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Q&A with Marla Ahlgrimm: Managing Pain During Menstruation

January 20, 2015

Marla Ahlgrimm According to women’s health expert and pharmacist Marla Ahlgrimm, painful periods are the leading cause of absences at school or work among women in their teens and 20s.

Q: Is pain during menstruation normal?

Marla Ahlgrimm: Yes, most women have some discomfort during their periods, and more than half have some pain for one or two days each month.

Q: When is menstrual pain considered abnormal?

Marla Ahlgrimm: Menstrual pain is considered abnormal if the pain is so severe that it keeps a woman from her normal activities. Severe menstrual pain is known as “dysmenorrhea” and can be treated in most cases.

Q: What are the symptoms of dysmenorrhea?

Marla Ahlgrimm: Symptoms include pain or cramps in the lower abdomen or back, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, dizziness, and headache.

Q: What causes the pain?

Marla Ahlgrimm: Some believe the pain is caused by excessive amounts of prostaglandin, a hormone-like substance typically involved in pain and inflammation processes. Fibroids, which can form on the inside, outside, or the walls of the uterus, can also cause pain.

Q: What can alleviate the pain?

Marla Ahlgrimm: Some women find that soaking in a hot bath does the trick, while others prefer applying a heating pad to the abdomen. Others try yoga or mediation. Still others opt for ibuprofen or aspirin. Sometimes sleep is the best medicine.

Q: When should a woman see her doctor?

Marla Ahlgrimm:  Some women’s menstrual cramps are debilitating. In this case, a woman needs to see a doctor in order to rule out other possible causes for the cramping.

Q: Does menstrual pain ease as women get older?

Marla Ahlgrimm: Yes, many women have less painful periods after childbirth, or as they get older.

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