Medically reviewed by Sophia Yen, MD, MPH (CEO/Co-Founder of Pandia Health) – Written by Pandia Health Editorial Team
How to Prevent Period Problems from Taking Over Your Life
If you are an individual who gets a period, you probably understand how crippling some of the side effects can be. However, you may not know what exactly is going down (literally) in your body, which is not something to be ashamed about – the reproductive system is quite complex.
Thankfully, Dr. Sophia Yen, the CEO & Co-Founder of Pandia Health and Dr. Uma Lerner, an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco Medical School, cover all the common questions on the relationship between menstrual pain and mental health in a recent webinar with Mental Health America.
What is Dysmenorrhea?
Before going into the details regarding how to cope with painful periods, or dysmenorrhea, let’s break down what this is. Essentially, there are two types of dysmenorrhea: primary and secondary.
Primary dysmenorrhea is caused by the release of natural chemicals called prostaglandins, which trigger the uterine muscle contractions of menstruation. Secondary dysmenorrhea is caused by a disorder in the reproductive system. The following information is specific to the primary type, as it relates more closely to the menstrual cycle.
So, why do some people experience more pain than others during their periods? Well, every person’s body is different and thus, reacts differently to the same functions. Those who experience painful periods have higher:
- Levels of uterine muscle contraction activity during menstruation
- Uterine tone (muscle contraction)
- Active intrauterine pressure
- Frequency of uterine contractions
- Uncoordinated uterine contractions
What are the Consequences of Dysmenorrhea?
Simply referring to dysmenorrhea as a “painful period” is a bit misleading because the condition often leads to the following:
- Low energy
- Poor sleep
- Decreased libido
- Difficulty focusing
- Compensatory postures
- Feeling the need to go to the bathroom
What’s more, these issues may lead to disruptions in school and/or work performance, physical tasks, recreational activities, and one’s relationships with friends and family.
Long-term Impacts of Chronic Pain
Dysmenorrhea may lead to long-term health consequences if not treated. High and sustained pain affects brain areas involved in emotion, cognition, and motivation. Furthermore, brain activity may change over time, leading to a vicious cycle of increased pain sensation, and, thus, increased feelings of depression and anxiety.
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder
Individuals who experience symptoms that impede them from functioning in their daily lives may be diagnosed with Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD). This disorder is a much more severe form of Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) which includes, but is not limited to, the following symptoms:
- Depressed mood
- Anger or irritability
- Trouble concentrating
- Loss of interest in activities
- Increased appetite
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Physical discomfort (bloating, breast tenderness, headaches, etc.)
While dysmenorrhea, specifically PMDD, cannot be cured, symptoms may decrease over time with the help of some simple lifestyle changes such as:
- Taking birth control and/or a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI)
- Decreasing intake of sugar, salt, caffeine, and alcohol (but each person is different and may or may not respond to this change)
- Exercising regularly
- Managing stress
- Taking vitamin supplements
- Taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen
It is best to consult with a doctor prior to starting a specific treatment, especially if it involves a prescription such as birth control. This may sound a little scary, but a healthcare professional can help you find what will work best for you. Still hesitant? Read on for additional information regarding why taking birth control can be beneficial for all individuals who get their period.
The number one cause of missed school and work in women under the age of 25 is menstruation. This is especially sad considering it is not necessary to get a period every month. According to Dr. Yen, “incessant menstruation” is a relatively new concept, as women do not need a period unless they are trying to get pregnant. Excessive bleeding associated with menstruation, particularly dysmenorrhea, can lead to negative health outcomes like anemia and other bleeding disorders in addition to ovarian, endometrial and colorectal cancer.
Plus, period products like pads and tampons can be harmful to the environment and are costly. So, if you’re interested in learning how to skip your periods – further avoiding dysmenorrhea AND benefiting the environment – check out Pandia’s #PeriodsOptional campaign!
What to Do Next
In short, dysmenorrhea is no joke! Feeling frustrated, overemotional, and/or experiencing behavioral changes during a period is normal albeit unpleasant – if a person tries to tell you otherwise, they have likely not undergone the same level of pain. Do not be scared to reach out to a doctor regarding unpleasant symptoms and potential solutions. No one should have to be in pain on such a regular basis!
Interested in starting your birth control journey today? Sign up to get the contraceptive method of your choice delivered to you for FREE so you can #SkipTheTrip to the pharmacy. Pandia Health is rapidly expanding across the country, allowing easy access to birth control from the comfort of your own home.
If you live in AZ, CA, CO, FL, GA, IL, MI, NV, TX, TN, PA, WA, or WY, one of our expert birth control doctors can write you a new prescription; if you have a prescription at a pharmacy, we can transfer it over. With fun swag items in every package and automatics refills, there’s no better time to join the brand that women trust most with birth control and get that #PandiaPeaceofMind ?
Disclaimer: The above information is for informational purposes only and is NOT a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your doctor/primary care provider before starting or changing treatment.