The Nightmare of Menstrual Pains

Menstrual pains


Some women experience pains and cramps at a particular period of their monthly menstrual flow but what do medical experts make of that?

|  By Chinwe Okafor  |  Oct. 6, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT  |

FOR Oge Ilomuanya, a teenager, a particular period of the month comes with fear and anxiety. It is that period that she experiences her monthly menstrual flow, a period of pain and discomfort. According to her, she experiences cramping pain in her lower abdomen, pain in the lower back and thighs, headache and often times, constipation. She said that the discomfort does not allow her do things that she could easily do at normal times. She said: “These pains are so severe that most times I don’t even go to school during this period. I just wish something could be done to help minimize these pains because I believe that there are other females out there who do not face these pains.”

Ilomuanya is not the only one in this predicament. Ada Ugwu, an undergraduate, goes through  similar pain and discomfort during her menstrual period. Ugwu said she resorts  to taking pain killer drugs as soon as the bleeding or cramping starts. “Sometimes, I place a heating pad or hot water bottle on my lower back or abdomen for relief. The pain still comes but not as severe as it was before.” Ilomuanya and Ugwu are just two women of the several millions of women who experience menstrual pain every month because more than half of all menstruating women have cramps. The pains often come alongside with other body changes which include nausea, vomiting, sweating, dizziness, diarrhea, loose stools, constipation, headaches, and lightheadedness in varying degrees.

These have made many to tag the menstrual period as a period to dread. Some women even go to the extent of believing that it’s an abnormality in their body system. Medical experts have described menstrual cramp, which can also be referred to as dysmenorrhea or period pains, as a painful sensation felt in the lower abdomen which can occur both before and during a woman’s menstrual period often caused by contractions in the uterus. Ayorinde Samuel, chief medical director,  staff clinic secretariat, Ibadan, said  there is no identifiable cause of menstrual cramps. He explained that sometimes, the pains could be as a result of hormonal disorder.

Collection of sanitary pads
Collection of sanitary pads

“Increased activity of the hormone called prostaglandin which is produced in the womb could also play a role in the condition,” he said. But Isaac Adeoye, another doctor at the Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital, OAUTH, Osun State, said that menstrual cramps are caused by physiological conditions.  According to him, about 45  to 95 percent of women can have it in a locality and severe types are usually associated with abnormal conditions like fibroids. “Dysmenorrhea can be primary or secondary. Primary dysmenorrhea is the most common type of menstrual cramp and it is characterised by pain in the lower abdomen and lower back, beginning one to two days before the period.

“It lasts from two to four days while secondary dysmenorrhea is characterised by cramping pains that are due to an identifiable medical problem such as endometriosis, uterine fibroids, or pelvic inflammatory disease,” Adeoye said. He added that quite a number of people believe the use of herbs can help in relieving the cramps but warned, however, that herbs generally are not encouraged in modern medicine due to the non-scientific method of their preparation and administration. He said that excessive herbs can damage body organs but it would be better if one takes much water and then, reduces stress.

Also, Ali Usiholo, a doctor at University of Benin Teaching Hospital, UBTH, said  there is no hereditary basis for the cramps but that the pains may reduce after the first pregnancy. According to him, it is not universal but generally, it fades off as the lady ages. Most medical practitioners give analgesics in cases where the pains become unbearable. Research findings have also revealed that certain psychological factors such as emotional stress may also increase the likelihood of having menstrual cramps.

There are other medical conditions capable of causing menstrual cramps. Among them is  endometriosis which occurs when the tissue that lines the uterus develops outside it causing  uterine fibroid, a non-cancerous tumor and growth in the wall of the uterus. Another condition that can cause menstrual cramps is Adenomyosis, a situation where the tissue that lines the uterus grows into the muscular walls of the uterus. Others are pelvic inflammatory disease, a sexually transmitted infection caused by a bacterium, and cervical stenosis, that is, when the opening of the cervix is small and limits menstrual flow.

Studies have also shown that Chinese herbal medicines have been of immense help to women with menstrual cramps. Surgery may also help to reduce some menstrual cramp symptoms but this carries additional risks. However, since menstrual cramp is not a plague, there are several ways it can be prevented. They include eating fruits and vegetables and limiting intake of fat, alcohol, caffeine, salt, and sugary food; exercising regularly; reducing stress; quitting smoking and relaxation therapy.


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