Women are so often swept under the rug when it comes to period and vaginal health. Things like painful periods or painful sex is too often reported as normal for a woman to experience simply for the fact that it happens to a lot of us. But I am here to call BS on that, just because something is common, does not make it normal.
Painful periods (or dysmenorrhea)
Period pain is the most common issue women seek help for regarding their period. More than half of menstruating women experience some level of pain during their period. And quite often when they seek help for it they can be told it is normal, and will be offered either hormonal contraceptives or analgesics as a solution. Whilst these can be very effective at resolving the pain, they do not resolve the underlying issue. Your period is a reflection of your overall health, so painful periods can be considered like a message from your body saying “hey somethings wrong.”
So what can be underlying causes? Dysmenorrhea can be divided into 2 categories; primary and secondary.
Secondary being as a result of another condition, so like endometriosis, or enlarged ovarian cysts.
Primary has no underlying condition, it is the condition. So this typically occurs from first menses and can either resolve with age or worsen. But there are things to watch out for that can worsen period pain. High levels of stress, highly processed diets or diets low in fresh fruits and vegetables, sedentary lifestyle, nutritional deficiencies (calcium, magnesium, essential fatty acids), emotional grief, food allergies or intolerances and sleep deprivation.
So what to do? Check in with your body, think about the key pillars of health, where do you stack up, is there something in your life that’s not working for you?
Pain during sex (or dyspareunia)
You should never accept being told that pain during sex might be just “normal’ for you. There are many and varied reasons for sex to be painful, every consenting adult has the right to enjoy sex with their partner.
So there can be some obvious reasons for sex to be painful: STI’s, bacterial vaginosis, thrush, ovarian cysts, UTI and endometriosis.
And there can be things that we don’t think about or consider: low oestrogen levels (oestrogen is required for lubrication), stress which can impact upon endorphin release and lubrication, emotional trauma or pain in other areas of the body.
So what to do? Firstly talk to your partner, tell them about how it feels for you, consider investing in a good quality lubricant, and then seek more answers, don’t accept it as your fait.
Heavy menstrual flow (or menorrhagia)
How do we know if your flow is heavy? Generally speaking if you require super tampons or pads for more than 1 day, doing a quick calculation of your blood loss is a good idea.
Normal blood loss is up to 80ml, 1 regular pad/tampon holds 5ml, 1 super pad/tampon holds 10ml. So if you are using supers day 1 and 2, changing every 2 hours, and once over night, your loss would be roughly 160ml over the first 2 days.
If you do a quick lot of maths and you go ohhh I’m losing too much, well then read on sister.
There can be some overt reasons for heavy periods; fibroids, endometriosis or ovarian cysts (NOT PCOS).
There can also be subtle ones, things that are often missed; low iron levels, subclinical hypothyroidism, unstable endometrial tissue post birth, anovulation, oestrogen dominance (relative progesterone deficiency), poor diet and nutritional deficiencies.
Again periods are a sign of your health, check in on yourself, what else could be happening?
What’s going on with your period? Did this resonate? Send me a message, get your period and sexual health on track.