Women's Health

When menstrual pain, PMS take over your life

Menstrual pain has the power to affect women in their everyday lives.
Written by Mapule Pholo

It’s 3am and I am sitting up on the edge of my bed, woken up by a sharp pain in my abdomen. It’s a familiar pain but I never get used to it. The pain is as regular but far more excruciating than the ping of debit orders leaving my account at the end of each month. This is my monthly and never-ending battle with menstrual pain

I have had my worst share of period pains from the age of 15. It seems each year the pains would go from bad to worse, no matter the number of pills I take. I’m now 32 and I still battle with period pain.

Not so lucky

Perhaps you are wondering why is this a challenge or why it should matter? After all, every woman gets their period every month, at least until menopause. Some women sail through their “monthlies” as though they are participants in those nauseating advertisements for sanitary products. You know the ones where the woman is running through fields of flowers or twirling about. But for me, every 28 days or so I feel like I have done 12  rounds in the ring with Tyson Fury.  I am yet to have a month where my period comes and goes without feeling as though I have been punched in the gut. Then there is the bloating, headaches, mood swings, and voracious appetite or on the other extreme not being able to eat at all.

My worst experience happened a few years back when my period pain was so unbearable that I experienced temporary memory loss. Confused and anxious, my family called an ambulance. One minute I was heating up, and the next, I was shivering. This was the most intense menstrual pain I had ever experienced.

When I was in high school my principal had my period cycle marked out on her calendar so she could keep track of how I was feeling and if I was able to cope during those five or six days. But often I’d stay home. High school was a challenge. People often thought I was exaggerating until they saw how it affected me.

Tried everything, from onion to Dettol

I had visited different doctors and had tried every unorthodox way imaginable to minimise the pain. I tried steaming with onion, drank drops of Dettol, and took over-the counter-medication, some helped, some not. Pain has become the norm for me.

While having your period is a sign of good reproductive health the shall we say ‘side-effects’  that come with it can be unbearable. You constantly fear that you are dripping with blood and find yourself checking your clothes to see that they aren’t stained. Fort me though the pain is the worst of it, making everyday activities impossible.

Huge sense of embarrassment

I sometimes used to feel too embarrassed to tell my teachers and colleagues about my period pains. Instead, I would make up a story about being ill.

I thought they would think I am being dramatic – missing classes and lectures because of menstrual pain.

I couldn’t handle the judgments that could possibly come with that. I would often think to myself: ‘Every woman has their period but we don’t see them missing school/work. She is just seeking attention, menstruation is normal.

Menstruation is normal, but not every woman experiences it the same way. I personally know women who do not even know what period pain is. Or they know of it, but have never experienced it. And some, like myself, dread the thought of having their period because they know it brings a lot of pain and discomfort.

Dealing with period pain has been a nightmare for me and adding to the struggle is PMS (Premenstrual syndrome). This is another hurdle to get over a week before my period starts.

PMS – an unwanted guest

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) is a combination of symptoms that most women go through after ovulation and a week or two before their period starts.

Women experiencing PMS often have emotional and some physical symptoms such as bloating, headaches, backaches, and mood swings.

These are but a few symptoms that some women experience a week before their period, some even during and throughout their menstruation. PMS does however go away a few days once menstruating.

PMS symptoms can sometimes be so severe that they disrupt day-to-day activities.

There are women who get their period without any signs or symptoms of PMS. I spoke to a few ladies who happily share their PMS and menstruation experiences.

Common PMS symptoms 

Here’s what they said:

“I normally experience headaches, itchy skin, dizziness, and abdominal pains a week before and during my period.”

“I get hot flushes, back pains, lack of appetite, diarrhea to say the least, and often spend three days in bed.”

“I do not experience any pain before and throughout my period apart from getting bloated”

“PMS is the worst for me compared to when I have my period. I suffer from headaches, dry skin especially around my lips, abdominal pains, and fatigue .”

In addition to the above-mentioned, other women may experience symptoms such as:

  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Acne outbreak
  • Mood swings
  • Food cravings
  • Constipation
  • Swollen and tender breasts
  • Clumsiness
  • Trouble concentrating or memory loss
  • Irritable and hostile behaviour

Some employers, colleagues, teachers, schoolmates or even peers may sometimes think one is exaggerating when they miss work, school and skip certain activities due to PMS and period pain. Take it from a person who has been through it, menstrual pain is real and can be unbearably painful.

Why do some suffer?

What could possibly be the reason for some women to experience these symptoms and pain while others don’t? Is it a genetic thing? Is it a dietary thing, caused by the types of food we eat? Or, is there some hormonal imbalance thing linked to period pains?

According to Journal of Women’s Health, PMS may happen more often in women who have high levels of stress, or who have a family history of depression and a personal history of postpartum depression.

These may not take the pain away, but for some women, this information on what to do to ease the pain may be helpful. These are some personal things that have helped ease the pains with me over time.

  • Taking Pain killers a few days before getting your period may help ease the pains once your period starts.
  • Hot showers/baths can help ease the pains.
  • Stay hydrated
  • -Exercising regularly does help, some movement rather than choosing to curl up in bed can also help.
  • Choose a healthy diet, also try avoiding food with too much salt, drinks with less sugar, and no caffeine a week before and throughout your period.
  • Using a heating pad or water bottle does help.

Menstrual pain is common and can sometimes interfere with day-to-day activities. If you find yourself experiencing these symptoms, try some of the tips above. But if the pains are severe and continue, call your doctor. – Health-e News 

 

About the author

Mapule Pholo

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