Don’t assume that nothing can be done
Amy L. Metzger, CNM
Most women get a monthly period, but for some, it is a monthly ordeal.
Many of our patients report painful periods. This comes as no surprise; the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) says dysmenorrhea (the clinical name for intense menstrual cramps) is the most commonly reported menstrual disorder, with more than half of menstruating women reporting having some pain for one to two days each month.
Dysmenorrhea encompasses more than just painful abdominal cramps. You may also experience:
- Changes in your bowel movements ranging from constipation to diarrhea
- Nausea, or even vomiting
- Pain in your lower back, or radiating down your legs
Try this at home
There are steps you can take to relieve or at least lessen your symptoms. You may need to experiment to find out what works best for you.
- Over-the-counter pain relievers that reduce inflammation, such as ibuprofen, may help. Take with food to prevent stomach irritation. Start taking the pain reliever as soon as you think your period is about to start.
- Apply heat to the area that hurts. A hot water bottle or heating pad usually brings some relief.
- Exercise can help to limit cramps if you do it regularly.
- Other lifestyle changes may also help. Be sure to get enough sleep and stay well-hydrated. Try reducing your consumption of caffeine and alcohol. If you smoke, quit.
- Some women find relief in holistic treatments, including acupuncture, massage or herbal supplements. Talk to your provider before starting any supplements to reduce the risk of harmful interactions or side effects.
When to seek help
If your symptoms are severe enough to impact your daily life – you regularly miss school, work or other activities – we can help.
We will talk with you about your medical history, symptoms and menstrual cycle. We will also do a pelvic exam and possibly an ultrasound to rule out any conditions that may be causing the problem, such as endometriosis or fibroids.
Once we’ve ruled out other conditions, we can work with you to develop a plan to reduce your symptoms. This may include some of the self-care options described above, or prescription medication. A variety of birth control methods can be used to treat dysmenorrhea, including the pill, the patch, the vaginal ring and intrauterine devices (IUDs). We can help you choose the option that works best for you and your lifestyle.
If you suffer from painful periods, schedule an appointment online or call us: 413-562-8016 for our Westfield office or 413-736-9978 for our Springfield office.