Pelvic Pain | Dysmenorrhea

Pelvic Pain | Dysmenorrhea

Dreadful menstrual cramps are a sign for some that our period is lurking just around the bend and also occur  with the first few days of our cycle. What does it mean when your pain becomes life changing, and alarming, causing the mere idea of getting up and out to send you into a panic?  It means you should contact Dr. Jon T. Ricks.

Painful periods, or dysmenorrhea, affects about half of post-puescent women, and it is most common in women during their early to mid-twenties. The occurrence of these severe menstrual cramps tapers off as a woman ages and most commonly disappears once a woman has reached her thirties. Dysmenorrhea is the scientific name for painful periods, in which a woman describes her cramps to be debilitating. Dysmenorrhea is further divided into two categories one being Primary Dysmenorrhea, and the other being Secondary Dysmenorrhea. Upon visiting with your OBGYN you will be diagnosed among one or the other. Of the 50% of women suffering from painful periods, 85% will be diagnosed with Primary Dysmenorrhea.

Primary Dysmenorrhea is usually the diagnosis if your OBGYN is unable to find any internal obstruction or problem that may be causing painful periods and severe menstrual cramps. Primary dysmenorrhea usually becomes a problem between 12 months and 2 years following a woman’s first cycle. The painful menstrual cramps usually begin a few hours prior to or just after the onset of menstruation. Pain is most severe during the first 2 days of the cycle. Characteristically the pain is described as spasmodic in nature and strongest over the lower abdomen and lower back. In severe cases the menstrual pain is also felt in the thighs. The pain is most commonly referred to as “labor-like” and accompanied by nausea, diarrhea, fatigue, and headache.  Symptoms that occasionally accompany these painful periods are anxiety and dizziness. Seldom do any symptoms persist beyond the third day of the cycle. Though Primary Dysmenorrhea does not appear to be prevented by any amount of or lack of activity, a few activities seem to help with menstrual cramps relief:

  • Avoid stressful situations
  • Take a warm bath, or use a warm compress
  • Go for long slow paced walks
  • Avoid fatty foods
  • Participating in Yoga
  • Pain-relieving medications
  • Oral contraceptives

Secondary Dysmenorrhea will be the diagnoses if your OBGYN finds that the pain is caused by some sort of gynecological problem. Secondary Dysmenorrhea does not begin shortly after a woman’s first cycle, but usually 3+ years following. The painful menstruation is likely to begin at the onset of the cycle and last throughout the entirety of menstruation. The occurrence of secondary painful periods requires medical attention and at times medical procedures in order to help with severe menstrual cramps relief. Unlike Primary Dysmenorrhea, medical treatments are often the only hope for relief from pain. The cause of Secondary Dysmenorrhea will determine the proper treatment of it. A few of the procedures on the market for the treatment for dysmenorrhea include:

  • Intrauterine Contraceptive (Mirena)
  • Oral Contraceptives (such as birth control pills)
  • Vitamin B supplements (For pain related to lack of nutrition)
  • Antibiotics (for Pelvic Inflammatory Disease—also referred to as PID—or an untreated STD)
  • Surgery (For a Cyst, or Fibroid Tumor)
  • Dilation & Curettage (Removal of small amount of uterine lining, often as a cancer precaution)
  • Hysterectomy (if the pain is caused by a malfunctioning reproductive organ)
  • Endometrial Ablation (Permanent removal of uterine lining to prevent further pain and/or limit bleeding)

Treatment for dysmenorrhea varies according to severity of the issue and the problem causing the pain. The bottom line is if you are suffering from abnormally painful periods, it is of utmost importance that you check in with you OBGYN and discuss what is causing it, and your options for pain relief.

For many women, having a period may cause a few symptoms that can easily be managed by taking a simple ibuprofen and using some feminine protection—and then just like that, it’s gone. For others, this monthly visit from mother nature is a dreaded and life altering time that sends some women into hiding.

If you are experiencing these symptoms, please contact Dr. Jon T. Ricks’s office to schedule an appointment.