cramps

HOW 100 WOMEN DEAL WITH PAINFUL MENSTRUAL CRAMPS & THEIR SYMPTOMS

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I love being a woman but hate the monthly periods that come with it. So many women can relate to what I just typed and until we get pregnant, reach menopause, or use contraceptives that halt our periods, most of us are unable to do anything about the pain and discomfort that comes with bleeding out of our vaginas every month.

I wouldn’t hate periods that much if it was just about blood coming out of my vagina. I mean, all I would’ve had to do was get tampons/sanitary towels and use them till the last day. Unfortunately, there’s more to it. Talk about everything else that comes along with it – the mood swings that pop out of nowhere before and during my period; the abdominal pain that I get before my period starts and the severe one I get on the first day of my period that I dread; the leg cramps I get on the first day that makes it almost impossible for me to walk; the vomiting, and diarrhea.

Another thing I hate about my period is the breakouts I get. You should see how much work I put into taking care of my face every morning! I have acne products for my face, I exfoliate, and I have a good moisturizer to keep my face acne-free and flawless, BUT my period still finds a way to give me one or more big breakouts. It can be so annoying because I hate getting breakouts. I mean, who doesn’t? Sometimes it is one big pimple on my nose and more times, it’s on my chin, and there’s absolutely nothing to do about it. I’ve read a lot about how to keep myself from getting hormonal breakouts, and I once read that eating egg often helps. Can you imagine? I am a Ghanaian! I love egg, and I eat eggs often, but I still get these breakouts.

I started taking a drug (Piroxicam) every single month since Junior High School to help with my cramps, and it’s one of the things I’m most grateful for. When I take one capsule the morning or day before I get my period, I end up getting no pain in my abdomen or legs (my cycle is fairly regular, and I use a period app – Period Tracker Period Calendar – that makes it easy for me to know when my period is coming).  If by any chance, I’m unable to take the drug before my period begins, I get severe pains, vomiting, and diarrhea. It almost feels like I’m dying when that happens, and I get so desperate and willing to do anything to get the drug. If I’m fortunate enough to come by the drug, once I take one or two capsules (depending on the severity of the cramps), after 30 minutes or less, it puts me to sleep, and I wake up feeling fine.

Piroxicam only helps with the pain; I still get mood swings and breakouts, but I’m still grateful for it.

How about you? How do you deal with your cramps?

THE SURVEY

106 women were asked a number of questions about their menstrual cramps and they answered based off their experiences.

QUESTION: AT WHAT AGE DID YOU START MENSTRUATING?

Here are the answers I got:

AGE IN YEARSNUMBER
83 women
93 women
104 women
1115 women
1227 women
1330 women
1410 women
1511 women
162 women
181 woman

HOW LONG DOES YOUR PERIOD LAST?

I wasn’t part of the survey but mine lasts 3 or 4 days depending on the month. How about you?

Answers from the 106 women:

3 days –4 women
4 days –26 women
5 days –39 women
6 days –23 women
7 days –14 women

THEIR MENSTRUAL CRAMPS EXPERIENCES

The above was to give you a fair idea of how long women have to deal with monthly periods until they reach menopause.

Now, here’s what the 106 women had to say about how often they have to deal with monthly menstrual cramps:

Every single month –70 women
Sometimes (not always) –34 women
Never (they don’t get cramps) –2 women

Meaning, 98% of the women get menstrual cramps! They endure pain!!!

HOW LONG DOES THE PAIN LAST?

Fortunately or unfortunately, my pain is severe but it lasts a few hours on the first day when I don’t take in sweets. Otherwise, it could last longer. How about you?

Here’s what the 104 women who get cramps had to say about how long the pain lasts when they get their monthly period:

Throughout their period –33 women
For 2 days –41 women
One day –18 women
A few hours –  12 women

WHAT SYMPTOMS DO THE 104 WOMEN GET?

Starting from the most common to the least common, here are the symptoms they mentioned:

Abdominal cramps or pain
Diarrhea
Leg cramps or pain
Insomnia
Inability to walk
High body temperature
Breakouts
Mood swings
Vomiting
Pain in vulva
Pain in the spine/back pain
Pain in the perineum
Pain in the uterine lining
Restless feeling – can’t sit, can’t stand, can’t lie down
Dizziness
Fatigue
Bloating
Acute toothache
Gum inflammation

CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE PAIN?

These were the words used by majority of the women to describe the pain:

Excruciating, Very severe, Intermittent, Horrible, Terrible, Sharp, Burns, An uneasy feeling, Gnawing, Throbbing, Unbearable, Ridiculously painful, Indescribable, Uncomfortable, Makes you want to die, Very intense, Numb feeling in legs, Like a wounded feeling on the inside, Like labor pain, Like you are being punched or stabbed in the abdomen, Like you have a sore or hot knife on the inside, Like your organs are being torn apart/turning upside down, Like there is a heavy weight on your lower back,  Like being constantly hit in the vagina with a brick, Like your waist is dislocated, As if something is being pulled off from your abdomen or your abdomen is being stretched manually, It makes you cry and roll around, Like there are pins stuck in your abdomen that are being pulled slowly, Like stitches are being pulled out of your sore without anaethesia, and finally, Like something is walking in your abdomen

A few (7 women) described the pain as normal, manageable, mild or not too excruciating.

HOW DO THEY DEAL WITH THE PAIN?

Just like me, 63 women confessed to finding ways to deal with the pain while the remaining 41 endure the pain every single month.

Here’s how the 63 women deal with the pain (from the most used to the least used):

Medications
Injections or drips
Using a hot water bottle or putting a towel soaked in hot water on the abdomen
Contraceptives (pills/implant/injectables)
Masturbation or orgasms
Sex
Drink warm water
Exercise/do squats
Lie flat on my back

WHAT MEDICATIONS DO THEY USE AND HOW?

Woman 1:

Tylenol, Aleve or Asnac and although Asnac seems to do the job pretty well, it decreases the bleeding. I take two pills three times a day or one pill four times a day, or two pills when the pain starts, and one pill after napping.

Woman 2:

Suppositories: one every two hours and sometimes, or injections when I get admitted in the hospital on some occasions

Other medications mentioned:

MEDICATIONNUMBER OF WOMENDOSAGE
Analgesics1 woman2 tabs, 3 times daily
Cryselle1 woman1 dose a day
Felvin1 woman2 pills at a go
Gebedol3 women1 tablet, twice daily for 3 days
Ibuprofen8 women1000mg, 3 times daily1000mg every 2-3 hours1 pill, 3 times daily2 tablets and more later if the pain doesn’t go away
Ladinas1 womanTwice a day
Mefenamic acid1 woman3 times daily
Menota1 woman1 tablet, 2 times daily
Panadol4 women1 tablet, 3 times daily2 every 4 hours on the first day
Paracetamol6 womenTwo tablets, twice a day3 times daily (4-hour intervals)
Piroxicam2 women2 pills at a go
Ponstan2 women1 tablet, 2 times daily2 tablets, 2 times daily
Tramadol hydrochloride1 woman350 mg, 3 times daily
Voltfast4 women50 mg, 3 times daily950mg, twice daily
Acetomenophine1 woman 
Buscopan2 women 
Diclofenac3 WOMEN 
Tylenol1 woman 
Weed tea1 woman 
Any painkiller that works11 women1000mg, twice dailyTwo tablets a day2 tabs, twice a day

DISCLAIMER:

This isn’t in any way to tell you to self-medicate. It’s just to tell you about the experiences of other women and how they deal with their cramps.

DO THE MEDICATIONS WORK SUCCESSFULLY?

When the women were asked if the medications they take erase the pain entirely, 54 women said no and 23 said yes. Meaning, most women take drugs and still endure some pain when they get their period.

DO MEDICATIONS AFFECT THE LENGTH OF PERIOD?

12 women mentioned that the medications they take to alleviate cramps shorten their period or make it end earlier than it should. 51 other women said it doesn’t affect the length of their period and they are fine with the way it works.

WHY DON’T SOME WOMEN USE MEDICATIONS?

Several women have reasons for not wanting to use medications to alleviate period pain. In their own words, here’s what each of those involved in the survey had to say:

I just want to be used to the pain in order not to find myself wanting at a place where I wouldn’t get any medicine

I didn’t use to take medications because I generally don’t like drugs messing with my system. I like to give my body a fighting chance first but that was stupid because the pain was too much to bear. What was the point of trying to be a hard girl?

I don’t always take my medications because I kinda believe that my body can fight it sometimes; I’d still be mostly bedridden though. But the pain is sometimes bearable and I’m not exactly sure of what the drugs may do to my body in the next how-many-years.

Recently, I stopped taking the medication because I observed that it cut my menstrual flow short, and also, the long term effects of some of the drugs are ulcer and infertility.

I see it as a lifestyle change so I try to eat well, drink much water and take in fruits as well as exercise within the month and I’m good to go

The medication was making me have shorter periods. I didn’t like it

I don’t want to be dependent on pain medicine and my pain is not that bad. It lasts for a day and water or lying on my abdomen helps.

It’s because I was told that if I take medication anytime I get my period, I would experience more pain during child birth

Medications don’t help!

I don’t want to abuse drugs

It helps me work on my endurance level. I have low endurance towards pain.

I do exercises to ease my pain and that helps all the time

I choose to do nothing. I just put my head on my desk and be all moody

I stopped taking medication so that my blood can flow well…. I don’t want to be keeping any junk in my system

It’s not convenient to be taking medication… And also, it’s not too good for your health

It’s a natural thing and I think taking medication won’t be effective at some point

It’s not serious. It mostly lasts for the first day at least, and the second day at most.

Well, I feel it’s something I’m supposed to get used to since taking medication doesn’t change anything for me. The pain continues the following month.

I don’t know. I just don’t like medication. And especially to take it for cramps

Because, most times it doesn’t work for me

It’s a pain I can manage, not too serious

I don’t want to rely on medication forever

I tried once and it didn’t work, I only threw up

Because the medications stopped easing the cramps

I think I’m scared I’d become dependent on the medication

At times, I get tired, and I feel what can come can come

GETTING HOSPITALISED BECAUSE OF MENSTRUAL CRAMPS

The last question I asked was: Have you ever been hospitalized or has your cramps kept you indoors when you had somewhere going or you had something serious to do? 68 women answered yes to that and 38 women answered no

What has your experience with menstrual cramps been like? Is it similar or different from what was shared in this survey? Let us know!

Have you booked your slot for my upcoming Sexual Health Event (SILK AND TITS)? If not, read about it here! And don’t miss it on November 28, 2020

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MENTAL HEALTH ADVOCATE, WRITER, SEX AND RELATIONSHIP EXPERT

Ami Shikah is a sex educator and mental health advocate. She is passionate about sex education and is working towards making her website/blog a place where people come to for knowledge and information that will help them make healthy decisions about sex and sexuality. Mental health isn't treated with much importance in her part of the world (Ghana, Africa) and as someone who has had to deal with depression and suicidal thoughts, she hopes to share her experiences with the world and help other people like her. She has in-depth knowledge about sex, sexual health, sexuality, vaginal health, pregnancy and abortion and is working to share it all with the world. She has also made it possible for people to ask questions and get answers to them anytime.

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