From the age of 12, I have regularly suffered from debilitating period cramps which have left me feeling exhausted and sometimes unable to move. It was not until I was 17 that I finally said enough was enough and took myself to the doctors. It took me 2 years of testing out different anti-inflammatory medications, which gave very minimal relief before I finally told my doctor they weren’t making any difference. My doctor decided that the best course of action would be to prescribe me the contraceptive pill. Fortunately for me, this was all it took to finally regulate my periods and begin to live pain-free.
If you’ve never complained about the pain that comes with your period to a friend, you’re a rare person. It’s a regular topic of conversation, and yet, with all that discussion, you probably still don’t know what’s considered normal and what’s not. You might be under the impression that very painful periods are the norm. From a young age, we’re told periods are painful and unpleasant, and that’s just the way it is. Discomfort during your period isn’t unusual, especially in younger people. A lot of people who menstruate experience severe pain during their periods. The reality is it doesn’t have to be like that. Really bad menstrual cramps are not normal, and, in many cases, severe
period cramps can signal a deeper problem.
What causes menstrual cramps?
Menstrual cramps are caused by contractions in the uterus or womb. If it contracts too strongly during your menstrual cycle, it can press against nearby blood vessels. This briefly cuts off oxygen to the uterus. This lack of oxygen is what causes your pain and cramping.
How do I know if my cramps are severe?
Typical menstrual cramps are painful, but they usually respond well to a heat compress, relaxation, and over-the-counter painkillers, such as ibuprofen and paracetamol.
Severe cramps, however, tend to begin earlier in the menstrual cycle and can last for a longer time frame.
Signs of severe period cramps:
• Life is disrupted and you can’t go about your daily activities.
• Over the counter pain medication doesn’t work.
• Heavy bleeding.
• Severe dizzy spells.
When in doubt, check it out!
If you have very painful menstrual cramps or cramps that last longer than two or three days, make an appointment with your doctor. They’ll likely start by evaluating your medical history and performing a physical exam and any other tests they feel are necessary. The bottom line is you don’t have to power through severe menstrual cramps. Remember that everyone is different and, that while someone else might feel their pain is normal and that certain methods of pain relief work for them, it doesn’t mean that it will always work for you. Trust your intuition if something doesn’t feel right and if your pain interferes with your ability to go about your day, talk to your doctor. They can help you get to the bottom of what’s causing your severe cramps and recommend a plan to keep the pain under control.