While that time of the month looks a little different from person to person, it’s safe to assume that at one point or another we’ve all fallen victim to a few hormonal related breakouts, intense cravings for chocolate and a serious case of PMS. And, as if that wasn’t enough, we also have to contend with period pains and period poos – which, we can all agree, are *not* the vibe.
But, what actually causes period pains and their BFF, the dreaded period poo? Although the answer to those questions is pretty scientific, one TikTok doctor has broken down the science to give us all a much easier to understand explanation.
Speaking to his 4.6 million followers, Dr Karan Raj points out that it’s all to do with our hormones (surprise, surprise). “During menstruation, chemicals called prostaglandins are released, which stimulate the womb to contract and shed its inner lining,” Dr Raj reveals. “Prostaglandins are also responsible for triggering contractions during labour.”
He continued: “Higher level of prostaglandins equals more cramping, [and] when the wall of the womb contracts it also compresses blood vessels lining the womb. This temporarily cuts off the blood and oxygen supply to the uterine tissues and without oxygen these tissues enter a state known as ischemia.”
Ischemia, Dr Raj explains, “causes the release of chemicals which cause pain and the release of more prostaglandins, which makes the womb contract even more.” Seems like a pretty annoying cycle, if you ask us.
As for how this impacts our, err, need to go to the loo, the expert says: “These prostaglandins can cause collateral damage causing the muscles in the colon wall to contract too, resulting in diarrhoea… period poos.”
So, are period pains something we should be worried about? “Period cramps are part of the normal mechanism of menstruation and they can vary person to person and cycle to cycle,” reassures Dr Raj. But, he adds, “doctors can sometimes be dismissive of gynaecological health.”
He continues: “It’s assumed far too often that a person presenting with severe painful periods is just having a heavy period and is fobbed off with painkillers. Whereas, in actual fact, there may be an underlying cause, and something could be done to treat the problem.”
Endometriosis for example, points out Dr Raj, as well as fibroids and pelvic inflammatory disease are just some of the reasons why you may be experiencing more painful period pains than should be expected. “If period pain is preventing you from continuing normal activities, please seek medical advice. Just because period pain has been around for millions of years, doesn’t mean women have to suffer in silence,” he emphasises.
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