How to cope with painful periods
Periods and pain go hand in hand for many women. It’s thought that approximately half of all adult women experience pain during their period. However, for one in five of these women, their pain is so awful that it prevents them from going about their daily activities.
Pain during your period – also known as primary dysmenorrhea – is caused by the release of chemicals called prostaglandins, which makes your uterus contract. The more of these chemicals your body produces, the more pain you’ll get.
Treating period pain
You’ve tired paracetamol and hot water bottles, but they just don’t seem to ease the pain – what next?
Fish oils: Some studies have shown that women taking Omega-3 fish oils had less period pain than those who didn’t. Taking 6g a day can help as it works as an anti-inflammatory, which lessens cramping.
Prescribed drugs: If the pain is really bad, your GP can prescribe an anti-inflammatory, such as mefanamic acid capsules, as well as a strong painkiller such as codeine.
TENS machine: Used by many women during labour, a TENS (or Transcutaneous electronic nerve stimulation) machine releases tiny electrical impulses to stimulate nerves in the pelvic area, which then helps to block pain. You can buy TENS machines from most chemists, with prices starting at around £30.
Contraceptive pill: Don’t dismiss going on the pill to help ease your pain. Combined contraceptive pills can help with period pain as they help thin the lining of the womb. This means the muscles do not have to contract as much when they need to shed away each month, making cramps less noticeable. The pill could also make your period lighter. It’s not for everyone but is definitely something worth discussing with your GP if you’ve been suffering for a while.
Could it be something more serious?
Occasionally menstrual pain indicates that there is a problem related to your uterus or other pelvic organs.
“Excessive painful periods do need investigation as could be related to conditions like fibroids, adenomyosis, endometriosis, or pelvic inflammation,” says Kavita Singh, Consultant Gynaecologist at BMI Priory Hospital in Birmingham. “Usually ultrasound and /or laparoscopy is performed to assess the cause and treatment is then directed towards the cause.”