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Periods, what a pain

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Cramps, mood swings and that sudden need to find a bathroom… like, now. Dealing with all this once a month is going to have a significant impact on our lives, right?

The most obvious way that periods impact the lives of women everywhere is the discomfort (understatement of the century). In fact, 9 out of 10 women experience period pain, or dysmenorrhea – the medical name for that feeling that has you bent double, clutching your tummy whilst trying to remember to breathe. This is caused by contractions in the uterus, which squash the blood vessels, cutting off the supply of oxygen. This makes the muscles cramp, exactly the same way as your legs do after a tough spin class.

In extreme cases, the pain can lead to time off work and needs strong medication. But, this is often where the treatment ends. The most common cause of serious period pain is a disease called endometriosis; however, this is very difficult to diagnose. So loads of women never find out that the excruciating pain they are experiencing every month is not normal, but is actually a recognised health condition.

The extent of the pain often goes unappreciated with some doctors claiming that “everybody gets period pain”. Additionally, society doesn’t talk about periods, because they’re “gross”. The result is that endometriosis has become an almost invisible health problem, it’s even known as the ‘silent plague’. Yet it affects 176 million women of childbearing age worldwide. That’s 1 in 10. Think of nine of your girl friends; is it possible that you or one of your group may have endometriosis?

The psychological effects of severe period pain can be just as harmful. The internet is awash with stories of women who have had to quit work because “nobody wants to employ somebody who can’t work for three or four days a month”. When coupled with the feeling that you are totally alone because nobody understands what you go through on a monthly basis, it’s easy to see how the effects on your personal and professional life can be just as painful.

Fortunately, the awareness of conditions such as endometriosis is increasing. If any of these symptoms sound familiar, ask your doctor about endometriosis, or medical options to reduce the number of periods that you are having. There is no need to suffer in silence.