Managing Menstrual Cramps

Menstrual cramps, also known as Dysmenorrhea refers to the pain women experience before or during their period. The sharp and annoying pain is experienced in the lower abdominal region of the body and may continue for 2 to 3 days.

Women who have painful periods often find it difficult to engage in daily activities or perform other, school-related work during their menstrual period. The symptoms of menstrual pain range from a mild ache to a severe one, which may hinder your daily activities.

Causes

Menstrual cramps are classified into two types:

  • Primary Dysmenorrhea
  • Secondary Dysmenorrhea

Primary Dysmenorrhea occurs during the beginning of the menstrual period in healthy women. The increased indulgence of a hormone called prostaglandin produced in the uterus is involved in this condition.

Secondary Dysmenorrhea occurs in women who have been going through normal periods. The condition is often caused due to problems in the pelvic organs and the uterus:

Symptoms

  • Throbbing pain in the lower abdomen
  • Lower back aches
  • Pain in the legs that radiates toward the extremities
  • Irritability
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Weakness
  • Headaches
  • Faintness

Treatment

The following are home-care steps that may help you avoid prescription drugs:

  • Perform a gentle, circular massaging movement around your lower abdomen region.
  • Place a heating pad on your lower abdomen. Do NOT fall asleep with the heating pad on your belly.
  • Elevate your legs while you lie down or rest on your side, keeping your knees bent.
  • Maintain a diet which involves light and frequent meals. Include foods containing complex carbohydrates such as fruits, whole grains and vegetables. Avoid high salt foods, sugary foods, caffeine and alcohol.
  • Drink warm beverages. Avoid hot or cold beverages.
  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen. Take the medicine before the expected date of the beginning of your period and continue taking it for the first few days of the cycle.
  • Take calcium, magnesium and vitamin B6 supplements. This should be done especially if the pain is due to PMS.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Take warm showers.
  • If you are overweight, try to lose weight with aerobic exercises.

If self-help treatment is inadequate, consult your doctor. Your doctor will most probably prescribe the following medications:

  • Antibiotics
  • Birth control pills
  • Antidepressants
  • Anti-inflammatory medication
  • Pain relievers

When to seek medical attention

Visit your doctor if the following conditions occur:

  • Fever
  • Pelvic pain
  • Foul smelling discharge from the vagina
  • Severe pain (especially if you have been sexually active or if your period is a week late)
  • Treatments do not work even after 3 months of menstrual periods
  • Blood clots are released with the discharge
  • Pain is accompanied with other complications
  • You had an intrauterine pelvic device placed before 3 months
  • Your pain starts late, after 5 or more days of the period or after the period ends.

 Related Video on Managing Menstrual Cramps

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