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Menstrual Problems: Symptoms and Treatment

Menstrual Cramps (Dysmenorrhea)

First Things First

The best exercise for easing cramps is swimming. The water is soothing and cooling, and swimming is the least strenuous of all exercises. In addition, the endorphins (natural pain-killing hormones) released by your body during exercise, should help you get “in the swim” in no time!

Yes, there really is a reason for menstrual cramping, and it has to do with hormones— specifically with the excess production of prostaglandins. These hormones, produced in the endometrium (the mucousy covering of the uterus), help the uterus contract, which is necessary for menstruation flow. Sometimes, however, these contractions hurt and cause cramps. Cramps can also be exacerbated if your body releases too much estrogen into the bloodstream. This increases fluid retention.

If you have dysmenorrhea, you are not alone. Approximately 50 percent of all women experience some degree of cramping during menstruation.

The best prevention for dysmenorrhea is the same for PMS: a salt-restricted diet, plenty of exercise, a good night's rest, and lots of water. A calcium-rich diet has also been found to help. Eat low-fat yogurt and drink skim milk or, if you “hate” dairy products, try a calcium-magnesium supplement. For minor cramps, an over-the-counter medication such as Midol can help. And if you can wear clothing that stretches around your waist and stomach, and can spend an hour resting with a heating pad for company, you might just find the cramps less severe.

If cramps interfere with your daily routine, see your physician. He or she can prescribe stronger medication to alleviate your pain.

Excessive Bleeding (Menorrhagia)

Every woman's definition of a heavy period is different. Some women always have a heavy flow during the first few days of menstruation and it's perfectly acceptable. Still others rarely have heavy bleeding.

Because it is so difficult to pinpoint when bleeding is too much, most physicians suggest this ground rule: if you need to change your tampon or sanitary napkin once or twice every hour, you have menorrhagia.

What causes excessive bleeding? Several things, ranging from the serious to those easily remedied:

  • Too much exercise or too strict a diet
  • Benign cysts in the uterus called fibroids
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Dysfunctional blood clotting
  • Perimenopause, or the very early stages of menopause
First Things First

Nutritionists have long believed in the power of Vitamin C for colds. Now they also agree it can help ease menorrhagia by tightening up the blood vessels in the uterus.

Although fibroids, infections, and clotting disorders need the attention of a physician, you can also help ease the flow by doing the following:

  • Cut back on exercise
  • Eat a more well-rounded diet
  • Ease up on your workload to keep stress at a minimum
  • Ask your doctor about iron supplements to keep energy up and prevent the possibility of anemia


More on: First Aid

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to First Aid Basics © 1996 by Stephen J. Rosenberg, M.D. and Karla Dougherty. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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