Nutrition Expert: Sana Saiyed, Practicing Clinical Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator, Mumbai.
Women are not anxious about getting periods but are afraid of the menstrual cramp. Most women first notice menstrual cramps about 6 months to a year after getting their first period. These are brought on when the thick functional mucosal lining of the uterus (endometrium) detaches and passes out through the vagina with blood as part of the normal ovarian cycle.
The prevalence of dysmenorrhoea (painful menstrual cramps of uterine origin) is difficult to determine because of different definitions of the condition—prevalence estimates vary from 45% to 95%. However, dysmenorrhoea seems to be the most common gynecological condition in women regardless of age and nationality. Absenteeism from work and school as a result of dysmenorrhoea is common (13% to 51% women have been absent at least once and 5% to 14% are often absent owing to the severity of symptoms).
Some teenage girls and women have cramps and abdominal pain during their periods, which can be so severe that it is difficult for them to attend studies or go to work for as many as one, two, or three days.
The usual medical treatments for painful periods (dysmenorrhoea) are painkillers (analgesics), generally nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs like ibuprofen), or the oral contraceptive pill.
Some women and girls may experience nausea, vomiting, headaches, or diarrhea as well.
Doctors aren’t sure why some women experience painful menstruation and others don’t. But some factors that are associated with more intense pain include:
- having a heavy blood flow
- having your first child
- being under the age of 20, or just starting your period
- having an overproduction of or sensitivity to prostaglandins, a hormone that influences your womb.
What are the causes of Dysmennorhoea?
Prostaglandins are made in the lining of the uterus. Primary dysmenorrhea usually is caused by natural chemicals called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are also implicated in secondary dysmenorrhoea; however, anatomical mechanisms can also be identified, depending on the type of accompanying pelvic disease. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1459624/)
Chances are, you know all too well how it feels. You may have:
- Aching pain in your belly (sometimes severe)
- Feeling of pressure in your belly
- Pain in the hips, lower back, and inner thighs
When cramps are severe, symptoms may include:
- Upset stomach, sometimes with vomiting
- Loose stools
Tips that can help you soothe your belly during menstrual cramps:
- Drink Electral water: During endometritis, there are certain nutrients that can help you deal with the pain, electral water can cause the uterine wall to contract less.
- Supplement yourself with magnesium: Magnesium was more effective than a placebo at reducing period pain in two trials. Magnesium was taken daily in one of the trials and during periods (menses) in the second.
- Peppermint tea has shown proven results in reducing menstrual cramp, so taking 2 cups of peppermint tea a day and soothe your belly.
- Dark chocolates are rich in magnesium that reduces the severity of the symptoms, 70 to 85% dark chocolate gives 70% of the recommended dose of magnesium.
- Ginger: Ginger may also reduce nausea. Consuming more than 4 grams in one day could cause heartburn and stomachaches. So consuming just a pinch of the ginger powder can help you reduce symptoms.
- Consume salt and packaged food items in moderation because they lead to bloating.
Period cramps/Dysmenorrhea are common during the menstrual cycle but if the pain is unbearable you should visit your doctor.