The Painful Truth About Periods
Pain due to menstrual cramps/ period cramps has been around since women have existed on earth. Every girl who has attained menarche and every pre-menopausal woman with a functioning uterus has experienced this at some point in her life.
The cultural taboos/ stigma around the topic of periods alone has made many women suffer in silence over years. Women have always been told that they should be hush about it. That they should wear a strong facade and bear the pain.
Do you know that 2/3rd of women globally suffer from period pain?
They think that it is a price they are paying for being a woman.But, this is not true!
Taking painkillers every month is not a healthy way to deal with the pain.
Many women with reproductive health problems ignore severe period pain as JUST period pain every month.They put up with this and do not seek treatment for it.
There are women who suffer in all settings, at home, in school and at work places in silence.
There is a call to educate women about period pain and self care to manage the pain symptoms associated.
1. What is period pain?
Has a fancy science term called Dysmenorrhea. (DIS- MEN-O- RIA)
It is the pain that a woman feels in her lower abdomen.
A woman has cramps right before or during her period days.
There are two types of period pain depending on severity of it and for how long it pains:
Primary dysmenorrhea: It is mild to moderate pain in the lower abdomen. It can also radiate to the thighs and lower back.
It can start a day or 2 before periods and continue into the period days. It is common in girls who have just got their periods and in women after they give birth
Secondary dysmenorrhea: It is seen in women who have problems with the reproductive system. They include endometriosis, fibroids, cyst infections. It is also common among women who use IUDs and birth control.
The pain starts earlier and lasts longer in case of secondary dysmenorrhea. Women can experience pain not only around the time of their periods, they can experience it at any other time of the month.
Sometimes period pain is accompanied with nausea, vomiting, headache and weakness.
2. Why does one feel period pain? What is the cause for this pain?
This is because the muscles of the uterus are tightening and relaxing/ squeezing as it sends the blood and tissue out of the body.
There are special components in the body called prostaglandins which tell the uterus muscle to contract and throw the tissue and blood out of the body.
More prostaglandins in the body= More uterus contractions = More pain
Women with low levels of Calcium and Magnesium in the body may experience pain. These 2 nutrients are required to keep the uterus muscle strong to contract.
When the body does not have enough Ca or Mg to contract the uterus muscle becomes weak and it pains.
Is it normal to feel the pain? Do all women go through pain?
Some women may experience mild cramping to moderate pain that usually disappears during the first or second day of periods.
Some women can experience very severe pain that can prevent them from leading a normal life or quality life.
Severe pain every month that interferes with the lifestyle, routine and mood of a woman.
Many women with reproductive health problems ignore severe period pain as JUST period pain every month.They put up with this every month and do not seek treatment for it.
It should not be a part of a woman’s monthly cycles.
The pain can take away the best of woman.
3. How to deal with these cramps? What solutions do we have?
A lot of women take painkillers to suppress the pain. They are quick to dull the pain but,
But harmful for the body if taken too often.
Birth control pills - People who experience severe pain take birth control pills to relieve the pain. Birth control pills prevent the egg from being released by the ovaries.It reduces the quantity of pain hormones called prostaglandins in the uterus. They also prevent the uterus wall lining from becoming thick. Due to this a woman ends up having a light period and no cramping.
But these can have side effects like nausea, weight gain, mood changes, lighter periods/spotting and headaches
There are many alternative/ holistic pain relieving solutions. How do these solutions work?
- Hot water bottle or Heating pad or take warm bath
The application of heat on the skin of the abdomen helps in killing the pain.
When the uterus is squeezing out its contents the blood vessels that line it are also becoming narrow/ contracting. This means that the uterus is getting less blood= less oxygen supply and this causes pain.
Applying heat can improve the cause of the blood vessels to expand and increase blood flow to the lower abdomen and thighs to relieve pain. This is helpful,but provides only temporary relief from the pain.
- Roll on to relieve pain/ essential oils
There are roll-on bottles containing oils of mint and eucalyptus that can be used to massage the lower abdomen, thighs and back with oils of mint, eucalyptus and lavender.
These oils have special components in them that can relieve period pain. Massaging itself can help soothe the pain.The oils alone do not have any direct effect on the pain. They only relax the senses, reduce anxiety and stress around the pain. It distracts one from the pain.
Two most most effective remedies for the pain are
This probably the last thing that one might want to do in their period. All you want to do is sleep curled up in that foetal preposition all day .
Make sure you incorporate a mild form of exercise like yoga or jogging or walking. Light stretching not only relaxes the muscles and soothes the pain..
Exercising also provides relief from other period symptoms like mood swings.It makes the brain to manufacture happy hormones called endorphins which drives away the irritation and period gloom.
You will definitely feel happiness and gratitude after just 30 minutes of stretching.
It is important to meet the nutrient requirements of your body to manage period pain. Include Calcium and Magnesium rich foods in your diet- Low fat calcium foods include spinach, millets, nuts, seeds. These two nutrients are required for strong uterus muscles and for contraction, Vitamin B12- Include B12 rich foods in your diet. They can reduce the prostaglandins which can reduce the pain due to uterus contractions. Complement your diet with Ayurvedic herbs Shatavari - Is an Ayurvedic herb that is known for uterine health benefits. It acts as a muscle relaxer and alleviates menstrual cramps. Ashwagandha- It strengthens the uterus and relieves pain.
You can look into natural period drinks that help deal with the pain!
Remember it is not a weakness to show that you are going through all that pain. Listen to your body on those days.
Make sure you prioritize rest for yourself. Take it easy on those days. Cancel appointments or social events if you are not upto it. Use a period reminder app to plan your schedule around your period days.
If you are going through unbearable pain over several months and weeks seek professional help. This kind of pain is not normal and not a natural thing.
We at &Me believe is the time to break that culture of silence around period cramps.
We have used the principles of nutrition science and ayurveda to develop a period kit consisting of &Me Happy period drink and &Me period chocolate. These products relieve the symptoms of periods for women while providing 30% of the daily nutrition requirements of a woman.