Most women experience some discomfort during their menstruation but for around one in ten women this pain is severe enough to prevent them doing their usual daily activities. There are two kinds of painful periods. The first, most common type is called primary dysmenorrhea and it normally occurs in young girls and teenagers who have just started their period and in women in their 20’s who have not yet had a baby.
Doctors aren’t sure why some girls get primary dysmenorrhea but it may be that their newly menstruating bodies are extra sensitive to the estrogen and prostaglandin hormones involved in menstruation. Over production of prostaglandin can cause the uterus to contract more strongly than it should when expelling its lining, causing pain similar to early labor pains.
This problem usually corrects itself as the girl gets older or is resolved after the woman has given birth to her first child.
The second type of painful period is called secondary dysmenorrhea and is more common in women aged 30 and over. It is usually related to a disease of the uterus, such as uterine fibroids, endometriosis or pelvic inflammatory disease.
However, if you are afflicted by painful periods, you needn’t suffer in silence. There are some things you can do to ease or stop your period pain.
1. Eating foods that are rich in niacin (vitamin B3) or taking a vitamin supplement regularly that contains niacin may stop your period pain. An old 1952 study found that niacin relieved the period pains of 87 percent of the women in the study. They had been given a 200 mg tablet per day. In a follow up study in 1954, they combined the niacin with 300 mg of vitamin C and 60 mg of the flavonoid rutin per day and achieved a 90 percent success rate at relieving period pain. Unfortunately no further research into niacin has been done since that time.
2. Making sure you get plenty of calcium in your diet is also important, as calcium helps maintain healthy muscle function and can improve the efficiency of your uterus in expelling menstrual products and thereby lessen the pain. You might also consider a supplement that contains calcium.