In my teen years, I remember thinking of cramps as a normal thing. I’ve had my fair share of experiences with them and I assumed that it’s something that happens to everyone. There was no way of distinguishing what felt normal and what didn’t. If someone mentioned cramps, it was just a passing thing.
ALSO READ: Why the contraceptive failure rate is high
Cramps happen because of uterine contractions during ones period. It’s sometimes combined with symptoms like nausea, back pain and fatigue because of the hormonal changes. These are all considered usual as far as menstruation is concerned.
But what constitutes abnormal pain? Teenagers are guilty of using health situations to skip school. Sometimes, this could be confusing and taken lightly.
But could there be a serious problem leading to their painful periods? Here is what you need to know.
Although everyone has a different pain tolerance, there is a distinction between what is normal and what isn’t.
The scientific name for cramps is dysmenorrhea. There are two types, primary and secondary dysmenorrhea.
Primary dysmenorrhea is not caused by any underlying medical condition. These types of cramps are common during the first years after menstruation starts and the pain usually reduces over time.
Many women experience some pain during their period but most of the time it’s not alarming. This type of cramps responds to home remedies like hot water bottles and over the counter pain killers. Sometimes the pain can disrupt your normal functioning but after a few hours or minutes of rest, you feel better.
The symptoms of secondary dysmenorrhea are quite different on the other hand. The pain seems to get worse with each period and it often resists the usual over the counter pain relief or home remedies that would have otherwise worked. That’s one of the main distinguishing symptoms between the two types of period pains.
Secondary cramps are caused by, but not limited to, uterine and extra-uterine conditions. These include endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, fibroids, cervical stenosis and endometrial polyps.
It’s not normal if your teen is experiencing severe pain, heavy bleeding or a flow that’s too light, irregular periods, or hirsutism which is hair growth on unusual places like the chest and other symptoms that show a possibility of a medical condition. The next step is to take them for a medical scan and tests to get a diagnosis.
Once you have established the root cause, here are some ways you can support them.
When it comes to such situations, the last thing teenagers want to do is talk about it. They might not even realize that what they are going through isn’t normal and it’s a bit embarrassing.
They might feel guilty of complaining and assume that that’s what periods should feel like. In cases where they’re dealing with a sexually transmitted infection like PID, I can assure you that they’ll want to keep it hidden which will have horrible health consequences.
They will never tell you what they’re feeling if you don’t encourage honest communication or ask them those ‘embarrassing’ questions.
ALSO READ: What is hysterectomy and why is it done?
This is how you will be able to see the difference between normal period pain and secondary period pain. Encourage them to note down if they have missed any periods or any other unusual symptoms they are having.
This is a crucial technique especially if your daughter attends a boarding school where you’re not able to monitor them properly.
It’s very scary for them to get a diagnosis of conditions like Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, Endometriosis or any other long-term condition that doesn’t have a cure.
They are meant to enjoy their teenage years so when news like this comes their way, it’s disheartening and can lead to depression.
Be their main support system and take them for counselling to ensure their mental health is in check. That is how they can learn to love themselves unconditionally and live their lives without basing their entire identity on a medical condition.