Oh my… It’s that time of the month again! Suddenly those shopping binges, hanging out with close friends and quiet peaceful evenings after a tedious working day, have been replaced with mood swings, sense of dizziness, nausea and abdominal discomfort, plus an urge to just lie in bed. How you wish there was a magical pill that can just make all those pains ‘gone with the wind’!
So what’s all the hassle about? Why do you have all that discomfort during menstruation?
Dr. Amaya Carreras, Gynecologist in-charge at GMC answers related questions and shares valuable information every woman should know about this all too-familiar pain nine out of 10 women suffer from during their “time of the month.
Question: Dr. Amaya, why do women get menstrual cramps?
Menstruation is the shedding of the inner lining of the uterine wall. This shedding is assisted by a host of hormones, the master being ‘prostaglandins’. Where there are prostaglandins there is pain! This hormone is also prominent during delivery. It is responsible for pushing the lining of the uterus out. Apart from all the hormonal action, there are muscle spasms. This condition is called Dysmenorrhea.
Menstrual cramps, also known as period pains or dysmenorrhea in more acute cases, are feelings of pain felt in the lower part of the abdomen which can occur both before and during a female`s menstrual period. The pain ranges from dull and annoying to severe, and it could be an agony in some extreme cases. Uterine contractions cause much of the pain felt during menstrual cramps because the contractions decrease the blood flow to the inner lining of the uterus; the endometrium, thus temporarily hindering its nutrition.
Question: So, now that the cause for the monthly nuisance is known, what could be the health tips that can help in alleviating the symptoms?
If you are among the unlucky ones who get bad cramps, here are some tips that can help ease the pain:
1.) Do some mild exercise:
Light exercise can offer some relief to women who are suffering from menstrual cramps. Walk around the neighborhood (if the weather allows), run on the treadmill, go ride your bike, or any other exercises you enjoy. This will help increase the blood flow which, eventually, can help ease the cramps. Keep the physical exertion at a gentle tempo and try just 20-30 minutes on your exercise bike or treadmill.
2.) Dress for comfort:
Try to wear clothes that do not exert pressure on your abdomen, especially tight clothes at the waist.
3.) Stick to a healthy diet:
While having the menstrual cramps, the last thing you might think of is eating, but you should still ensure you receive adequate nutrition. Not only do small, regular meals help boost your energy stores, they can also help alleviate stomach bloating and cramps. A recommended diet is one rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, as well plenty of water intake; it is important to remain well-hydrated all the time (keep a water bottle handy throughout the day). Do not forget to have a glass of milk every morning as calcium is known to be a good cure for cramps.
4.) Try some home remedies:
- Apply a mildly-hot pad to your lower belly area – below your belly button – while lying down, it will help ease the discomfort. Take a hot shower before sleeping and concentrate the water flow on the lower part of your belly.
- Drink chamomile tea as it helps relieving menstrual pains as proven by some researchers. Also, raspberry leaf or jasmine flavored green tea can exert wonders in calming your body and mind.
- While in bed lie on your side while keeping your knees bent.
- Apply some lavender oil on your belly, it is claimed to help relieving cramps within few minutes. Do light circular massaging movements with your fingertips around the lower belly area.
- Avoid caffeine and smoking, both will exacerbate the pain.
5.) Over the counter Pain-Relieving Pills:
OTC pain-relievers such as ibuprofen or naproxen (from a family of anti-inflammatory medications named: non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) can be used around the clock at the first sign of your period to help reduce the severity of cramps, through the inhibition of prostaglandins release. Always take pain-relievers with meals so as to avoid stomach upset. Be aware that anti-inflammatory medications are not suitable for females with history of asthma, sensitive stomach, kidney and liver illnesses. If you are not sure about it, speak to your doctor.
Question: Anything else you believe can be of benefit to the readers?
Menstrual cramps affect many girls and women around the time of menstruation, but there is no reason why the pain of menstrual cramps should ruin your quality of life. However, you should talk to your physician if these tips do not help, there may be an underlying cause, and dreaded endometriosis could be one. Severe sudden cramps, vomiting, or fever may be a sign of a medical emergency, contact your physician immediately.
Finally, there’s no surefire way to relieve period pains as I have found over the years that what works for some women can aggravate other women’s pains. So whether you are experiencing moderate or severe pain only your doctor can help assess and manage your pains effectively. Yes …it’s widely unpopular, and it could be frowned upon to request a doctor’s appointment over menstrual cramps, but a simple pelvic exam is all what you need and you will be on your way.
Dr. Amaya Carreras