That time of the month: dreaded, but yet a wonderful sign that your body is functioning within its normal parameters (and that you will be able to get pregnant if you want to).
Menstruation is nothing to joke about with the more than 15% of women in the United States who claim their menstrual cramps are severe. Even when these cramps are not very intense, they can still cause discomfort and they can be very annoying.
And if you add cramps on to the wide variety of other symptoms women can experience before and during the first days of menstruation, you can understand why this is not the happiest part of a woman’s month. Of course, some ladies don’t experience many symptoms (or none at all, for that matter) and others experience them in mild versions. But for the unluckiest ones out there, menstruation is extremely difficult to deal with – to the point where it inhibits normal life from happening.
Menstrual Cramps: It All Starts with Day 1
Believe it or not, your body has been pre-programmed to contract the uterus during the menstruation from day 1 of the menstrual cycle. At this point, the estrogen levels in your body will increase, preparing it for a potential pregnancy. This will make the uterus thicken itself with a blood lining (to accommodate a baby if he comes) and it will also make the ovaries create an egg – an ovule – which will be released by the middle of the menstrual cycle. When that happens, the estrogen levels will be quite high and the progesterone levels will also be increased.
In most of the times, the egg is not fecundated, which triggers another series of reactions in your body. Prostaglandins will dry off the lining created by the uterus and they will also make it contract so that it can shed off the dried lining – this is precisely what menstruation is. These contractions don’t simply come and go though. They come with pain in the lower abdomen, in the lower back and sometimes even in the legs as well (because the uterus and the legs share nervous terminations).
Therefore, from the very first day of your menstrual cycle, your body will know that it will have to go through everything if fecundation does not occur. Estrogen and progesterone will slowly start to lower their levels as soon as they start approaching menstruation (if the fecundation did not happen) and this will trigger even more reactions in your body: the serotonin levels will drop, the endorphin levels will drop, the gamma-aminobutyric acid levels will drop, the norepinephrine levels and the epinephrine levels will also drop. Since these neurotransmitter chemicals in the brain regulate things such as sleeping, mood, depression, anxiety, stress, pleasure and pain, it is only a natural reaction that PMS can get so hard on some of the ladies out there.
Drugs That May Help You
Modern medical knowledge has helped us a lot from many points of view. Unfortunately, menstrual cramps cannot be eliminated once and for all (or at least not without serious consequences on your reproductive system). But every month can be made easier for those of you who have to go through this.
The following 3 types of drugs are used quite frequently by women who suffer from the pain inflicted by their menstrual cramps:
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
These are the common “pain killers” anyone can get at the drug store without a prescription. Among them, ibuprofen and naproxen-based drugs are the most common ones. Also, ketoprofen is probably the strongest one, but this really depends on the country where you live, on who produces the drug and on how it is combined with other elements as well. Some doctors will recommend women who suffer from more severe version of the normal menstrual cramps to start medicating 1 day before the date at which the menstruation is expected to start and to continue the medication for a few days – but never more than that.
Hormonal birth control pills
These are actual birth control pills that have been created based on hormones. Since hormones are the ones responsible with most of the symptoms felt by women both before and during the menstruation proper, birth control pills are believed to be able to ease off these symptoms – including menstrual cramps. The more recently developed such pills have been researched to be more effective than the older formulae out there. However, do bear in mind the fact that you should be fully informed on the fact that birth control pills can have harsh effects on your body if used on the long-term and that they should not be used unless you actually have a prescription for them.
Prescription pain medication
In the worst of the cases and when nothing else can be done, some of the doctors will want to prescribe pain medication that can only be released this way.
In addition to these drugs, there are some others that are either prescribed for the other symptoms that come along with menstruation (for instance, some will be prescribed with antidepressants). Also, there are some drugs and treatments that are prescribed when the cause of the menstrual cramps is not the actual menstruation, but an underlying illness.
Here are the potential complications that can come with menstrual cramps:
- This is a condition that makes the lining of the uterus grow on the outside of it
- Uterine fibroids. These are noncancerous growths on the inside of your uterus walls.
- This condition makes the lining tissue grow on the muscles of the uterus.
- Cervical stenosis. This occurs when the opening of a woman’s cervix is too small and it does not allow the menstruation fluids to flow through properly.
In each of these cases, adequate treatment will be recommended. However, do keep in mind that you can be diagnosed with these illnesses only if you visit a doctor and undergo certain tests – and only then will your doctor be able to prescribe you with the right treatment. Even more than that, you should not take any kind of pill (not even of the over the counter type) without prior medical consultation because these drugs can interfere with other treatments you are following and with certain medical conditions you may be suffering from.