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What Period Pain Is ‘Normal’?

Common vs Normal Period Pain

What period pain is normal?  This is a tough question to answer.  Firstly, there’s a big difference between “normal” and “common”.  So a lot of period pains are “common”, but not necessarily “normal” or healthy.  In this article, I’m going to cover some of the “common” physical period pains that people may experience.  If you think any of your period pains aren’t normal, because of this please seek professional medical help. You have the right to ask your doctor or nurse to complete further examinations if you feel you are being ignored.

Normal Period Pain

Basically, from what I’ve learned about period pains, is that you definitely should not be debilitated by them.  Meaning, if you can’t do normal activities or need to take lots of pain medicine, you need to seek professional medical help.  So when you do seek professional medical help, make sure to demand adequate care as you may need to seek multiple opinions since period pain is often dismissed. 

Normal period pain, therefore, is limited to basically being aware that you’re on your period.  The body naturally releases hormone-like chemicals called prostaglandins to help the uterus shed its lining (the process of menstruation).  The prostaglandins tell the uterus to contract to push the blood out, so having some minor cramps would be normal.

There may be some period pains in this article that are merely annoying to you.  But that’s ok, but consider making minor lifestyle or diet adjustments to see if they go away.  Sometimes these symptoms are due to underlying issues, so make sure to track them and learn what your “normal” is.  

Know Your “Normal period pain”

It is important to track your cycle and this means tracking when and how much you bleed, spot, and experience period pains.  By keeping track of your mood may also give you insight into how your cycle is connected to the rest of your daily experiences.  Furthermore, you may be able to predict when reoccurring symptoms happen and be quicker to notice if something is unusual.  So tracking this information is invaluable if you ever need to seek medical assistance.  There are many apps you can use, like Clue, which make it easy to track your cycle.

Please be aware that I am not a medical professional, you should discuss any concerns with a medical professional.

Period Pains:  Before the Bleeding Starts

Period Pain Possible Causes What to Do / How to Avoid
Acne / breakouts Hormone imbalances or fluctuation Lots of water Nutritious food, Gentle skincare – don’t skip out on moisturizing and consider your stress levels
Tender Breasts Inflammation – your body may be producing too many prostaglandins Avoid inflammatory foods and drinks like: Sugar, alcohol, processed foods, bread, and pasta (Hill, 2019, p. 221). and Caffeine (Karchmer, 2019, p. 94-95).Include more probiotics, Omega-3 fatty acids, and green tea (Hill, 2019, p. 221)
Yoga
Migraines Theory 1:  Hormone imbalance
Theory 2:  Prostaglandins causing pain and inflammation
Consider your diet, You may be missing out on enough magnesium (Hill, 2019, p. 82)
Cramps Prostaglandins Avoid inflammatory foods, Gentle exercise, yoga and Hot water bottle

Period Pains:  During Your Period

Period Pain Possible Causes What to Do / How to Avoid
Cramps Prostaglandins Avoid inflammatory foods, Gentle exercise, Warm bath, Orgasms! By yourself or safely with a partner and Seek professional medical help if severe
Cramps Exercise – too little or too much Gentle exercises like walks and yoga, Stretches, Hot water bottle/heating pad and Seek professional medical help if severe
Cramps Diet-related Consider your diet, Avoid sugar, alcohol, dairy,  white potatoes, aubergine, peppers, and tomatoes (Hill, 2019, p. 279) and Seek professional medical help, especially if severe
Bloating Water retention due to hormone fluctuations Drink more water, Avoid salty foods
Irritated or Itchy Vulva Vulva exposed to blood for too long
*blood is a known irritant to skin
Change products more often, Try an internally worn product (especially on heavy days)Wipe excess blood off with a moist towel shower/bathe more often
Irritated or Itchy Vulva Period products Avoid scented products, Go for organic cotton, If you use reusable period products, consider what soap/laundry detergent you use to clean them, Have you switched to a new one? Try unscented, Try an extra rinse
Irritated or Itchy Vulva Infection If persistent, unusual, and/or severe seek professional medical help
Migraines A theory for migraines at the end of your period is that they are caused by loss of blood and low iron levels (Hill, 2019, p. 83) Ensure you’re getting adequate iron from your diet
Period Poops Diarrhea or pooping more than usual could be due to prostaglandins Avoid inflammatory foods and Stay hydrated
Period Poops Constipation  Drink more water, eat more fibre, and exercise.
Sore Back Prostaglandins Gentle stretches, yoga and Hot water bottles/heating pads.
Vomiting / Nausea Severe pain, possibly if your body is secreting too many prostaglandins Seek medical help if your pain is this severe, Ginger or mint tea may help nausea and stay hydrated

More on Prostaglandins

Our body naturally releases prostaglandins before and during menstruation to help push out menstrual blood.  Sometimes there are too many prostaglandins released which can cause pain.  There are prostaglandin receptors all over the body, meaning many areas can be affected.

A summary

I know it may be annoying to hear again and again, but a good diet, exercise, and stress management truly can improve your overall health.  These small steps can add up, so be kind to yourself while you establish a new routine. And finally, if any of your period pains are severe – please seek professional medical care and advocate for your right to live pain-free.

 

Find more tips about coping with period pain on our social media.

Read more about period pain here.

Written by: Morgan Ludington

Edited by: Lilypads

Sources

Barnard N. D., Scialli A.R., Hurlock D., Bertron P.  (2000).  Diet and sex-hormone binding globulin, dysmenorrhea, and premenstrual symptoms.  Elsevier 95(2)245-250. doi.org/10.1016/S0029-7844(99)00525-6

Hill, M.  (2019).  Period Power.  Green Tree.

Karchmer, K.  (2019).  Seeing Red:  The one book every woman needs to read:  Period.  Tiller Press.

Motahari-Tabari, N., Shirvani, M.A., Alipour, A. (2017).  Comparison of the effects of stretching exercises and mefenamic acid on the reduction of pain and menstruation characteristics in primary dysmenorrhea: a randomized clinical trial.  Oman Medical Journal 32(1):  47-53. doi: 10.5001/omj.2017.09

Shavandi, N., Taghian, F., Soltani, V.  (2010).  The effect of isometric exercise on primary dismenorrhea.  Journal of Arak University of Medical Sciences 13(1):  71-77.  http://jams.arakmu.ac.ir/article-1-472-en.html

Tsai, S.  (2016).  Effect of yoga exercise on premenstrual symptoms among female employees in Taiwan.  International Journal of Research and Public Health 13(7): 721.  https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph13070721

Welch, C.  (2011).  Balance your hormones, balance your life:  achieving optimal health and wellness through Ayurveda, Chinese Medicine, and Western Science.  Da Capo Press.

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