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Menstrual periods can at times be very painful and uncomfortable. For some, the pain can be mild, while for others it can be severe.
Health experts explain that some women and girls may experience nausea, vomiting, headaches, or diarrhoea. This is because while menstruating, the muscles of the womb contract and relax to help shed the built up lining.
According to Dr Iba Mayele, an Obstetrician-Gynaecologist at Clinic Galien- Kimironko, menstrual cramps also known as dysmenorrhea, could be due to having a heavy blood flow, being under the age of 20, or just starting your period, having your first child, and experiencing an overproduction of sensitivity to prostaglandins— a hormone that influences your womb, among other factors.
He however says, there are a number of home remedies that can help soothe menstrual cramps and some of these include; taking caffeine-free ginger or hot water with lemon or even mint tea. These play a key role in lowering the levels of the pain-causing prostaglandins.
Mayele warns against eating certain foods during menstruation, such as carbonated beverages, caffeine, salty foods, fatty foods, alcohol as they cause bloating and water retention. Reducing their consumption will reduce the cramps and tension.
He carries on that eating a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fruits, vegetables, nuts, lean proteins, and whole grains helps the body stay healthy.
Since dehydration is a common cause of muscle cramps, increasing the intake of fluids, such as water and herbal teas, will help the body stay hydrated, Mayele adds.
“You can also massage your abdomen gently with a massage oil, body lotion, or coconut oil, this can relax the pelvic muscles and ease cramping,” he says.
He carries on that adding iron-rich foods to your diet is a great idea since when you bleed, you lose iron. Your body needs iron to produce haemoglobin, a molecule that helps red blood cells carry oxygen.
Mayele also encourages to eat vitamin C-rich foods, as this vitamin helps your body to absorb iron, which can help prevent anaemia. Vitamin C can be found in fruits such as oranges, grapefruits, strawberries. Other sources of vitamin C could be broccoli, tomato juice, red and green pepper, and so forth.
According to Medical News Today, exercises might not be beneficial if a person is in pain, but gentle stretching, going for a walk, or doing yoga may help. Exercise also releases endorphins, which are nature’s natural pain relievers.
Placing a hot water bottle or heating pad against the abdomen can relax the muscles and relieve cramps. Heat helps the uterine muscle and those around it relax, which may ease cramping and discomfort.
A person can also place a heating pad on the lower back to get rid of back pain. Another option is to soak in a warm bath, which can help relax the muscles in the abdomen, back, and legs.
Studies indicate that women who placed a heating pad on their lower stomach for several hours during period cramps, report lower pain scores than women who had no heat treatment.
When should you see a doctor?
For Mayele, not all pain is normal, when it’s too severe then seek medical help as soon as possible.
Extreme pain before or during your period can be a sign of a more serious health condition that needs treatment, such as, endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), sexually transmitted infections (STIs), uterine fibroids, adenomyosis, and cervical stenosis.
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