Every month, a horrible pain plagues many girls around the world – Dysmenorrhea a.k.a., menstrual cramps. Some get it for hours, while others could get it for up to a few days.
That is why it is very important that we truly understand what it is, (just in case it’s something more than just a normal cramp) and what we can do to treat the pain.
What is Dysmenorrhea?
Dysmenorrhea, the medical term for Menstrual Cramps, is a common gynaecological disorder that occurs during a girl’s menstruation, and is said to affect up to 90% of women of reproductive age.
Dysmenorrhea occurs due to the contraction in the uterus when the uterus lining sheds, and can be categorised into 2 types – primary and secondary.
Types of Dysmenorrhea
- Primary Dysmenorrhea tends to occur with the genesis of the menstrual cycle, and is not due to to other diseases. The pain usually starts just before or when the menstruation starts, and is felt mainly in the lower abdomen. Usually accompanied by nausea, vomiting, fatigue, or diarrhoea.
- Secondary Dysmenorrhea is caused by a disorder or disease in the woman’s reproductive orders which bring about pelvic pain. It can start to begin in women who are in their late teens or early twenties and progressively worsens, unlike primary dysmenorrhea. The pelvic pain begins before their menstruation cycle and continues during and even after the cycle. It is not typically accompanied by nausea, vomiting, fatigue, or diarrhoea. Some causes of secondary Dysmenorrhea include:
- Adenomyosis (tissue that lines the uterus begins to grow within its muscular walls)
- a Sexually Transmitted Infection
- Endometriosis (where the menstrual tissue accumulates outside the uterus)
- Ovarian cyst or tumour
Are There Side Effects to Dysmenorrhea?
Side Effects of Primary Dysmenorrhea:
- Breast Tenderness
- Feeling Emotional
Side Effects of Secondary Dysmenorrhea:
- Bleeding between periods
- Bleeding becomes heavier
- Change in the intensity and length of your menstrual pain
- Irregular periods
- Pain between periods
- Pain during sex
- Pain in your rectum
- Vaginal discharge
Is It Treatable?
Definitely. Below is a list of some of the treatments available for both primary and secondary Dysmenorrhea:
- Alternative Painkillers: Panadol or Paracetamol
- Anti-Inflammatory Painkillers: Prescribed by your doctor, ibuprofen
- Birth Control: Hormonal birth control pills or an intrauterine device (IUD)
- Heat: Hot water bottles/bags/heating pads (MenstruHeat)
- Light Aerobic Exercises
- Surgical Options: More for secondary Dysmenorrhea when the cause of the cramping is due to another underlying cause such as Uterine Fibroids or Endometriosis, and may need to be removed to alleviate the pain.
Sounds serious…Should I Be Concerned?
Generally, most of us experience primary Dysmenorrhea, which is easily treatable so there is nothing to worry about!
However, if you’re concerned that it could be something more, you could look into going for a pelvic exam, an ultrasound, or even a exploratory laparoscopy where the doctor can look into your abdominal and pelvic area more closely.
It’s always best to first seek a consultation with your doctor and heed his/her advice on how to move forward!