Your uterus covers its lining every month, and it leads to menstruation. It is obvious to have some cramping, pain, and discomfort during periods. But if you miss school or work due to heavy pain, you should consult your gynaecologist. Also known as dysmenorrhea, painful menstruation is of two types – primary and secondary dysmenorrhea.
Primary dysmenorrhea causes pain before and during your period. Secondary dysmenorrhea causes pain after having regular periods. It can affect the pelvic organs like the uterus, uterine fibroids, or endometriosis.
Knowing the actual cause of pain during your period is not always easy. Some women are simply more likely to have pain during their periods. Some of the common risk factors are –
- Someone in your family has had painful periods
- Irregular periods
- Excessive bleeding during periods
- You are below 20 years
- Getting puberty before 11 years
Prostaglandin is a hormone that triggers contractions in your uterine muscles, which eject the lining. Inflammation and pain are widespread due to such contractions. Prostaglandin level also increases before the beginning of your period.
Ongoing medical conditions like these are also some of the common causes of painful menstrual periods –
- Uterine fibroids – Fibroids are the tumours that don’t cause cancer but pressurize the uterus and lead to unusual pain and menstruation. Usually, they don’t have any symptoms.
- PID – Pelvic Inflammatory Disease is an infection of ovaries, fallopian tubes, or uterus. Sexually transmitted bacteria often cause this infection and inflammation, and pain on reproductive organs.
- Premenstrual Syndrome – PMS is another prevalent condition that causes menstrual pain. Hormonal changes that take place around 1-2 weeks before the period are highly responsible. Once the bleeding starts, symptoms usually go away.
- Endometriosis – In this painful condition, cells from the uterine lining grow in other body parts, especially on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, or tissue lining on the pelvis.
- Cervical stenosis – It is a rare disorder caused when the cervix is too narrow or small to keep the menstrual flow going. It may also pressurize the uterus that may lead to uterine pain.
- Adenomyosis – In this condition, the uterus’ lining builds up in the muscular wall and causes pressure, pain, and inflammation. It may also lead to heavier or more extended periods.
These home remedies may hopefully relieve pain during your periods. If the pain still doesn’t go away, you should consult your gynecologist –
- Use a heating pad on your back or pelvic area
- Massage your abdomen
- Do regular exercises at home
- Have some warm showers
- Eat healthy, light meals
- Practice yoga or relaxation techniques
- Take ibuprofen or other anti-inflammatory medications several days before period
- Take supplements and vitamins like vitamin E, vitamin B1, vitamin B6, calcium, omega-3, magnesium, etc.
- Cut down on alcohol, salt, sugar, and caffeine to avoid bloating
When to Seek Medical help?
If you can’t even perform routine jobs due to menstrual pain once a month, you should talk to your gynecologist. Ask your doctor if you are experiencing one of these symptoms –
- Blood clots
- Ongoing pain after placing IUD
- You’ve had painful periods three times
- Pelvic pain without a period
- Cramping with nausea and diarrhea
If you are having pelvic pain or cramping suddenly, it could be an infection. If left untreated, it could lead to scar tissue to affect pelvic organs and even cause infertility. You should ask your doctor if you have one of these symptoms of infection –
- Severe pelvic pain
- Pain suddenly, especially when you are expecting
- Vaginal discharge with a foul smell
Your doctor will conduct some tests and get your medical history to diagnose the ongoing cause of a painful period. To look for any signs of infection and reproductive system abnormalities, they may do a pelvic test. If they suspect an ongoing disorder, they may order a CT scan, MRI, or ultrasound. You may need to go for a laparoscopy as per the test results. In laparoscopy, small cuts are made in the abdomen, and a thin fibre-optic tube is inserted with a camera to inspect the abdominal cavity.
You should seek medical treatment if home remedies don’t work. Your doctor will consider the ongoing cause and severity of your pain to suggest the right treatment. For example, you may get antibiotics to treat STIs (sexually transmitted infections) or PID. Hormones also control painful periods as they prevent ovulation. Hence, the doctor can prescribe hormonal birth control, such as a vaginal ring, pill, patches, implants, injection, or IUD.