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Painful periods, or dysmenorrhoea, affect about 50-80% of women during the fertile period of their life ,. According to a study published in 2005, 50-70% of adolescent girls have regular or occasional dysmenorrhoea, and 15-20% of them must limit their activity during their periods and even have to lie down. This phenomenon is far from negligible considering that, in France, painful periods are the leading cause of school absenteeism among teenage girls and professional absenteeism among young women.
Their causes can be varied, with their intensity ranging from moderate to intense, and there is a wide range of solutions to alleviate them.
To expel blood and mucous membranes during our periods, several molecules trigger spasms in the uterine muscle. Among them, prostaglandins, produced by the endometrium (the mucous membrane that lines the inner wall of the uterus) are the most active molecules. It is mainly due to their action that the uterine muscle contracts. An excess of prostaglandins causes an abnormal increase in these contractions, which has the effect of compressing the small blood vessels of the uterine muscle and thus partially depriving it of oxygen. It is this lack of oxygen, called hypoxia that causes most menstrual pain.
While we are all affected by periods, unfortunately, we are not all equal in the face of pain. For some people, the contractions are quite tolerable, but for others, they are simply unbearable. We now know that in 10-15% of women suffering from dysmenorrhoea, the pain is so severe that it seriously interferes with daily life. 1-2
We all have a friend, sister or colleague who is unable to go to work or leave bed when she has her period.
You should know that the term ‘menstrual pain’ is used to cover two types of dysmenorrhoea:
You need to learn to listen to your body. If menstrual cramps are a hindrance to social or family life, if they prevent you from going to work, school or ruin your life to the point of lowering your morale, you should make an appointment with a healthcare professional: gynaecologist, pharmacist, midwife, etc. or even your general practitioner.
If your periods become abnormally painful when they were not before, or if they are suddenly accompanied by heavy bleeding, you should not hesitate to consult a doctor. Especially if you have a fever. A healthcare professional will be able to reassure you and answer all your questions.
The pain is not inevitable. There are of course medicines available to alleviate menstrual cramps, but before you pull out the big guns, you can first give natural solutions a try. There are many of them, but here are some that we can recommend to you:
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1 Schroeder B. Dysmenorrhea and pelvic pain in adolescents. Pediatr Clin North Am June 1999; 46 (3): 555 – 71
2 Kwon JS. Dysmenorrhea. Journal SOGC August 1997: 955 – 62
3 College National des Gynécologues et Obstétriciens Français
4 Source: social security.