Period probs

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Everything you need to know about the problems you experience when you’re on your period, and what to do about them…

It’s 4.30pm, and I’m in bed watching my hundredth Friends episode of the day whilst cramming every chocolate-containing item my cupboard once held in to my mouth with upsetting ease. You could be forgiven for thinking that I’m a full time waster and/or having a quarter life crisis. But nope, you’re mistaken. I’m merely riding out the crimson wave of doom that is sent by Mother Nature to test me once every month. Periods are the worst, right?

I know I’m right. In a 2012 study by Patients Direct, 2,700 women were asked about their periods, and the general consensus is that being ‘on’ in quite shit.

A massive 84% of the women surveyed said they have stomach and back pain during their periods; with 78% experiencing mood swings, and 64% getting tired. A quarter of the women were self-medicating on their periods, but the study said that despite this, their ‘quality of life and productivity’ were ‘impaired’ by the crap side effects of being on. Preach.

With all the cramps and mood swings and cravings for vast quantities of carbs, it can become pretty confusing to decide what’s a normal period prob, and what possibly needs sorting out. So, like a menstrual fairy godmother, I’ve put together a handy guide to period problems, so that you can decide whether you need to watch Netflix and cry, or visit a doctor.

Painful Periods

 Also known, amongst those in the medical profession who can pronounce it, as dysmenorrhea. It’s common for women to have painful muscle cramps when they’re on, and this pain can come in spasm-like waves, or be more of a constant lull of unpleasantness. Yay for variety.

 Menstrual health experts, Women’s Health Concern say:

“Around 80% of women experience period pain at some stage in their lifetime. You can suffer from period pain from your early teens right up to the menopause. Most women experience some discomfort during menstruation, especially on the first day.

But in 5% to 10% of women, the pain is severe enough to disrupt their life. If your mother suffered period pains, you are more likely to suffer too.

In 40% of women, period pain is accompanied by premenstrual symptoms, such as bloating, tender breasts, a swollen stomach, lack of concentration, mood swings, clumsiness and tiredness.

Women in their mid twenties and over sometimes get what’s known as Secondary dysmenorrhea, but if you’re having painful periods under that age, it’s likely to be the Primary kind.

As WHC explains:

“Primary dysmenorrhea commonly occurs in teenage girls and young women, towards the beginning of menstrual life. The cramping pains are caused by the womb contracting to shed its lining. There may also be pain caused by the decreased supply of blood to the womb.

The pain is mainly in the lower part of the abdomen but can go into the back and down the front of the thighs. Some women feel nauseated at the same time. It is a perfectly natural condition and for many women is simply a mild monthly discomfort.

Primary dysmenorrhea can be eased with the contraceptive pill as well as some relaxation techniques.”

Taking painkillers and applying heat (hello, beloved hot water bottle) to the area that’s hurting can also help. Gentle exercise is also supposed to be good in reducing pain, although, personally I’d rather put my trust in the fetal position.

If your pain lasts more than three days and is ‘severe’ then visit your GP surgery or GUM clinic.

But, if you’re in more of a mild discomfort, there’s no need to hit up the docs. Simply wallow in bed for as long as necessary and buy yourself a share bag of chocolate buttons, to definitely not share.

Heavy periods

Heavy periods -or, fancy word time again, menorrhagia- affect One in 20 women every year and are officially ‘heavy’ when “more than 80ml is lost, since above this point there is a risk of anaemia,” say WHC.

“The average amount of blood lost during a period is 35ml – about half a tea cup.”

The organisation has more advice about dealing with this fairly shitty problem:

“In more than half of cases menorrhagia has no obvious cause. However, it is sometimes related to the presence of organic disease. Known causes include:

-Endometriosis: misplaced tissue in the lining of the womb-Fibroids: benign enlargements of muscle in the wall of the womb

  • -Pelvic inflammatory disease: ongoing infection of the pelvis

-Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)


Like this? You’ll love these:

S Word playlist: Period blues

The S Word talks: Periods

Boys on: Periods

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