Today I'm going to be talking about, "Are periods more painful in the peri-menopause?"
So, are periods more painful in the menopause? We do get a lot of queries about this. As your periods start to change, other things can happen as well. A lot of women start to get confused about whether things are okay, whether that's supposed to happen, or whether it's not okay, so I thought I would go through it this week.
Period changes during menopause
So, yes, the peri-menopause is when your periods start to change as you approach the menopause. At this point, your periods can become closer together, they can become longer, they can become heavier, or they can do the complete opposite; they can start to miss, they can get further apart or they can get lighter. You might even find you're only having one period every three months or so.
Both of these are kind of normal, if you like, but they can affect how you feel and also cause a lot of pelvic discomfort.
Is increased period pain normal?
So, what can happen, if your periods start to get closer together or last longer, is that you can end up getting low in iron. Low iron levels can cause quite a few health issues, so this is something that you really need to watch if you've had more than a couple of periods that go on for a little bit longer, or are a little bit heavier, than normal.
The problem is that when you start to miss periods, all that's happening is that your oestrogen is not getting high enough each month to trigger a period. But there is still a build-up in the lining of the uterus, and once that releases when you have a period, which can cause a lot of spasms and can give you a lot of cramping and pain as well.
The problem is, here, that other symptoms can be a factor as well. When your oestrogen levels start to fall, this could be when you start missing periods. Lower oestrogen levels can also increase your pain perception so you may feel more pain than what you would normally.
The other thing that can happen here is that, as your oestrogen starts to change, it can affect your absorption of magnesium. This is especially true if you're not getting enough magnesium in your diet already! Then low magnesium will contribute to stomach cramping and that will include the uterine cramping when you get a period.
What else could be causing the pain?
The other things that can cause a lot of pain in the pelvic area (the area around your belly and belly button area) are that you can have fibroids. Now, these may well have been diagnosed, but what can happen is that a lot of women can have tiny little fibroids in the womb that never cause any particular problem.
But, as the hormones start to change, these may be aggravated; they may start to increase in size and that in itself can cause a lot of pain and discomfort. You can get polyps as well. These are other types of growth inside the womb. There can be something called pelvic inflammatory disease.
And this is where just some of the organs within the pelvic areas, such as the womb, can start to get inflamed and that can cause practically constant discomfort as well. It could also be a prolapse. Now, a prolapse is where the organs in this particular area (so that's mainly your bladder, your womb, and your bowel) shift position.
So, you've got what's called the pelvic girdle muscles that basically hold everything up. And these tend to weaken with age and, if they start to sag, these organs in the pelvic area can shift position. And that can very often give a lot of pain and discomfort.
Some people find they get a kind of dragging feeling or that there's a constant pressure in that particular area, very often, especially if they sit down or if they do that little bit of exercise. The other thing that can happen, as I've mentioned before, is if you start to miss your periods, there's still this build-up in the womb and that can cause particular problems when you get a period.
Period pain without a period
The other thing that can happen is that you can get period pain without a period. You might find that you've missed your period for three, four, five, six months but every month, round about the time you would have had a period, you start to get cramping and you might get other PMS symptoms back such as breast tenderness, sugar craving or bloating.
All that's happening in this instance is that your oestrogen is just not high enough to trigger a bleed. And for some women, this kind of monthly phantom cycle, if you like, can go on for quite a while before everything starts to ease off.
So, there's a number of factors here that can all contribute to what we would call pelvic discomfort whilst you're going through the peri-menopause.
How to help relieve peri-menopause period pain
So, what can you do to help yourself? There are a number of things that can help.
A lot of women find that just lying with a hot water bottle on this area can help to ease the pain and discomfort. It's quite soothing.
Things to avoid
It's important to cut down on things like caffeine and also high-salt and sugar foods as well. We know that these can make symptoms like this worse.
Go for a walk
Exercise can often help. Now, I'm not talking about going mad. One of the best exercises for the pelvic area and for your digestion is walking because as you walk, this helps to massage the internal organs, your digestive tract, the womb, the bowel and the bladder.
And very often, because you're doing a little bit of exercise, that's also increasing the blood flow to this area, and that can make a difference as well. So, just a nice gentle 10 to 15-minute walk at some point during the day can often be of benefit to help this one.
Sleep on your side
Especially if these are happening at night, some women find that lying on their side in a fetal position seems to relax everything and seems to calm the muscles, so you're not getting as much cramping.
If you're getting the cramping with heavy periods, prolonged periods, periods that are close together, then as long as you're not on any other hormonal contraception or medication, you can look at the herb Agnus castus. This is known to be quite helpful at regulating periods and in the process may help to decrease the discomfort as well.
The only thing with this one is it takes about two to three months to start showing any benefits, so it's not a quick fix.
The other thing is magnesium. Low magnesium, as I mentioned before, can interfere with muscle function and give you the cramps. A quick fix of magnesium can often work wonders for this type of period pain and cramping, so it's worth adding into your diet if you get this on a regular basis.
Drink plenty of water
Water, as well, you know, remember the water because dehydration will make absolutely everything worse.
Get your bowels moving
And last, but not least, is constipation. In order to understand this symptom better, it’s worth looking at your whole pelvic area. Your digestive tract, womb, bladder and bowel all reside here and, if you’re constipated or getting a lot of bloating, this is going to put pressure on everything else, thus causing quite a lot of discomfort.
The problem we know in the peri-menopause is that as your oestrogen starts to fall, this can affect your digestion, and constipation, bloating and sluggishness become much more common. This is one situation; if you find that you're getting sluggish bowels or you're tending to get constipated, this needs to be sorted as well.
So, loads of water for this. You can take gentle laxative short-term, such as our Linoforce, just to get things moving again. And remember to make sure that you're getting plenty of fresh vegetables, and fruits, and a little bit of good healthy fibre in order to keep everything moving really well.
When to consult your doctor
One other really important thing here, pelvic pain, as I mentioned, could be caused by lots of different things. If the pain is going on, if you've tried these little tips and found that they haven't worked, if the pain is getting worse, if it's getting to the point where you have to rely on painkillers on a daily basis, then please seek medical advice.
Go to your doctor. Get this checked out just to make sure that there's nothing else going on or that there's nothing that the doctor can't help with.
So, hopefully, this has given you a few little tips. If any of you out there have experienced more period pain and you found something that really helps you, please let us know. We would love to hear your tips as well.