Most girls begin menstruation between the ages of 10 and 15 years, with the average being 12 years of age. From that point on, a female can expect a visit from an unsought guest on a monthly basis. During these 2 to 7 days, the body sheds the lining of the uterus.
This monthly experience is different for each individual and can change with age. The lucky ones experience a light period with little to no symptoms. Others can experience a heavier period with a combination of any of the following symptoms:
- Tender breasts
- Headache or backache
- Joint or muscle pain
- Mood swings or mood changes
- Slight weight gain
Any or all of these physical, psychological and emotional symptoms can occur within the days leading up to menstruation, as well as during the menstruation process. It is commonly referred to as premenstrual syndrome or PMS.
Although experiencing these symptoms is normal during the menstruation period, extreme pain and the severity of these symptoms can be the cause of a serious condition. If you’re experiencing unbearably painful periods each month, contact your doctor to be tested for the following condition:
Endometriosis is a gynecological condition in which the endometrium, the tissue which normally makes up the inside surface of your uterus, grows outside of the uterine cavity. It can grow on the fallopian tubes, ovaries, pelvic floor or bowel. Although it is unusual, there have been cases reported where the endometrial tissue spread beyond the pelvic region including the liver, lungs and even the brain.
The coverage of these organs with the foreign tissue causes irritation, scar formation and adhesions, the binding of organs by abnormal tissue. This causes severe pain during periods but may also cause infertility.
Fibroids are abnormal growths that can develop either in or on the uterus. About three in four women develop uterine fibroids in their lifetime. In many cases, they do not come along with any symptoms. In others, they can turn a monthly period into a monthly nightmare, causing severe abdominal pain and heavy period.
Different fibroids can develop in different areas of the uterus:
- Intramural – Appear within the lining of the uterus, the endometrium. These are the most common and are found in about 70% of women.
- Intracavitary – As the name implies, this fibroid is located inside the vaginal cavity
- Subserosal – Develop on the outside of the uterus, causing it to appear larger on one side.
- Pedunculated – A subserosal fibroid that grows a stem.
- Submucosal – Form in the inner lining of the uterus, the myometrium.
There has been no correlation between uterine fibroids and the risk of developing uterine cancer. The reason behind the pain during menstruation is that the uterus contracts more to get rid of the large blood clots that often develop due to the fibroids.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition of widespread pain in the muscles and joints. For women with fibromyalgia, that time of the month means even more pain and fatigue.
This is due to the increase sensitivity of the body during menstruation. The part of the nervous system that is responsible for regulating your period is sensitive to any changes that the body experiences, which includes the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) is an infection of the female reproductive organs. This includes the following organs: fallopian tubes, ovaries, cervix and uterus. Several of the bacteria responsible for PID also cause sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Your chances of developing PID increase if you have an STI, but you can also develop PID without ever having and STI.
With PID, you may experience extreme pain not only during your menstrual period but on a regular basis. This is a very dangerous condition and may even become life threatening if the infection enters the blood stream.