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Primary Dysmenorrhea: Everything You Need to Know

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Ask any woman how they would describe their periods and the words they will use are: Dukh, Dard, Kasht aur Peeda. Or some variation of these. Menstrual cramps that affect many women during and before their periods is called Dysmenorrhea. Dysmenorrhea can range from dull to bothersome to severe. In about 10% of women who menstruate, the pain can be severe enough to affect their daily life for 1 to 3 days of each month.

There are two types of Dysmenorrhea: Primary and Secondary. In this blog, we are going to take a deep careful look at the former: Primary Dysmenorrhea.

What is Primary Dysmenorrhea?

Primary Dysmenorrhea is the term for common menstrual cramps that is not due to any other external diseases and conditions. In layman’s words: They are a normal part of the package deal of being a woman. Primary Dysmenorrhea begins soon after you have your first period and can last till your menopause.

Primary dysmenorrhea or period pain can begin 2 days before your actual period or when the bleeding starts. This pain can last anywhere from 12 to 72 hours (3 days), and you will feel pain ranging from mild to severe in your lower abdomen, back and thighs.

For some women, their period pain is accompanied by other primary dysmenorrhea symptoms like headache, dizziness, bloating and nausea.

Primary Dysmenorrhea is typically caused by excess levels of a natural hormone called prostaglandin. Prostaglandin is the hormone responsible for the contraction of the uterus during menstruation and childbirth. Sometimes, the uterus contracts so strongly that it briefly cuts off oxygen supply to the nearby muscle tissues. This results in severe primary dysmenorrhea or period cramps.

Prevalence and Risk Factors of Primary Dysmenorrhea

According to the National Library of Medicine, nearly 70.2% of women experience Primary Dysmenorrhea. To put this into perspective, almost 70 women in a room of 100 suffer from Primary Dysmenorrhea, every month! It is most common in women in their early 20s.

Now, let’s sit back and take something in: If 70% of women suffer from enough pain to be diagnosed with Primary Dysmenorrhea, the remaining 30% must have periods with comparatively less pain. So what pushes you from being in this 30% percent to 70%? It could be any of the following:

  • Longer, heavier and irregular periods
  • Lack of physical exercise
  • Psychological, social and emotional stress
  • Obesity and overeating
  • Getting on crash diets
  • Smoking and drinking alcohol
  • Family history of painful periods
  • Having your first period before the age of 12

Many of the Primary Dysmenorrhea causes are completely outside our control. But there are some risk factors that we can control like smoking, overeating and lack of physical exercise; so, let’s start there!

Diagnosis of Primary Dysmenorrhea

To diagnose Primary Dysmenorrhea, your doctor will ask you about your medical history and do a pelvic exam, he might also recommend ultrasound and other imaging tests. However, if your doctor suspects that you might have secondary dysmenorrhea, you might have to go through some procedures like laparoscopy and hysteroscopy which allows your doctor to see into your pelvic and abdomen area.

Treatment of Primary Dysmenorrhea

If you are diagnosed with Primary Dysmenorrhea, your doctor will most likely prescribe you some pain relievers. Using hormonal birth controls pills might also help.

In addition to the medical treatments, there are also many non-medical primary dysmenorrhea treatments such as:

  • Holding a heating pad or hot water bottle across your abdomen and lower back.
  • Warm bath or shower.
  • Mild exercises that can increase your blood flow and reduce pelvic pain, like walking and stretching.
  • Avoiding stressful situations and getting plenty of rest as your period approaches.
  • Avoiding smoking and drinking alcohol.
  • Yoga and other breathing exercises.

When to see your doctor?

If your cramps are painful enough to interrupt your everyday life, you should talk with your doctor. Keep track of your periods and the days in which the pain is at its worst to make a complete report to your doctor. If you notice other symptoms like headaches and dizziness, you should report those too to help your doctor get a better grasp of your condition.

There are also home remedies to reduce period pain; or the comment section is always yours!


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