Health Care, Just the Facts, Speaking from Experience, Stigma/Taboo, Women's Health

Dysmenorrhea & Prostaglandins

I’m back to talk about Women’s Health, more specifically about Dysmenorrhea and Prostaglandins, and how it pertains to our monthly flow.

There are many aspects of my life that I was never fully prepared for, this is one of those. Sure, I learned the basics of women’s health in school and was given another talk by my doctor before my first pelvic exam. That was the extent of the knowledge that was shared with me. From the time that I started my periods ( age 11) until now (42) was mostly trial and error and doing my own research. Luckily young girls today have it easier with easy access to the internet. Many of us weren’t that fortunate.

I hope that by sharing my experience of 31 years that another female doesn’t have to continue to suffer for as long as I have with dysmenorrhea caused by prostaglandins. Before I go any further, I will make the disclaimer that I am not a medical doctor or an OBGYN. If you find that my experience sounds very similar to what you are dealing with, please make an appointment with your doctor or OBGYN to be diagnosed properly.

What is Dysmenorrhea: Dysmenorrhea is the medical term that describes difficult or painful periods.

While most women experience typical cramping during menstruation, the pain is tolerable and passes without too much disruption.

For the most part, I do experience the typical cramping and I have used an over the counter (OTC) pain reliever to take the edge off. In some cases, I have found relief in using a heating pad. Staying hydrated a few days leading up to the first day of my cycle helps a bit.

My experience with dysmenorrhea started when I was 13 and the experience has been the same miserable, debilitating and painful thing I have ever endured.

Dysmenorrhea for me includes:

  • Happens on the first heavy flow day, by heavy I mean going through an overnight pad every 4 hours.
  • Sweating, Clammy, Skin goes pale- This is the 5-minute window that I’ve learned to recognize that things are about to take a turn for the worse. If I can’t get home, the experience of what’s about to come is much worse.
  • Severe cramping. Cramping so bad that I’m doubled over with constant pain in my midsection that just won’t quit. The pain was so bad once (at work) that I nearly blacked out. That only happened once, the nearly passing out part. The severe cramping has been a constant factor.
  • I’m confined to the bathroom because part of this process includes loose stool/diarrhea. In most cases, I’m also vomiting at the same time.
  • My body feels hot, sweaty, clammy and I often take off my clothes (if I’m home which isn’t always the case) just to help cool down. All that is listed up to this point is just the first phase. This part has lasted up to 2 hours and everything happens at the same time.
  • Phase 2: Once my body is done expelling from every orifice and my body has started to cool down, I can leave the bathroom and proceed to lay down. The severe cramps are still present and typically have me doubled over in tears. I have a fan on the highest setting blowing directly on me to help bring my temperature down from clammy to chilled. The severe cramping eventually subsides and I am chilled to the bone, the fan is replaced with a heating pad. I rest, in and out of sleep and a few hours later I feel fine.

This whole process varies in time. In my younger years, it would last up to four hours. In the last 10 years, I have my husband that helps me through this process. We’ve got it worked out and I was able to feel better within 2 hours yesterday. Once I’m certain that I’m experiencing a “Bad Month” he brings a fan into the bathroom to help bring my temperature down. He’ll sit with me, rub my back which is comforting and he makes sure that I’m drinking something to replenish the fluids that I’m expelling from both ends. Once I’m ready to relocate from the bathroom to the bedroom, he makes sure that the fan is in position and offers an Iburophin now that I can keep it down.

I have brought my concerns to a few doctors and an OBGYN, all had nothing to offer since I don’t experience Dysmenorrhea every month. In my teenage years, it was suggested that I was exaggerating how painful the cramps were. For years I thought these “bad months” were normal. While every month isn’t a “bad month” it was happening more frequently in my teens and 20’s. In the last ten years, it’s at least once a year and it’s a guessing game if it will be this month or will it be next month. I can only rely on the 5-minute window when I start to feel my body temperature rising.

I started using a Period Tracker to see if there was a pattern to the “bad months”. Here’s the link to the site that I have been using since 2007. Also, a great tool if you’re trying to conceive.

After doing a bit of research yesterday (after phase 2) I wanted to get to the bottom of what was happening, what causes me to endure these “bad months” from hell. I found a probable cause, Prostaglandins.

What are Prostaglandins:

After reading that prostaglandins are a natural response to healing tissue, in this case, the uterine lining and if there is an excess (which I believe is the case) of prostaglandins, one could experience all of the symptoms that I experience. Something I wish that one of my doctors or OBGYN would have explained to me decades ago. All of my PAP tests and Pelvic exams have been normal. I had my tubes tied back in 2016, and nothing abnormal was noticed during that surgery.

Here’s my theory about what’s happening. During these “bad months” the flow is so heavy that my body may be producing more prostaglandins than what is actually needed. While prostaglandins cause uterine muscle contraction (aka menstrual cramps), they also affect the bowels. Prostaglandins stimulate contracting and relaxing the muscles of the digestive tract, which is why your period can cause changes in your bowels.

The result of too many prostaglandins is loose stools and painful menstrual cramps.
On my next visit with my doctor, I will bring this up to see if she suggests a solution. So far this is the closest reason that makes sense for my situation. Hopefully, my experience helps another woman find relief for the cause of the dysmenorrhea that she is experiencing. Again, I’m not a doctor or a medical professional.

As for me, I will continue to pray for menopause. It can’t come soon enough.




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