By Joan Teotico
It’s that time of the month again when everything just goes cray—from headaches and mood swings to cramps and cravings. Before popping pain pills or giving in to that pint of ice cream, though, keep calm and read on to get expert advice on how to deal with menstrual misery.
1. Know the difference between primary and secondary dysmenorrhea. According to Dr. Stephanie Supan and Dr. Karen Balana-Arcenas, there are two types of menstrual cramps. Primary dysmenorrhea is when no diseases accompany pain, whereas secondary dysmenorrhea is caused by abnormalities—ovarian cysts or infections, among others—in the reproductive system.
2. Pay attention to pain progression. Prostaglandins, the cause of primary dysmenorrhea, are natural chemicals that are made in the lining of the uterus. Prostaglandin levels increase on the first day of the period and eventually decrease as the uterine lining is shed. Make it a point to observe pain levels before, during, and after menstruation. Mild pain associated with primary dysmenorrhea may be normal, but progressive and increasing pain every month could be a red flg for secondary dysmenorrhea. “If the pain is intense that it disrupts daily activities then you should consult a gynecologist,” Dr. Supan admonishes.
3. Eat clean to ease period discomfort. Dr. Supan suggests steering clear of salt, caffeine, alcohol, spicy food, and sugar. These can cause bloating, anxiety, mood swings, and weight gain, and can destabilize the blood sugar, so skip processed and junk food. Load up on fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains instead. You can also drink a cup of hot tea with ginger and turmeric. These spices help ease the distress as they’re loaded with anti-inflammatory properties.
4. Break a sweat to beat period pains. Listen up, ladies: Dr. Supan says that exercising is essential during—and prior to—menses “because it increases and improves blood circulation.” Plus, Dr. Balana-Arcenas says exercise lessens the agony of cramps, so hop on the treadmill and pump iron!
5. Alleviate cramps with heat. Apply a hot compress (heat pads, heat wraps, and warm water bottles) to painful areas—usually the lower abdominal area or the lower back—or taking warm baths, advises Dr. Supan. The warmth will soothe muscles and reduce discomfort from menstrual cramps.
6. Talk to the doc about pain pills. Non-steroidal antiinflmmatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as mefenamic acid, ibuprofen, or naproxen are common pain medications. Follow the doctor’s dosage instructions to avoid serious side effects and overdose. If period pains still progress, see the doctor immediately.
7. Give your V some much-deserved TLC. Lady parts need love, especially when it’s
that time of the month. Dr. Balana-Arcenas and Dr. Supan agree that it’s important to change pads or tampons every four to fie hours to prevent bacterial growth. Use a mild soap or cleanser to wash the external area. Avoid douching because “it washes away the normal flra of the vagina and makes you more prone to infection,” Dr. Supan explains.
8. Unlearn menstrual myths. Does “you can’t take a bath during your period,” “you can’t go swimming during your period,” or “menstrual blood is dirty blood” sound familiar? Don’t fall for these myths as they aren’t backed up by scientifi evidence.
9. Know the conditions that affect your period. “Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a very common condition that causes menstrual irregularities,” Dr. Supan says. It may be the cause for sporadic menses— every two months or at longer intervals—or continuous bleeding. Endometriosis is also another condition that can cause pain during your period, according to Dr. Balana-Arcenas. It’s an often painful disorder in which tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus (the endometrium) grows outside it (endometrial implant). Thyroid disorders and pelvic infections may also have an impact on menses. “These conditions will all be investigated or ruled out as deemed necessary by the specialist on consult,” says Dr. Balana-Arcenas.
10. Keep track of your menstrual cycle. Monitoring your monthly flow is just as important as tracking workouts, sleeping habits, and calorie intake. “It’s good practice for women to have a record to easily detect if there are abnormalities in their cycles,” Dr. Supan says. (Try using Pink Pad or Clue, both available on iOS and Android.) This way, you can talk to your OB-GYN if you notice irregularities in your period. “Menstrual bleeding typically lasts less than seven days,” Dr. Balana-Arcenas explains. The fist day of bleeding marks the beginning of the menstrual cycle. “On average, one can use three to six moderately soaked pads a day. If you experience bleeding longer than seven days or heavy bleeding that needs constant changing of pads—say, every one to two hours—then you have to seek consult immediately.” Forewarned is forearmed!
Stephanie Supan, M.D. Obstetrician-gynecologist
St. Luke’s Medical Center, Quezon City
Karen Anne R. Balanaarcenas, M.D.,
DPOGS Obstetrician-gynecologist And Consultant
Commonwealth Hospital And Medical Center And Pacific Global Medical Center
ALSO READ: The Six Fix: Tips to Increase Your Happy Hormones
Illustration Jan Almonte