This is the second and final part of the menstrual cramps series. This part focuses on the cause, susceptibility and treatment options. I spoke to Dr. Yemisi Bokinni, a medical doctor and health researcher from London, who provided an overall guide to this post. She has also covered heavy flow on her Daily Run Africa platform.
1. What causes menstrual cramps.
The womb needs to contract in order to shed its lining every month and form a period, so it is expected that most women feel a bit of a cramp during their period. A hormone-like substance, prostaglandins, is what causes the uterus walls to contract and then shed its lining, resulting in your period. If the prostaglandins levels are higher, more pain is often associated with the cramps. Menstrual cramps tend to begin after ovulation when an egg is released from the ovaries, travels down the fallopian tube and can continue till the periods end.
Menstrual cramp is also known medically as dysmenorrhea and it ranges from dull and annoying to severe and extreme. The pain occurs in the lower abdomen and lower back. It typically begins a day or 2 days before menstruation and lasts from 2 to 4 days.
The pain that is only associated with the process of menstruation is known as primary dysmenorrhea. This varies from woman to woman, but cramps are likely to become less painful as you get older or after childbirth.
However, if the cramp is due to an identifiable medical problem such as uterine fibroids, adenomyosis, endometriosis, cervical stenosis, or pelvic inflammatory disease, it is called secondary dysmenorrhea, which may not go after childbirth and can continue to menopause.
2. What kind of women are prone to cramps?
- Women with the above conditions that can cause secondary dysmenorrhea.
- Women who started their periods at a very young age.
- Women who have never gotten pregnant.
- Women who smoke or drink alcohol.
3. Is there a cure or method to ease the pain?
There are several ways to manage period pains.
- Lifestyle changes – eating healthy food, cutting out salty, sugary and processed foods, reducing smoking and alcohol intake, can help especially if you have heavy flow too.
- Light exercises like yoga.
- Drinking warm water or tea.
- Bathing with hot water infused with aromatherapy oils.
- A class of drugs known as NSAID’s (Ibuprofen & mefanamic acid). This reduces the amount of the substance in the womb responsible for causing the womb to cramp known as prostaglandins. Paracetamol is unlikely to be as effective as the drugs above.
This article is intended as a guide, not to replace the advantage of a personal meeting with a gynaecologist.
*image sourced from canva.