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Menstrual cramps: Causes and home remedies

Dysmenorrhea can simply be explained as pain associated with menstruation or difficult monthly flow. The origin of the word which can be traced to Greece means painful monthly bleeding.

The facts state that about eighty percent of women experience painful period pain at some stage in their lifetime, with a study by the National Centre for Biotechnological Studies putting it precisely at 84%.

The menstrual pain struggle can run right from early teen to menopause and it can be so severe in some cases that some women are said to suffer anxiety whenever their period is around the corner. Others have had to battle or are still even battling depression.
Dysmenorrhea can be of two different types: primary and secondary.

Primary dysmenorrhea

Primary dysmenorrhea is natural period pain that is not caused by any underlying gynecological abnormalities or complications. It is said to be caused by a natural chemical called prostaglandins which are produced in the uterus lining. This natural chemical is responsible for the contraction of the muscles and the blood vessels during the monthly period, causing pain.

At the start of every monthly flow, the pain is more severe because of the high level of prostaglandins, but as the day goes by and more lining is shed due to continuous bleeding, the pain reduces. This explains why the pain eases after the first few days of menstruation.
Primary dysmenorrhea begins from early menstrual experience and as it is n many cases, becomes less severe as women age. It might also reduce after childbirth.

Secondary dysmenorrhea

Secondary dysmenorrhea can best be referred to as period pain that is caused by or related to an underlying gynecological disorder. Unlike primary dysmenorrheal, the pain tends to get worse with time and can lead to severe complications if not properly handled early.

Some of the causes of secondary dysmenorrhea are:

Endometriosis: This is a condition where similar tissues to those lining the uterus grow in other body areas, such as ovaries, fallopian tubes, and bladder. These tissues also break down and bleed like the uterus linings, thereby causing pain at about the same time the menstrual flow is on. This condition can also cause adhesion where the internal organs stick together, causing severe pain.

Fibroids: These are growths that develop on the outside, inside, or on the uterus walls. While smaller growths are mostly benign, larger ones can cause abdominal swelling which can be painful. Fibroid stems can also twist, causing pain, nausea, or even fever.

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• Adenomyosis: This is a condition where tissues lining the uterus start to grow on the uterus’s muscle walls.

• STIs: Sexually transmitted infection, if not treated early and properly, can spread up the urinary tract and cause gynecological complications like inflammations which can result in severe pains.

• PIDs: Pelvic inflammatory diseases are primarily known to affect the fallopian tubes but can also spread to the ovaries, uterus, and cervix, causing pain.

• Cervical Stenosis: This is a condition where the cervix or the opening to the uterus is narrowed down, blocking the passage between the uterus and the vaginal canal.

But, how can I tell if my menstrual cramps are normal?

If your menstrual pains are unusual or severe, or if they exceed three days, then it is advised to seek the help of a medical practitioner. Both primary and secondary dysmenorrhea are well-treatable and a pelvic examination would most likely be carried out after the right questions have been asked by your healthcare provider.

An instrument that allows for viewing the internal structure of the vagina – a speculum – would be used to examine the vagina, cervix, and uterus for abnormalities or growths.

There might also be a need to take samples of vaginal fluids for testing.
If secondary dysmenorrheal is suspected, then further tests like an ultrasound or laparoscopy might have to be carried out to come up with a proper treatment plan.

Some of the symptoms to watch out for include:
1. Fever
2. Vomiting
3. Diarrhea
4. Giddiness
5. Sunburn-like rash outbreak

Home remedies for period pains

Herbal teas: certain teas like; chamomile, fennels, and ginger teas are known to possess anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic properties. This can help lessen the pain that comes with a uterine muscle spasm that causes cramping. Taking advantage of these natural anti-inflammatories can also give some added benefits like relieving stress and battling insomnia.

Anti-inflammatory foods: Anti-inflammatory foods like; berries, tomatoes, and pineapples, are also safe natural options that can be taken to get relief from period cramps. Other food options include leafy green vegetables, almonds, walnuts, and spices like garlic, ginger, and turmeric.

Decaf coffees: caffeine is known to cause the narrowing of the blood vessels which can then affect the uterus by making it constrict and causing more pain. Decaffeinated coffees are therefore a safer option during the menstrual period because they help cut out the coffee as the name suggests.

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Dietary supplements: This is another option that can help with menstrual cramps. Supplements like vitamin D help the body to absorb calcium, thereby reducing inflammation, while omega-3, vitamin E, and magnesium are also as good. To achieve optimal results, these supplements are to be taken every other day and not just during the menstrual flow. However, be sure to seek your doctor’s advice first if you are already taking some medications to avoid negative interactions.

Heat therapy: Heat is a very trusted muscle relaxer as it aids in improved blood flow. A heating pad can be used on the lower abdominal areas to help calm the muscles. You can also take advantage of a simple hot shower.

 Exercises: This might sound like a crazy idea however, a little exercise while dealing with a nagging period pain might just be what you need to make your day a lot brighter. Simple exercises like; stretching, biking, or even walking are known to help with improving blood flow and easing pelvic pain.

Conclusion

One of the most common phenomena among women around the globe is monthly menstruation. And just as we’ve earlier stated, a large chunk of the percentage of women across the world have attested to feeling pain during the course of their periodic flow which makes it normal. However, if you notice that the pain is quite unbearable or lasts longer than usual then the help of a gynaecologist is needed.

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