The reality of period pain

If you suffer from period pain (dysmenorrhea) then you need no introduction to it: dull belly ache, cramping pains in the abdomen and lower backache. It can be so painful that it induces nausea or even vomiting.

You’re not alone, which is probably cold comfort. Up to 9 out of 10 women experience it at some point in their menstruating lives as reported in The Independent. The article says that, of women who work, about half say that it has a negative impact on their ability to work.

In the recent past often it was thought to be all in women’s heads but thankfully it is now acknowledged as real – John Guillebaud, Professor of Family Planning and Reproductive Health at University College London, recognised it can be as painful as a heart attack.

Every period I used to suffer with pain. It felt like my insides were being sucked out by a vacuum cleaner for up to three days. I often felt dizzy and faint. Once I had to go on a work visit to a construction site and practically passed out on the London Underground. I felt too embarrassed to admit to my male colleague that I had my period so excused it as not having eaten much that day. That’s one of the reasons why I share what I’ve learnt since then. I want to make it easier for women to talk about, give them information that may help and enable those they know to support them.

What causes period pain?

So, what causes the pain? It’s the womb contracting to expel the womb lining and the cervix opening to allow blood and clots through. Normal substances in the body called prostaglandins cause these muscles to contract.

And why do some women experience pain, yet others do not? The theory, according to Patient, is that women who get pain have higher levels of prostaglandins or are more sensitive to them.

Could yoga help my period pain?

I got curious as to whether yoga might ease my period pain. So I did some research and was shocked to find little information available. That was 5 years ago, and I’m delighted that there is more guidance around now. Back then I created a yoga sequence specially for my period, based on my research and 15 years of practising yoga and began experimenting on myself.

When I practised it, I had no pain and when I didn’t, the pain returned. For the first time in 30 years of menstruating I was pain-free. I was amazed.

According to yogic philosophy, energy flows around inside the body. So gentle movement keeps the energy moving in the pelvic area, helping to avoid tension and pain.

The yoga you do during your period does need to be the right kind – gentle, slow and practiced with awareness. If you feel dizzy or light-headed then it’s best to avoid standing poses and do only lying, sitting or kneeling postures.

Gentle movement may alleviate the pain. If you are in a lot of pain, then it’s best to rest up. You can lie in the position in the photo above, semi-supine.

It’s advisable to get your period pain checked by your medical doctor. This will enable treatment to be given if there is an underlying condition and provide reassurance if there is not.

I hope this helps you with your period pain – do let me know how you get on.