Besides irregular bleeding, period pains are among the commonest unpleasant symptoms that can occur in the menstrual cycle. They can occur before the period (premenstrual) or during the period. The commonest symptoms are cramps in the lower abdomen, headaches, back pain, joint pain, nausea, loss of appetite, moods swings and diarrhoea. Although it is mostly young women who are affected, many women suffer from stomach cramps until they reach the menopause.
The causes of cramps
There are many causes of the acute abdominal pains experienced during menstruation. In the first place, monthly cramps occur because the musculature of the uterus contracts in order to shed the mucous membrane that was not required for the egg to become attached. Secondly, organic diseases of the uterus (e.g. fibroids), the ovaries or the Fallopian tubes can result in pain. Psychological pressures (e.g. stress) or a negative attitude to menstruation can also intensify the pain.
Help is at hand
Medication can help, but period pains can also be eased by natural remedies. Here are some useful tips:
- Relax your muscles: Walking, yoga and meditation relax the muscles, encourage blood circulation and help prevent cramps.
- Massage: Massage your stomach. Do this by moving your hand clockwise around your navel without applying pressure.
- Relaxation: Massage, aromatherapy or acupuncture can relieve cramps and help the body to relax.
- Heat: Heat pads, hot water bottles or a warm bath can relax the muscles and boost circulation.
- Drink tea: Some types of tea (e.g. camomile, lady's mantle, balm, monk's pepper and St. John's wort) have a calming effect and relieve cramps.
- Nutrition: A healthy, balanced diet with plenty of iron and magnesium (e.g. red meat, wholemeal bread and nuts) helps prevent muscle cramps. Vitamin B6, which is found in avocados and pulses, can also help to calm strained nerves
- In essence: Listen to your body and treat yourself to something nice.