We don’t talk about periods enough, let alone period pain. But by not addressing this important conversation there are repercussions which can leave many suffering in silence.
Period pain is a topic that is rarely addressed. It’s the ‘dark side’ of periods that unfortunately is surrounded by silence. According to research by registered charity Women’s Health Concern, around 80% of women and people with periods experience period pain at some stage in their lifetime. A further 5% to 10% get such severe pain that it disrupts their day to day life.
With statistics such as these, it’s surprising that people are still suffering in silence. You only have to look at average diagnosis times for conditions such as endometriosis, or hear first-hand stories, to get an idea of how this appears to be the case.
Investigating period pain
‘Period pains’ is a general and broad topic. It’s important to peel back the lid to unearth topics that we need to talk about.
For a start, there are different types of period pain. It could be in relation to breast pain, bloating pains, lower back pain or menstrual cramps. Even migraines! These pains can occur anytime during the menstrual cycle (from ovulation through to after your period has finished). You might get one of these symptoms, a few of them, or none at all.
Then there’s the severity. This can greatly vary from person to person. It can also sometimes change at different intervals of your life. Pain very much varies from mild and manageable to very severe. Severe pains can leave sufferers bed bound and curled up in agony. In some cases, people can even feel faint due to the severity of the pain.
Depending on the severity, period pains can also be a sign of an underlying condition or imbalance. Conditions such as endometriosis, fibroids and adenomyosis are often linked to severe pains that can occur during the menstrual cycle.
This is all part of getting periods, right?
This is a common misperception that arises as a result of awareness and knowledge gaps. Menstrual health education needs a big shakeup. The learning gaps are prevalent across our society. It affects how we think about and manage our periods.
We learn about periods in school with a branded guide about products and a few scientific pointers about the reproductive cycle. Topics such as hormones, heavy bleeding, conditions, period pains and general menstrual wellness are very rarely included in these lessons.
A lack of understanding can impact your wellbeing. It means pain and discomfort can get passed off as just ‘part and parcel’ of having a period. It’s a sad truth that as a result of these education/awareness gaps, a large portion of women are out there right now getting awful periods and thinking it’s supposed to be this way.
Perhaps this is the reason why many of these symptoms are just dealt with in silence. They are not voiced to medical professionals for fear of making a fuss over what we presume to be ‘nothing’.
Is there a lack of support?
When these issues are put to a medical professional, are you being heard? This is another concern that resides under the period pain category.
According to a report by Endometriosis Association, 61% of endometriosis patients had been told by healthcare providers that nothing was wrong with them. It also takes an average of 10 years in the UK to diagnose Endometriosis. Endo warrior and creator of the Endo Wall, Jaimee Rae Mc Cormack described getting a diagnosis as ‘the biggest challenge of my life so far.’ Jaimee explained how she battled for years to understand what was causing her severe period pain.
Jaimee explains, “I continued to persist with doctors but often left appointments feeling like a hypochondriac causing a fuss over invisible pain. My period and bowel issues were taking over my life. It felt like I was getting stabbed with hot knives throughout my abdomen, chest, pelvis, thighs and back. When I went for tests, all results came back clear.”
Jaimee had never heard about Endometriosis until her acupuncturist mentioned it. After years of failed diagnosis, Jaimee finally had surgery which confirmed she had Endometriosis. Jaimee’s story suggests that period pains need to be addressed across the board. From the classroom to the workplace and in medical environments.
Is there a hidden vicious cycle? Are we not reporting symptoms enough or is this again an example of the widespread education gap? The period taboo does have a lot to answer for.
We always advocate seeking medical support for any period pains or discomfort. Your health is important, and any concerns should never be seen as ‘making a fuss.’ We also recommend keeping a symptom log. This helps you understand what you’re experiencing, and this diary can help you communicate this to your GP. Make note of when the pain happens, how this impacts your day to day life, where you are experiencing the pain and how long it lasts. These are notes that you can also log in your period tracking app or journal.
Period pain – we see you!
It’s time to lift the lid, pull back the curtain and get everyone to talk about period pains. It needs to be discussed and acknowledged every day to support menstrual needs from the classroom to the workplace. If period pain is impacting the quality of your life at any stage in the menstrual cycle then it’s important to consult your GP or health adviser for further support.
Join in the conversation, follow us on socials (@totmorganic) and always be #PeriodPowerful.