PMS = our excuse to lay in bed all day, entertained by soppy romcoms, eating whatever it is we can reach, and barking at anyone who tries to get close to us. That’s the general perception, it seems, of what women go through on a monthly basis. Of course WE know that’s not exactly how it goes, but why have doctors not been more supportive of our monthly menstrual pains?
One man gets it. John Guillebaud, professor of reproductive health at University College London, has spoken out on period pain, equating some cases to a health issue that both men and women can grasp. He says that some women experience pain during their period that could feel ‘as bad as having a heart attack.’
At the rate that medicine and medical equipment are advancing, one would think that by now we’d have solved the problem of cramping abdominals. Many women still experience heavy pain when they’re on their period, and this often gets dismissed without proper examination. Excessive pain felt during a period could be one of two things – primary dysmenorrhea or endometriosis.
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Some women have gone through painful periods since they started menstruating and the reasons for the pain are unknown; this is called primary dysmenorrhea, while endometriosis has a medical explanation. What happens in the latter case is that tissue, similar to the uterus lining, starts growing in a variety of places – fallopian tubes, ovaries, bladder, intestines and even on the lungs and brain. The body then fights back by attempting to cover the tissue with scar tissue, leading to inflammation. A common symptom that this is taking place, is heavy menstrual cramps.
The fatal case of Kirstie Wilson is a prime example of how women’s health is not given the seriousness it should receive. The 21-year-old died from cervical cancer last year after doctors dismissed her pains as nothing more than period pains.
So why has nothing been done to ease the pain? According to Richard Legro, M.D. of Penn State College of Medicine, it’s because dysmenorrhea and endometriosis are not talked about enough. Negative stigma attached to that time of the month have led women to believe the natural process is not to be talked about at the dinner table, or at any other social gathering, for that matter. But Legro urges women who experience the severe pain to speak out about it, and for other women and men to listen to them. Only then, he believes, will an urgency be placed on medical researchers to fully understand why some women go through such excruciating pain while others barely feel any pain.
This article originally appeared on Marie Claire