Menstrual cramps : when you need to see a gynecologist

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The shedding of the lines of the uterus is something every woman experience, which usually happens every month and it is called MENSTRUATION sometimes called PERIOD.

Menstrual cycle which is counted from the first day of one period to the first day of the next is not the same for every woman but it helps a woman’s body prepare for pregnancy and if the didn’t happen period comes, the cycle is controlled by hormones estrogen and progesterone which help egg released by the ovaries mature and ready for fertilization by the sperm cell, this usually occur half way through the cycle and it is called Ovulation.

Most people feel it when the ovulate but for some bloating, spotting or a one sided pain in the lower abdomen accompany their ovulation.

The egg travels through one of the Fallopian tubes towards the uterus after leaving the ovary, if the egg is not fertilized by a sperm which results to pregnancy, the body doesn’t need the thick lining of the uterus hence it breaks down and the blood, nutrients and tissue flows out of the body through the vagina.

The first menstruation is also called MENARCHE , it varies from person to person us but for most people it normally start between the age 12-15 some start before others after but if a girl hasn’t seen her first period by the age of 16, experts advise such person visit a gynecologist.

Menstrual cramps also known as dysmenorrhea are a throbbing or cramping pains in the lower abdomen associated with menstruation , it ranges from dull, moderate to severe cramping every woman’s experience is unique.

The pain occurs in the lower abdominal and the back, for some it starts few days before their period and lasts till 2-4 days into their period. The emotional and physical symptoms felt right before menstruation are called Premenstrual Syndrome, some women have it every month, for some it’s just sometimes while others don’t get it at all.

The physical symptoms includes, gaining a little weight, craving certain food, headache, tender, swollen and sore breasts, dizziness, aches in the joint, skin probes like pimples, stomach upset, lower abdominal cramp, needing more naps.

Emotional symptoms are, feeling sad, depressed, tensed or anxious, mood swings, feeling more irritable and angry than normal, crying suddenly. Trouble falling asleep.

It is common to have some of this symptoms but rare to have all at the same time, either way having more than one of these symptoms can be frustrating and extremely annoying.

Dizziness, vomiting, excessive sweating, headache, diarrhea, constipation and bloating are some of the signs and symptoms that accompany menstrual cramps which usually peak 24 hours after the start of period and typically lasts 2-3 days, all these interferes with the normal day-to-day activities .

The pain sometimes radiates to the lower back and inner thighs however the severity of the pain depends on the type of menstrual cramps a woman is having.

The Primary and secondary dysmenorrhea are the two types of menstrual cramps we have, primary dysmenorrhea is the pain associated with menstruation while secondary dysmenorrhea is the cramping pain due to an identifiable medical condition such as endometriosis, uterine fibroid or pelvic inflammatory disease.

During menstruation, the uterus contracts to expel it’s lining which is triggered by a hormone-like substance called Prostagladins.

This contraction is similar to labour pain and if the contraction is strong,it can press against the blood vessels and this briefly cuts off oxygen to the uterus, the lack of oxygen is what causes the pain and cramping. A higher level of the Prostagladins is also associated with more severe menstrual cramps.

A condition which cause the tissue lining the uterus(endometrium) to be found outside of the uterus is called Endometriosis, bacteria infection known as Pelvic Inflammatory Disease which infect the uterus and spread to other reproductive organs, Uterine fibroid, narrowing of the lower part of the uterus which is the cervix(cervical stenosis) which limits the flow of blood, side effect of some hormonal contraceptive methods, all these could increase the severity of menstrual cramps and bleeding.

Eating certain types of food have also been proven to increase the severity of menstrual cramps, sugary foods are discouraged during this period as several researches have shown that blood sugar increases during menstruation, consuming more increases it further and this could be dangerous because sugar is inflammatory and has tendency to increase cramping. Research results have shown blood sugar increases during menstruation due to the decreased sensitivity of insulin (hormone that regulates blood sugar) which leads to reduced effectiveness of the hormone.

Coffee being a vasoconstrictor makes vessels constrict and may cause the vessel that feed the uterus to tighten leading to cramping. Salt is also reported to increase water retention and bloating.
Pain killers which could be taken orally or by injection, some hormonal birth control and surgery are some of the treatment methods that the gynecologist could recommend depending on the severity and the cause. Some lifestyle remedies can also be recommended such as, exercising, heat therapy, which involves soaking a clean cloth in warm water or hot water bottle and placing it on the lower abdomen to reduce vessel constriction ,drinking of warm water is also encouraged, reduce stress, psychological stress have been said to increase risk of menstrual cramps and it’s severity. If the severity of the cramp is not reduced despite the use of pain relief or the bleeding is excessive and accompanied with more than normal blood clot or you feel the pain or bleeding is giving you concern visit a gynecologist for proper diagnosis. The gynecologist will review your medical history and perform physical examination called pelvic exam, in which he or she will check for abnormalities in your reproductive organs and look for signs of infection. If the doctor suspect a disorder as the main culprit of the menstrual cramps, further tests like ultrasound, CT scan, MRI, laparoscopy will be recommended.

As a menstruating woman, irrespective of your age it is important that you keep track of your period and the symptoms associated with it so as to be aware of what is normal for you, this can be done with the help of a calender and diary and there are a lot of applications on play store that can be downloaded which will help in keeping track.

Tracking helps to identify ovulation date and symptoms, premenstrual symptoms, abnormal bleeding between periods, changes in severity of pain and bleeding,and also helps to calculate your cycle, some women don’t even know their cycle which is not a very good idea. If you have been keeping track, keep it up if you haven’t start now. Issues bothering you about your reproductive system should be directed to a gynecologist from a reputable hospital and proper and effective treatment.
Take good care of yourself and be more observant about changes in your body.

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