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The Most Common Period Problems & What Can Be Done About Them

Periods can come with all manner of challenges that disrupt daily life.

From debilitating cramps to irregular cycles, the spectrum of period problems is vast and diverse. Understanding the most common menstrual issues and exploring potential remedies is a huge part of promoting women’s health and well-being.

What are some of the problems that go along with menstruation?

Perhaps the most common concern is irregular menstrual cycles, marked by variations in cycle length or skipped periods. Irregularities can stem from hormonal imbalances, stress, excessive exercise, or underlying medical conditions like PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome). PCOS is a hormonal disorder that can be characterised by irregular periods, ovarian cysts, and symptoms such as acne and weight gain.

Two more of the most frequent issues with menstruation are PMS and PMDD. PMS (premenstrual syndrome) encompasses a range of physical and emotional symptoms that occur in the days leading up to menstruation. Similar to PMS but more severe, PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder) can significantly impact daily activities.

Another major menstrual problem is dysmenorrhea, characterised by severe menstrual cramps that can significantly impact quality of life. These painful sensations happen when the uterine contracts, triggered by prostaglandins, hormone-like substances involved in the menstrual cycle. Earlier on in our cycle, we might also experience ovulation pain, also known as “Mittelschmerz, which refers to lower abdominal pain or cramping during ovulation. While mild discomfort is normal, debilitating cramps might indicate an underlying issue, such as endometriosis or fibroids.

Endometriosis,  involves the growth of endometrial tissue outside the uterus, leading to pelvic pain, infertility, and other symptoms.

Heavy menstrual bleeding (menorrhagia) is also a prevalent problem. Excessive bleeding can lead to anaemia, fatigue, and emotional distress. Underlying causes can include hormonal imbalances, uterine fibroids, or bleeding disorders. Alternatively, the absence of menstruation (amenorrhea), can be primary (never having had a period) or secondary (going several months at a time without a period).

Another common menstrual problem is infrequent cycles (oligomenorrhea), these occur infrequently, with intervals longer than 35 days between periods.

It’s a lot to think about!

How does menstrual health affect daily life?

Menstrual health can significantly impact daily life in a number of ways.

All of the usual symptoms like cramps, bloating, headaches, and fatigue can cause physical discomfort and affect our day to day lives. It’s not unusual for our periods to prevent us from participating in all kinds of activities, such as work, exercise, and social events.

Hormonal fluctuations during the menstrual cycle can influence mood, leading to irritability, mood swings, anxiety, or depression. These emotional changes may impact relationships, productivity, and other key aspects of regular life.

Severe menstrual pain or discomfort can make life miserable whilst you are trying to concentrate at school or work. It can lead to you being less productive and sometimes leading to time off.  It’s not only work and school that can be affected either. Menstrual symptoms can sometimes stop you taking part in social events, physical activities, and hobbies. This is no fun for anyone. Some people can even experience sleep disturbances such as insomnia or disrupted sleep patterns due to menstrual discomfort, leading to fatigue and daytime drowsiness.

How do you treat menstrual problems?

Fortunately, there are interventions available that both address menstrual problems and alleviate symptoms. Some of the most common and useful remedies include over-the-counter painkillers, birth control medications, and lifestyle changes such as proper sleep and exercise. Heat therapy and other holistic methods can also prove helpful.

For persistent or severe menstrual issues, though, consulting a healthcare provider is a must. A comprehensive evaluation can identify underlying causes and guide personalised treatment approaches. This could involve a range of different options including, hormonal therapies, surgical interventions, or alternative therapies like acupuncture  may be recommended based on your individual needs and preferences.

Some remedies for menstrual problems are right at home

Managing menstrual pain is a common concern, especially cramping. From mild discomfort to debilitating pain, menstrual pain can be a wide spectrum. Factors such as hormonal fluctuations, uterine contractions, and inflammatory processes contribute to pain during menstruation. Gaining insight into these mechanisms will help you to make informed decisions about the most appropriate pain management strategies for your needs.

Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or paracetamol can help alleviate menstrual cramps and discomfort. These medications work by reducing inflammation and blocking pain signals, providing relief from menstrual pain when taken as directed.

Adopting a healthy lifestyle can positively impact your menstrual health, too. Regular exercise, stress management techniques like yoga or meditation, and maintaining a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help regulate hormones and reduce menstrual symptoms across the board.

Heat therapy is also highly effective and easily done at home. Applying heat to the lower abdomen with a heating pad or warm compress can help relax muscles and alleviate menstrual cramps. It’s a simple and inexpensive method that provides quick relief without the need for medication.

Some people find relief from menstrual problems through alternative therapies such as acupuncture, acupressure, or herbal remedies. Research on the effectiveness of these methods is ongoing, but many people report benefits from these more holistic approaches.

Addressing menstrual pain goes beyond just alleviating physical discomfort; it involves fostering holistic well-being by addressing emotional, social, and lifestyle factors that may influence pain perception. By taking a proactive and comprehensive approach to period pain management, you can empower yourself to navigate your menstrual cycles with greater comfort and confidence.

Other methods might require a trip to see your doctor

While plenty of menstrual problems can be managed with self-care strategies, others should have the attention of your GP. Severe or persistent symptoms such as heavy bleeding, severe pain, or irregular cycles may warrant medical assessment to rule out serious underlying causes and ensure appropriate management.

Serious conditions like endometriosis, PCOS, or uterine fibroids can cause significant disruptions and can even impact fertility. Seeking timely medical care can help individuals receive accurate diagnosis, personalised treatment, and support for their menstrual health concerns.

Hormonal contraceptives, including birth control pills, patches, and hormonal intrauterine devices (IUDs), can regulate menstrual cycles and reduce symptoms, including heavy bleeding and cramping. They work by stabilising hormone levels, thinning the uterine lining, and preventing ovulation, effectively managing menstrual problems for many individuals.

In cases of severe menstrual problems, medications such as  hormonal therapies or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be necessary. These medicines are typically prescribed by a healthcare provider after a thorough evaluation of symptoms and medical history.

Certain dietary supplements, like magnesium, vitamin B6, and omega-3 fatty acids, can help alleviate menstrual symptoms like bloating and mood swings. That said, you should absolutely consult your GP before starting any supplements to ensure they are safe and appropriate for you.

When does it get more serious?

In some cases, surgical intervention might be recommended to address underlying causes of menstrual problems, such as endometriosis or fibroids. Procedures like laparoscopic excision of endometrial tissue or uterine fibroid embolisation can provide long-term relief for individuals with severe symptoms.

For anyone experiencing emotional distress or psychological symptoms related to menstrual problems, counselling or therapy can also be enormously beneficial. Therapeutic techniques such as cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) can help individuals cope with stress, anxiety, and mood disorders associated with menstrual issues.

If you are concerned that you are suffering from any of the above, be sure to speak to your GP as soon as possible. Whilst these symptoms are common, they should never be considered a normal part of life, and something you need to ‘get on with’.

In many cases, taking a holistic approach to menstrual health by addressing physical, emotional, and lifestyle factors can lead to better management of menstrual problems. Working with a trusted healthcare provider who takes a comprehensive approach to care can also help identify personalised strategies for managing symptoms and improving overall well-being. So, if you don’t feel like your doctor is taking you seriously, make sure you seek a second opinion.

Managing your menstrual problems is possible

Managing menstrual pain is a multifaceted journey that requires patience, experimentation, and a personalised approach. Understanding the underlying causes of menstrual pain and exploring various management strategies is the first step to finding relief and living a healthier and more fulfilling life.

Whether it’s through over-the-counter medications, hormonal therapies, lifestyle modifications, or alternative therapies, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for managing menstrual pain. Instead, it’s about finding what works best for your unique needs and preferences. Addressing your general health and well-being, and considering different lifestyle factors, can also play a big role in reducing discomfort and making your periods more manageable.

It’s time to work towards a future where menstrual pain is acknowledged, understood, and effectively managed.

This article has been reviewed by our Kari Health Experts and Editorial Board to ensure accuracy and reliability of the information presented. However, please note that the content provided is for informational purposes only and should not replace advice from your medical professional.

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