Definition and causes of menstrual pain
Menstrual pain, or dysmenorrhea, is the abdominal cramping and/or lower back pain that some women experience before and during their period. This can range from mild to severe in intensity, but it's usually not dangerous.
Menstrual pain is caused by increased prostaglandins - hormones that help the uterus contract to shed its lining. When levels of these hormones are high, the uterus contracts more strongly and causes pain.
It's important to understand that not all women experience menstrual pain - some do not feel any discomfort at all! But for those who do, it can range from mild cramps to intense pain that disrupts everyday activities.
Common misconceptions about menstrual pain
There are a few misconceptions about menstrual pain that can be discouraging to women who experience it.
Firstly, many people think that all menstrual pain is the same and should be able to be managed with over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen. However, these medications only work for mild symptoms - if you're experiencing more intense pain, it's best to speak to your GP for a tailored plan.
Secondly, some people assume that all menstrual pain is normal and that medical attention is unnecessary. This is not true - severe or prolonged menstrual pain can indicate an underlying condition and should always be discussed with your doctor.
Finally, many women are hesitant to discuss menstrual pain in fear of being judged or dismissed. Remember: your GP is there to listen and provide support.
Research has shown that when women are comfortable talking openly about their menstrual health, they're more likely to receive the treatment they need for any underlying issues.