It’s taken years and years of complaining and reasoning, but doctors have finally accepted that some periods can cause the same amount of pain as a heart attack.
Although some people are lucky enough to have a relatively painless period, nine in 10 women experience cramps and between 30-50% suffer from dysmenorrhea — an especially painful menstruation.
It’s one of the most common health care problems for women during their reproductive years, but still something played down in the workplace for fear of being told to “get over it.” But when pains are too bad to carry on with everyday activities, it’s hard to get up and function as usual.
And now, finally, a doctor has told us what we’ve been saying for years: That we’re not overreacting.
John Guillebaud, a professor of reproductive health at University College London, told Quartz that patients have described the cramping pain as “almost as bad as having a heart attack.”
He acknowledged that the issue has often been downplayed.
“Men don’t get it and it hasn’t been given the centrality it should have,” he added. “I do believe it’s something that should be taken care of, like anything else in medicine.”
This may be down to a lack of research into menstruation and women’s health as a whole.
Dr. Imogen Shaw, a doctor specializing in women’s health, told the Telegraph that “in general, there isn’t much research done into women’s health. I wouldn’t say dysmenorrhea has been hugely investigated.”
Researcher Dr. Annalise Weckesser told The Independent that a lack of further research could be the result of not speaking out about pain in the first place.
“There is a long history of not taking menstrual pain seriously and even writing it off as women’s hysteria,” she said. “We don’t talk about menstrual health; young girls’ knowledge about menstrual health is poor.
“Our medical professionals are not separate from that, so what is an average experience of menstruation, what is typical, and what is atypical?” she continued. “That permeates up into the nurses and the [doctors] and that’s why you get young women being written off.”
When painful periods are medically diagnosed they can generally be split into two categories: primary dysmenorrhea and endometriosis.
Endometriosis occurs when the tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows on other areas, usually within the pelvis, such as fallopian tubes and ovaries. It requires a surgical laparoscopy to diagnose.
Primary dysmenorrhea, which splits off into many varied symptoms, is usually dealt with by medication.
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