About 30 to 50 percent of women of childbearing age report dysmenorrhea to be a disrupting symptom before or during menses. Dysmenorrhea is characterized by moderate to severe menstrual cramps.
For some women, the pain is tolerable. However, for a few, the pain could be excruciating and debilitating. For this reason, some women take a leave of absence from work and could not really do their daily tasks with full concentration.
The menstrual cramps could be associated with the PMS or pre-menstrual syndrome which is also accompanied by several symptoms such as weakness, nausea, vomiting, headaches, diarrhea, faintness, constipation and dizziness.
Severe menstrual cramps or Dysmenorrhea, is actually caused by a series of events that happen within a female’s reproductive cycle.
During ovulation, which typically happens on the 14th day from the first day of menstruation, a mature egg cell (ovum) is released from the ovary into the fallopian tube in order to be fertilized.
If a motile and healthy sperm fertilizes the egg, it results into conception and pregnancy is on its way. However, if the ovum is not fertilized, it goes out from the reproductive tract.
During this time, the thickened endometrial lining of the uterus sheds off. When there is no fertilization, the molecules called prostaglandins; specifically the Prostaglandin F2alpha is released and facilitates the muscles of the uterus to contract.
During the contraction, proper circulation of oxygen is not distributed in the thickened lining of the uterus, thus, the tissues die. In this process, the tissues are then squeezed out by the uterine contractions into the cervix out of the vagina. Thus, menstruation takes place.
Because of the elevated levels of Prostaglandins, several women experience pain before and during menstruation.
The pain that severe menstrual cramps bring could actually be managed conservatively. Some would recommend complete bed rest during the cramps. However, there are several claims that exercise, particularly walking, reduces the pain.
In my case, walking helps a lot. Compared with just plain bed rest, moving around allows me to divert my attention away from the pain. The effect could both be physiological and psychological.
Aside from the psychological effect, it actually releases good hormones which helps counteract the pain brought by prostaglandins. Others manage severe menstrual cramps by placing a warm compress on the abdomen. This is actually relieving and comfort.
Yoga, abdominal massage and relaxation activities also help in relieving severe menstrual cramps. The treatment of dysmenorrhea actually varies from person to person. Although the conservative approach could work with others, some women need oral analgesics and pain killers.
In the case of those who experience severe menstrual pain, analgesics would work best. Among others, Acetaminophen, Ibuprofen, Hyoscine N-Butylbromide (Buscopan), Aspirin and Mefenamic Acid are highly efficient in reducing the pain.
For women who have frequent menstrual cramps that do not go off with the usual pain relievers, it would be best to consult a gynecologist. Some menstrual pain symptoms are actually underlying signs of complications or other medical conditions. To rule out other disorders, one should seek the help of a health expert.