Nearly 1.7 billion people on this planet menstruate! That means that 4.2 million of them are having their periods right now when you’re reading this! More than 80 percent of them suffer from significant and life-interrupting pre-menstrual syndrome and cramping! Can you believe it? Even if the answer is No, it’s TRUE! That is a really big deal for women and their health—so it’s shocking that no one seems to be talking about it. If you are one of the 3.4 million women who are suffering every month, if your sister, friend, or daughter suffers, or if you’re a partner of someone who is suffering, I am talking to YOU now.
What is menstruation to us?
Let’s get to our basics. Remember the zoology class when menstruation was part of the reproductive system chapter, where the teacher is embarrassed, the girls are embarrassed and the boys control their laughter? From the world of shame comes the world, where every woman stand-up comedian is talking about period pain, in the name of normalizing!
Your menstrual cycle is a barometer of your health, in fact, irregular periods are the mother of major maternal health issues and no one ever spoke about it.
From the days of hiding the napkins inside a newspaper, to now talking about the menstrual cup I agree we’ve come a long way.
In fact, period-related memes and youtube videos have become overrated with so much content flooding the internet. Yet, what most of them focused on is just normalizing buying sanitary napkins or discussing openly in public. Don’t you think a lot more has to be understood in this context? Yes, we all know that there are so many issues and conditions associated with periods which is still something least discussed, even in the medical setting.
One such thing, which the majority of menstruators could relate to, is period cramps. It includes lower abdominal or pelvic pain that radiates to the back and thighs. I’m sure most of us have been through situations at least once, where we’ve skipped classes and slept the whole day while also struggling to sleep with extreme bothering pain, missed out on important events, trips and parties only to scroll through Instagram to see our friends enjoying, having to participate in sports and dance competitions, writing exams- all with extreme cramps
A few years back, I was watching a south Indian movie where a girl was all of a sudden holding her stomach, falling down, and boom then she gets her first menarche. Wow, it sounded fun (stop judging me for watching such movies:/) Though it was a funny unrealistic movie I still think it has some facts connected to it. A majority of 33% of females experienced intense pain during menarche with half of them missing school as per a study. The intensity of period cramps is mostly subjective to different menstruators, based on several factors like age, body nature, medications, diseases, or other medical conditions but it’s said the intensity usually declines as we age especially after childbirth.
We’ve all been through these tough phases. But have you ever thought about where does all this pain come from? Ummm.. but I did. I remember it was a random Sunday morning and I was having a relaxing shower when something suddenly hit my logical brain and I started wondering what causes pain during periods that make us go through this much, every month. Are you also able to relate to this situation?
Well, I guess most of the current generations do. No one has really taught us about the logic and science behind most of the practices. Probably here, some of us know that it’s the work of this culprit, the Prostaglandins. These chemicals are formed in the lining of the uterus during menstruation and cause muscle contractions there which leads to pain, decreased blood flow, and oxygen to the uterus.
Similar to labor pains, these contractions also can cause significant pain and discomfort. But we are often asked to manage and take period pains casually by our elders of the family.
In fact, not just the period pain, around 20 to 30 percent of menstruators also get cramps 1-2 weeks before the period begins! That’s due to Premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
Let’s keep ourselves pampered and do some self-care during those times as we all know, PMS is real!
Take that break you’ve always wanted!!
It’s time to set aside those heavy tasks for some other day whenever you’re done with your bleeding phase. Now, let’s only turn the focus full time towards ourselves to guard our physical and mental health.
- Take that break.
- Postpone those meetings.
- Ditch your friends and go on a solo trip if you feel the cramps are manageable.
- Don’t work 8 hours straight even during day 1 of the period if you aren’t comfortable. Play with pets/kids or do anything that keeps you at rest.
- Be relaxed and stress-free. This would let us focus more on ourselves.
Sometimes the period hygiene products we use can also be a reason for increased cramps. Try switching to a better eco-friendly product such as Menstrual Cups. The kinds of cotton used in disposables are usually bleached to make it white, releasing dioxin. Such bleached products when used in sensitive areas might induce pelvic pain as they disturb the pH of the vagina. Would you be quiet if someone disturbs your peace? Your vagina does the same and releases alarm signals through pelvic pains that we are disrupting it!
Visit Mindandmomshop if you’re looking for products to help ease your period cramps, has relevant products for it.
All these while, we were talking about something very common among menstruators which is primary dysmenorrhea.
But, do you know that cramps hit differently for those who experience menstrual irregularities and with certain medical conditions causing secondary dysmenorrhea?
- Anemia- connected to menstrual irregularity
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Amenorrhea( missing periods)
- Menstrual migraine
- Cervical stenosis
- Uterine defects
- Insertion of copper IUD
- Ectopic pregnancy
- Heavy menstrual flow
These are some of the common medical conditions/disorders amongst others that might cause severe cramps and other symptoms which go to the extent of affecting the normal everyday routine. Such conditions demand medical attention and those experiencing it might need extra love, care, and support to help them manage them.
Know when to visit your doctor-
- You feel that you’ve been diagnosed with the above-mentioned or other medical conditions
- Self-care measures you do, don’t help
- Cramps get severe and intense all of a sudden for a prolonged period of time
- It affects you from performing basic normal routines for the entire cycle
- You experience longer cramps even when not in period
- The cramps accompany any other issues or you have already been diagnosed with other conditions. It’s important to seek personalized support, care, and treatment from the medical professional even if you slightly feel the need for it
Having a period tracker or a period calendar would help you to keep track of your symptoms and notice sudden changes immediately since there are even possibilities of eliminating certain conditions when diagnosed at an earlier stage.
Mind and Mom have launched MIMO- a virtual fertility coach in Tamil and English with period trackers, ovulation trackers, and reminders on WhatsApp just click away and get your personal health companion for free!!
Natural Remedies to combat period cramps
Good healthy food, reduced stress, and sound sleep provide possible rest for your body to unwind. Just a mild lifestyle change like adopting a new exercise routine would in fact show huge results. It could be as simple as a morning walk for half an hour every day.
The secret here is– Consistency!! Show up every day even if you’re starting it slow. Once you are used to the routine, increase your levels accordingly, and don’t stay in the same comfort zone as well. Have sufficient water intake, and consume foods like black raisins and fenugreek soaked overnight, dark chocolate, fennel seeds, tender coconut water, and buttermilk- that helps to keep your body cool and hydrated.
Mild stretches like butterfly pose, child poses, and other uterine strengthening exercises, sleeping in the fetal position, Aromatherapy, essential oil massage, heat massage, hot water shower, cuddling, and being around loved ones- all these would be primary and effective remedies to combat usual cramps.
Press your ankle which has a uterus pressure point that has corresponding nerve endings, if stimulated would create a calming and healing effect and lessen your pain through reflexology. The effects of this method can improve with repeated use.
Based on your comfort, have some relaxation techniques handy to face your bleeding phase. For more info on natural remedies to relieve cramps, visit here
A tip for you as well😉
If you’re a person who wanted to support women during their tough phase, yet is often left confused on how exactly to do it, or how to react when someone shares about their difficulties having period cramps- Here are some suggestions on what you could do:
Empathize with their pain, listen as they vent, or even simply be around them and make them feel comfortable with your presence. If you want to help, you can take charge of domestic chores instead of depending on them even for tiny tasks, try doing their assignments, classwork, etc. Know when they’re moody/irritated and try not to build arguments. Understand their love language, recognize their preferred methods of comfort, and needs, and follow those.
Probably you can get them some fruit drink, dark chocolate, tender coconut water, or anything else that would make them feel good and raise their dopamine levels. Even a warm, comforting hug from the right person could do wonders and lessen half of the pain. Being in support and standing by them itself would show a considerable difference and help them manage external stimuli while they also go through inner battles. Don’t hesitate to ask them and clarify if you couldn’t understand their situation. You can even take professional help if needed. Your support doesn’t have to be with just women in your family or close circle of friends. It can be anyone you meet/care about, such as a co-worker, an acquaintance, a well-wisher, or even a stranger if the circumstance calls for it.
These are the least you could do to assist women who undergo period cramps!!
With the different available ways and remedies to possibly manage cramps, you should be the one to ultimately choose what works best for you, based on your subjective body needs. Because only you know, how your body should be treated right.
Don’t let anything stand your way, that stops you from enjoying every moment of your life. Happy periods!
Mind and Mom.