Menstrual cramps or dysmenorrhea is primarily a result of uterine contraction. Primary dysmenorrhea is the normal cramps women face during their menstrual days. Secondary dysmenorrhea results from a disorder of reproductive organs; both the types of dysmenorrhea can be treated and overcome in no time.
Some also refer to menstruation as dysmenorrhoea. The two types of dysmenorrhea primary and secondary both cause menstrual cramps, although secondary dysmenorrhea is a bit challenging.
Primary dysmenorrhea includes menstrual cramps, which are recurrent and do not cause any disease. With the onset of periods, the menstrual cramps occur during the first and second days or even two days before the periods.
Dysmenorrhea pain is felt in the lower abdomen, thighs, and the back area. The pain can range from severe to mild and typically last for 72 hours. Some women also face nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and fatigue when they are challenged with dysmenorrhea. Dysmenorrhea pain decreases as the woman ages and stops entirely after she attains menopause.
The second type of dysmenorrhea, called secondary dysmenorrhea is caused when a woman's reproductive organs are not functioning correctly, diseases of reproductive organs such as adenomyosis, endometriosis, uterine fibroids or any other infection that begins early in the menstrual cycle and lasts longer than the menstrual cramps. No signs of vomiting, nausea, fatigue, diarrhea is experienced in the case of secondary dysmenorrhea.
What Are The Risk Factors Of Dysmenorrhea?
Women are at a greater risk of experiencing dysmenorrhea or menstrual pain if there is:
- Family history of menstrual cramps
- Habit of smoking
- Heavy bleeding during periods which is referred to as menorrhagia
- Irregular menstrual breathing is known as metrorrhagia
- Puberty at an early age of 11 or even younger
- You are at an age of 30 or below
Menstrual cramps don't cause any other medical complications that can interfere with day to day activities. Menstrual cramps can have complications, for example, endometriosis can cause fertility problems. Pelvic inflammatory diseases are known to harm the fallopian tubes and also increase the risk of fertilized egg implants outside the uterus known as ectopic pregnancy.
Causes Of Primary And Secondary Dysmenorrhea
The tightening and relaxation of uterine muscles cause menstrual cramps, because of the presence of a chemical called prostaglandin. Once a woman conceives, she starts experiencing contractions during the entire pregnancy, even in the absence of menstrual cycles.
The uterus experiences contraction and also presses against blood vessels cutting off the oxygen supply to the muscle tissues of the uterus. As it is quite clear that cramps are pain results when a part of the uterine muscles are deprived of oxygen supply.
Secondary dysmenorrhea is a result of disease in the reproductive organ of a woman:
- cervical stenosis takes place when the opening to the uterus narrows down
- in the case of endometriosis, the tissue lining of the uterus referred to as the endometrium is found outside the uterus
- a pelvic inflammatory disease caused by bacteria first starts developing in the uterus and spread to other reproductive organs
- In case the uterus lining grows into the muscle of the uterus, this condition is referred to as adenomyosis and is a painful condition
- uterine fibroids are benign tumors and usually develop on the inner wall of the uterus.
What Are The Symptoms Of Dysmenorrhoea?
- Aching pain in the abdomen
- The feeling of heaviness in the lower part of the thighs and abdominal area
- Painful stretches in the lower back hips and inner thighs.
Things That Can Be Done To Counteract
Women facing extreme episodes of menstrual cramps are often advised to take Aspirin or any other pain reliever like naproxen, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen. For best results, it is best to take the medicine during the onset of your periods and as soon as the cramping starts. A hot water bag can also help when placed on the lower back area or on the tummy.
Women should also keep in mind that whenever the body feels weak, take proper rest. It is important to massage the abdomen and the lower back area when required. Avoid using foods that contain caffeine and excess salt in it. Also, abstain from taking tobacco or drinking alcohol.
Women should conduct regular physical exercises to control menstrual pain and help cope up with dysmenorrhea. Try to make exercises a part of your weekly routine. Oral contraceptives ensure less menstrual pain and also on-time period days.
Do not take a higher dose of Ibuprofen or acetaminophen unless advised by the doctor. In such cases, an allergic reaction may be felt, and the duration of menstruation may increase.
Apart from nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, doctors also prescribe hormone medications. They reduce the severity of the symptoms and also cause great relief when it comes to aching pain.
- Anti-nausea medication is given to relieve signs of vomiting. Implantable contraception and progesterone IUDs release low levels of the hormone progesterone. They are known to be helpful in reducing menstrual pain.
- Some women do not respond to the treatment done by non-steroidal medications, and hormonal contraceptives.
- The treatment for secondary dysmenorrhea varies with the cause of its a diagnostic laparoscopy and other forms of hormonal treatment that include a trial of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation.
- These may be the next steps for treating dysmenorrhea. Surgeries can be done to remove the formation of fibroids in the reproductive organ or even to widen the cervical canal if it is too narrow.
Alternative therapies that include acupuncture, herbal medications and hypnosis may also help in countering extreme pain.
- It is important to remain conscious when it comes to herbal medications, even though they are natural, but not necessarily safe.
- They can interfere with the chemical medications and it is important to check with a doctor before including them in your diet.
Difficult monthly flow dysmenorrhea is normal for 95% of the women. In spite of such challenges, women make it possible to continue day to day activities at school, at the office, at home.
However, a piece of advice for women who have showcased themselves as strong ones - do not delay treating the cause or even taking and advice just to be on the safer side.