People ask me all the time about their period. It may sound like an odd question to ask a stranger, but your period is often something we don’t fully understand about our body. Periods can be irregular, painful, or sometimes just too long. Some of the most common questions I get as a gynecologist are about painful periods, a very common occurrence for many women.
Painful periods are known as dysmenorrhea. It is the most common menstrual disorder: more than half of women report pain with their period for at least one to two days of their cycle. Dysmenorrhea can be broken down into primary (occurring from your first period) or secondary (occurring later in life and usually worsening over time).
Primary Dysmenorrhea, or run of the mill cramps, is caused by natural chemicals in the body called Prostaglandins that are made in the lining of the uterus. The levels of this chemical increase right before your period and then as the period continues, and the lining sheds, they usually decrease.
Secondary dysmenorrhea pain often lasts longer. It usually starts a day or two before the period but instead of getting better, it gets worse, and often it doesn’t go away once the period ends. That means it’s not caused by normal chemical changes—something else is up. So if your periods are that bad, you need to talk to a doc.
If you have common cramps, there are a few natural things you can do to help ease the pain:
5 Ways to Naturally Reduce Your Period Pain
- Reduce Caffeine: Caffeine can irritate your stomach lining and intensify cramps. So several days before and during your period, avoid that morning latte.
- Exercise: Although it is often the last thing on your mind during this time period, it does seem to really make a difference. And not just during your PMS days or during your period, but in general, people who exercise regularly tend to have better PMS symptoms.
- Increase your calcium intake: Taking 1,200 mg of calcium a day or eating foods rich in calcium – broccoli, milk, yogurt and cabbage, naturally help fight
muscle spasms. So perhaps the Ben and Jerry’s fro yo that you are craving
isn’t a bad idea?
- Breathe! Relaxation techniques such as yoga, breathing and meditation also
seem to alleviate the symptoms.
- Talk to your doc: If you have dysmenorrhea, Primary or Secondary, but
especially Secondary, talk to your doctor. Your doctor can perform a pelvic exam, an ultrasound, and listen to your story to try to pin point what the cause is. There are a variety of treatment options depending on the cause; from special prescription anti-inflammatory pills, to hormonal therapies and, worst-case scenario, even surgeries. But you shouldn’t have to suffer. If you feel like you are suffering and it happens more than once, talk to your doctor.
For more information on women’s health tips visit doctorpari.com or follow Dr. Pari @Pari_MD