What Is Dysmenorrhea, Anyway? Your Gyno Guide

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Young woman lying on a bed covered with blanket, holding her stomach in pain

Cis women survive bleeding at least a quarter cup (two to five tablespoons) of blood plus a host of other fluids for a whole week almost every month if their periods are regular. If that’s not enough to make you cringe in sympathetic or secondhand pain and horror, imagine having this experience plus severe pain, fainting spells, and nausea. That, in a nutshell, is what dysmenorrhea feels like to its sufferers.

If this sounds like what you or someone you love experienced on a month-to-month basis, read on to learn more about this common affliction.

What Is Dysmenorrhea?

What is dysmenorrhea, according to health professionals? Dysmenorrhea, from the Greek meaning “unfortunate menstruation”, is the medical name for extreme pain experienced during periods.

There are two main types of dysmenorrhea. Primary dysmenorrhea is a lifelong condition that occurs from your first period onward. It often causes severe, frequent menstrual cramping. Secondary dysmenorrhea appears later in life, often due to some other physical or medical condition.

Common Dysmenorrhea Symptoms

Now that you understand what dysmenorrhea is, let’s dive into some of the most common symptoms. These symptoms may include, but are by no means limited to:

  • Lower abdominal cramping and pain
  • Pain that radiates down the legs
  • Lower back pain
  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Weakness, fatigue, and fainting
  • Severe headaches

If you or someone you love consistently experience these symptoms during menstruation, then you might be suffering from dysmenorrhea.

What Causes Dysmenorrhea?

In primary dysmenorrhea patients, their pain is caused due to abnormally strong uterine contractions caused by some sort of chemical imbalance. Secondary dysmenorrhea can be caused by a number of other medical conditions, including but not limited to:

  • Endometriosis
  • Uterine fibroids
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
  • Polyps, infections, or tumors in the pelvic area

If you’re not sure what’s causing your current pelvic pain, this guide will show you what to know when talking with your gynecologist.

How You Can Treat Dysmenorrhea

Thankfully, dysmenorrhea is something that you can treat with a variety of over-the-counter and home remedies. Among the most common home remedies are:

  • Heat across the abdomen, either through a heating pad or hot water bottle
  • Painkillers such as acetaminophen or naproxen
  • Regular exercise and diet adjustments
  • Abdominal massages

However, in more severe cases, you may need medical intervention. The most common medical treatments for dysmenorrhea include:

  • Hormonal treatments like progesterone
  • Ovulation inhibitors like oral and other forms of birth control
  • Endometrial ablation, a procedure that destroys part of the uterine lining
  • Endometrial resection, a procedure that removes part of the uterine lining

In the most severe cases, where cancer or infection is the cause of the symptoms, a hysterectomy may be recommended.

Let’s Review the Facts

Dysmenorrhea is an uncommon name for an all too common experience for those with uteruses. However, there are a host of medical and at-home treatments available to help with the symptoms. If you need assistance finding solutions to this and other medical conditions, feel free to check out our blog for more informative articles like this one.

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