HEALTH AND WELLBEING
Coping With Period Pain
If you have ever experienced severe period pain, then you know first-hand how debilitating it can be.
For some lucky few, the monthly bleed comes and goes with relative ease, and cramps might come once in a blue moon, if at all. For others, every month brings a jackhammer-like thudding in the pubic region, heavy bleeding, back and leg pain, nausea, and diarrhea.
I spent around three decades struggling with these horrendous kinds of menstrual cramps, and it was miserable.
I came to dread each month, counting down the days until “the curse” would return to blight my entire existence for seven days (or more, sometimes).
I would plan my life around it, schedule work shifts and holidays to try to avoid the times when my period might turn up. This could, at times, be a bit of a guessing game, as my cycle wasn’t always regular. Wherever possible, I tried to avoid having to be anywhere during the first one to four days of my period, knowing that I would likely be spending them in a fetal position on my bed and cuddling a heat-pack, in between urgent dashes to the loo.
I remember having some pain on the occasion of my very first period (aged 12, or 13 — I don’t remember exactly), but it was manageable. I recall thinking, “well, I suppose that’s not so bad.”
By the time my first truly crippling bout of period pain arrived at age 15, I was cursing my (literally) bloody uterus through my tears and, when the cramps were at their worst, puke.
What makes periods painful?
The medical term for painful periods is dysmenorrhea, and it is caused when the womb contracts in order to shed its lining. As the uterine walls contract the blood vessels compress, which temporarily cuts off the blood, and therefore, the oxygen supply to the womb. This in turn leads to pain in the uterine tissue.
At the same time, the hormone prostaglandin is being produced, which triggers further muscle contractions in the uterus. It is believed…