It is the twenty-first century, but, unfortunately, periods are still spoken about behind the curtains. Many women and girls are still not comfortable talking about their periods or issues surrounding periods because of the culture of shame attached to it. While wrapped under the veil of false modesty, this shame culture has led to many misconceptions and myths about periods, particularly about menstrual pain or cramps.
This article will discuss some myths surrounding painful periods shedding a unique light on endometriosis.
Dysmenorrhea is the medical term for painful periods, and many women experience it. Painful periods are normal because at least 70 to 80 per cent of women experience painful periods. For some women, it can get so severe that they have fainting spells or even have to be admitted to hospitals for the duration of their period.
Women have other symptoms like diarrhea, bloating, light-headedness, mood swings, pre/post-period depression, mild eating disorders, and headaches, among other symptoms that women experience. However, the most common one is menstrual pain or period pain.
Because of how common painful periods are, some myths have grown around them. Some of them include:
Taking pain relief drugs to ease the pain can cause infertility:
While some pain killers are known to disrupt the menstrual cycle, a single dose of over-the-counter paracetamol can help ease the pain.
Exercising during your periods will cause you more pain:
Again, this is not true. There are certain types of exercises in Yoga that could help relieve the pain during periods.
Bathing or showering with cold water will cause you more pain:
Placing a warm or hot water bottle on your lower abdomen can help reduce the pain. But, there is nothing to prove that cold water would increase your period pain. At the very most, it does nothing to it; it neither reduces nor increases the pain.
Sweet, cold and sour food should be avoided during periods:
Periods sometimes come with food cravings as one of their symptoms, but there is no scientific proof that certain foods can cause menstrual pain.
Women are built for pain, especially period pain, because it prepares them for the pain of childbearing:
This myth is attached to cultural and religious beliefs, but it is entirely untrue. The idea that women must endure pain, especially pain related to the reproductive system, is dangerous. While we agree that painful periods are relatively normal, what happens when it is not? This leads us to the subject of Endometriosis.
In October 2021, Nigerian actress Zainab Balogun shared her endometriosis story in a video on her Instagram page. Zainab sharing her story encouraged more women to speak up about what they have been going through. At the centre of many women’s stories, including Zainab’s, they had always experienced severe period pains that they didn’t know or did not realise when it moved from an ordinary painful period to something more severe.
According to Mayo Clinic, an online medical journal, “endometriosis is an often painful disorder in which tissue similar to the tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus — the endometrium — grows outside the uterus. Endometriosis most commonly involves the ovaries, fallopian tubes and the tissue lining the pelvis.”
In simpler terms, it is a disorder in which tissue that should ordinarily line the uterus grows outside the uterus.
There are three types of Endometriosis:
- Superficial peritoneal lesion. This is the most common type of endometriosis.
- Endometrioma (ovarian lesion). Also called chocolate cysts, this type forms deep in the ovaries. They usually don’t respond well to treatment.
- Deeply infiltrating endometriosis. This type of endometriosis grows under the peritoneum and may involve organs around the uterus, like the bladder and bowels.
The Most Common Symptoms of Endometriosis are:
- Constipation and diarrhea.
- Extremely severe menstrual pain.
- Heavy and unusual period bleeding.
- Painful Sex.
- Blood in stool or Urine.
- Difficulty in getting pregnant.
- Pain while stooling or urinating.
- Continuous and excessive fatigue.
Endometriosis can significantly affect the quality of life of a woman. It can cause infertility because the endometrial tissue wraps around the ovaries and blocks the release of eggs. It can also cause ovarian cancer and even cause mental stress and depression. Although, doctors have not been able to specify a known cause of endometriosis in women. This article on Endometriosis can deepen your knowledge about the subject. However, if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is advised that you contact your doctor immediately; they are in the best position to give you a diagnosis.
Endometriosis is a condition that many women have had to deal with in silence because of the cultural myth of enduring severe pain during periods. Women need to learn more about what’s going on in their bodies and, most importantly, not ignore severe pain when they are on their periods; it might just be a symptom of something that needs urgent attention.
Women are not vessels built for pain and should not treat themselves as such. And although it is still not enough, women are beginning to speak more about periods and their experiences, which has been of great help to other women who are still shy about talking about their periods.