reports, researchers found that the duration of pain was reduced from 2.4 to 1.8 days after self-massaging with essential oils.
5. Boost Those Feel-Good Endorphins
Not only that endorphins can boost mood, but it also has pain-relieving effects. Some ways that can help to release endorphins in order to relieve period pain is with exercise or orgasms. A report published in March 2015 in the Journal of Family Reproductive Health indicates that both aerobic exercise and stretching helped soothe period cramps for 105 students in the study.