Rita’s schooling was interrupted periodically due to painful and heavy bleeding during her menstruation. The assistance rendered by her parents and the school authorities did not reduce the nightmare of the 16-year-old student.
“Whenever my period starts, I have a lot of pains, it is almost impossible for me to go to school. Rita said. “I just stay at home, my mum gives me pain reliever and I sleep.
“Sometimes I will not go to school for two days because of the pains and the heavy bleeding, which usually reduces after the second day.’’
Miss Tinu Adebayo, a 27-year old civil servant has been queried on few occasions for lateness due to painful menstruation and heavy bleeding.
“I explained my predicament to my boss but he refused to bear with me. She said. “I have been experiencing severe menstrual pains, accompanied with heavy bleeding and vomiting since my undergraduate days. Then it was easy to skip classes and just stay and rest in the hostel.
“Now, my boss is very difficult and has given me a couple of queries for not coming to work for a day or two. But this is a situation I cannot help for now.
“If I have to go to work, I can hardly get anything done, because I feel very weak and irritated even after I must have taken some pain relief”.
A gynaecologist Dr Maxwell Odiegwu, says menstrual pain has no cure, but can reduce when childbearing begins.
“It is more of control measure than finding a cure for dysmenorrhea, and there is a possibility that the pain may reduce, especially once childbearing starts, but it is not absolute,” he said.
Experts define dysmenorrhea as difficult menstrual flow or painful menstruation and may coexist with excessive blood loss, known as menorrhagia.
Dysmenorrhea is one of the most common gynaecological complaints among female adolescents and young adults with a prevalence of 93 per cent.
Odiegwu explains that dysmenorrhea falls into two categories: primary and secondary, with the latter being more severe and less common than the former.
He says primary dysmenorrhea is found more in younger women and describes it as a situation when a woman experiences painful periods which cannot be attributed to any pathological reason or identifiable cause.
Odiegwu says secondary dysmenorrhea and excessive bleeding are caused by certain conditions, such as uterine fibroids, pelvic inflammatory diseases and ovarian cysts.
Factors such as the gynaecological age of a woman or the age she started her menstruation could determine if she would suffer from primary dysmenorrhea.
“A 20-year-old girl that started menstruating at the age of 13 has a gynaecological age of seven years, while a 19-year-old girl that started menstruating at the age of 16 has a gynaecological age of three years,” he said. “So the longer the gynaecological age, the possibility of dysmenorrhea occurring.”
Odiegwu says primary dysmenorrhea can be remedied by the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and oral contraceptives, adding that lying on the tummy, and having a warm bath, can help reduce the pains.
He said it has been discovered that women who drink and smoke or those who are obese, are prone to dysmenorrhea.
“My advice is for them to modify their lifestyle, stop smoking, reduce alcohol intake to the barest minimum and try to lose weight. ’’
A naturopath, Dr Dapo Aderele, said food rich in fibre such as carrots, cucumber, cabbage and lettuce can help in managing excessive menstrual pains.
“Primarily, when you take food rich in fibre, it mops up the excess estrogens and it is passed out of the body naturally,” he said.
The naturopath also says that healthy dieting and consumption of much water can help to manage dysmenorrhea.
He saidt fish oils such as Omega 3, Evening Primrose oil extracted from medicinal plants, are managing agents.
Aderele said menstrual pains will reduce after childbirth but may not completely stop.
A general physician, Dr Ochuko Urhioke, says blood lost during menstrual flow is insignificant and can not lead to anaemia except if the bleeding is always excessive.
“The amount of blood a woman loses during her menstrual flow is really insignificant because that is how God has designed it to be,” he said. “It is only women who experience menorrhagia, that is, excessive bleeding during their menstrual flow, that are likely to become anaemic.
By Okeoghene Oghenekaro