We had cheered loudly when we heard the news about a U.K. company that provided “a period leave” for its mostly female workforce. As we all know, having your period can be a stressful experience. We all go through a degree of menstrual pain like cramps and a dull and constant ache that stretches from the puson to the back and legs. If you have higher levels of prostaglandin, a chemical produced in the lining of of our uterus and stimulates the muscles to contract (thus the cramps), the pain can even be accompanied by vomiting, diarrhea and headaches.
A day in bed (along with ibuprofen) is the only acceptable relief sometimes. But if your menstrual pain is intense, debilitating, and even accompanied by excessive bleeding (needing more than one change of pad or tampon an hour) and signs of infection (fever, chills and body aches), you may be suffering from any of the following conditions and should consult with a doctor.
1. Endometriosis The lining of the uterus is a tissue called the endometrium. Endometriosis is a condition wherein this tissue is found outside the womb in different areas of the body, commonly the fallopian tubes, ovaries, inside the abdomen and in the bowel or bladder.
Ken R. Sinervo, MD, medical director of the Center for Endometriosis Care in the U.S. says, “We don’t really know why endometriosis causes menstrual pain… [Pain] may have to do with where [the endometriosis] is located and how it presents.”
One of the main and worst complications of endometriosis is possible infertility. Removal of the misplaced tissue through surgery can improve (but assure) a woman's chances of having a successful pregnancy.
2. Adenomyosis This condition is similar to endometriosis—tissue has grown where it should not. Here, the tissue that lines the wall of the uterus grows deep inside the muscular walls of the uterus. Those suffer often experience painful and heavy periods. This is most seen in women who are over 30 years old and have had children.
3. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease This is an infection of the female upper genital tract that could include the womb, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. It's a common condition with most cases caused by a bacterial infection from the vagina spreading to other reproductive organs higher up.
Aside from painful periods and heavy flows, symptoms of PID can also include pain around the tummy, pain during sex, pain during urination, bleeding between periods and after sex, and unusual vaginal discharge.
Treatment for PID can be as simple as taking prescribed antibiotics for 14 days. However, an estimated 1 in 10 women become infertile because of PID, according to the NHS.
4. Uterine fibroids “Uterine fibroids can turn monthly menses into a monthly nightmare by increasing not only the amount of bleeding, but the severity of menstrual pain,” said Lauren Streicher, MD., associate professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in the U.S.
Uterine fibroids are noncancerous growths that develop in a woman's uterus. They're fairly common with three out of four women developing them some time in their lives. Fibroids range in size, some are microscopic and others large enough to distort the shape of a woman’s uterus.
5. Ovarian cysts These are fluid-filled sacs that form in the ovaries which for most cases happening during ovulation. The cyst forms when an egg from the ovaries is not released during ovulation or when the sac where the egg used to be does not dissolve after the egg was released.
While ovarian cysts don't commonly cause any symptoms, some women experience pain or bloating in the abdomen, difficulty urinating or too frequent urination, pain during sex, severe menstural cramps, abnormal bleeding, weight gain and a loss of appetite or feeling full quickly. If you have any of these symptoms, consult a doctor immediately because, aside from being symptoms of a cyst, these can also be signs of an ovarian tumor.
6. Intra-uterine Device (IUD) An IUD is a birth control device placed inside the uterus. There are different types of IUDs depending on what they’re made of. A copper IUD can be particularly troublesome at first. “A copper IUD, as opposed to a progestin IUD, can make menses heavier and more painful, particularly in the first few cycles after insertion,” said Streicher.
7. Small cervical opening Having a tiny small opening in the cervix can cause very painful menstrual cramps and can hinder menstrual flow. The pressure builds up in the uterus and causes the pain.
Sources: February 21, 2015. "Painful periods (dysmenorrhoea) " (nhs.uk) September 3, 2015. "Pelvic inflammatory disease " (nhs.uk) November 11, 2015. "Endometriosis" (nhs.uk) Undated. "7 Reasons Your Period Might Be Painful" (everydayhealth.com) November 19, 2015. "Menstrual Pain" (webmd.com) May 8, 2014. "Menstrual cramps" (mayoclinic.org)