This is the medical name for painful menstrual periods. Approximately 75 percent of women experience dysmenorrhoea at some point in their reproductive lives.

What Are The Types of Dysmenorrhoea?

Dysmenorrhoea is categorized by doctors into two types.

■ Primary dysmenorrohea tends to start two or three years after menstruation begins, once ovulation is established. There is usually no underlying disease to account for it and the problem often diminishes after the age of about 25 and is rare following childbirth. However, it can continue after childbirth and into the mid-30s.
■ Secondary dysmenorrhoea is more common later in life and causes stomach cramps 1 or 2 weeks before the period starts. It is usually a symptom of some underlying condition such as endometriosis or adhesions.

Either type of dysmenorrhoea may or may not be accompanied bv premenstrual syndrome, a bloated feeling, irritability, depression and other changes that commonly occur in the days preceding menstruation.

What Are The Symptoms of Dysmenorrhoea?

■ Violent abdominal cramps starting at the onset of menstruation and lasting up to three days.
Diarrhoea.
■ Frequent urination.
■ Sweating.
■ Pelvic soreness with pain radiating down into the upper thighs and into the back.
■ Abdominal distension.
■ Backache.
■ Nausea and vomiting.

What Causes It of Dysmenorrhoea?

Research has shown that women suffering from primary dysmenorrhoea produce excessive quantities of the hormone prostaglandin at the time of menstruation or they’re extremely sensitive to it. Prostaglandin is one of the hormones released during labour and is in part responsible for uterine contractions. Dysmenorrhoea can therefore be seen as a mini-labour, with the prostaglandin causing uterine muscle to go into spasm producing cramp-like
pain similar to labour pains. Pain may also be due to a small amount of menstrual blood flowing back through the fallopian tubes, which causes irritation.

What Is The Treatment of Dysmenorrhoea?

Some doctors may imply that the pain of menstrual cramps is psychosomatic, but that isn’t so. Don’t be put off from consulting your doctor by the hope that the pain will pass as you get older or if you have children. Every woman deserves relief from dysmenorrhoea.

■ Insist on a trial of antiprostaglandin drugs, such as naproxen, which should be taken just prior to and for the first two to three days of menstruation.
■ The contraceptive pill is often prescribed to relieve dysmenorrhoea because it inhibits ovulation, alters hormonal balance and reduces the thickness of the womb lining, so it’s a highly effective treatment. The progesterone IUD also helps dysmenorrhoea.
If you develop painful periods after several years of pain-free menstruation, your doctor will examine you and recommend treatment according to the underlying condition.

Measures of Dysmenorrhoea

■ Most of us have our own methods of relieving this sort of pain and one or more hot water bottles is the favourite option for many women. Hot baths and bed rest also help.
■ I would encourage you to experiment with herbal teas that reduce spasmodic pain such as mint or camomile infusions. Ginger infusion is another common remedy. Add a cup of hot water to 1 teaspoon grated fresh root, infuse for 10 minutes and drink when needed.
■ You can also try over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen.

Relaxation And Yoga

Relaxation or special yoga-type exercises can also relieve the pain. For example, the bow
and cobra positions may help.

Massage

Massage of the lower abdomen, the lower back and the legs relieves period pain. You
can massage your lower abdomen yourself:

1. Lie on the floor or a bed with your knees bent.
2. Place your right palm on the lower right side of your abdomen and place your left hand on top of it.
3. Press in with the fingers of both hands and make small circular movements.
4. Gradually move your hands up the right of the abdomen to the waist, across under the ribs and back down and across the lower abdomen above the pubic hair.

Aromatherapy

Soaking in a warm bath to which 3 drops each of essential oils of camomile and sweet
marjoram combined with 10ml (A fl oz) of carrier oil or lotion (available from health food shops and pharmacies) have been added, can reduce discomfort.

Exercise

I know that exercise may be the last thing on your mind, but if you can bear it, exercise can relieve pelvic congestion and ease menstrual cramps. Walking is really good, followed by as hot a bath as you can comfortably tolerate.

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