Menstrual Pain Is a Public Health Issue
February 17, 2016 8:20 PM   Subscribe

 
Patriarchy. There's no other answer to the question.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:52 PM on February 17, 2016 [76 favorites]


The pain has been debilitatingly bad for quite a few of the women in my life, so I have to think that on any given day a substantial percentage of women are having to tough it out with gritted teeth. Most workplaces that I have seen have no allowance whatsoever for any kind of routine issue like that, and I haven't seen any moves towards providing any support.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:53 PM on February 17, 2016 [11 favorites]


I need to schedule a GYN appointment for my 14 year old, because she comes from a long line of bad ladyparts. My grandmother died of cervical cancer. My mom started the pill when she was 13 due to debilitating cramps. I was 14, and have since been diagnosed with endometriosis and have a history of ovarian cysts, which hurt like a motherfucker when they burst. I keep a heating pad at work, but that doesn't help the hormone triggered migraines and the PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder, like PMS turned up to 11). In the next few months, my mom is getting BRCA tested, because her mother died of cervical cancer and her sister died of breast cancer. She's in her 60's, and can get her reproductive organs removed with no problem, but if she tests positive, that's actually good news for me, because, at 36, it's astonishing the hoops I have to jump through to get an elective hysterectomy. Take my uterus, take my ovaries, please. I don't need them anymore, and they are causing me way more harm than good.
posted by Ruki at 9:12 PM on February 17, 2016 [17 favorites]


Thanks to a previous grant, he and his fellow researchers found that sildenafil (also known as Viagra) can be used to treat dysmenorrhea. “We published our results in a high-impact OB-GYN journal and we feel we made a major contribution to treatment that everyday practitioners could use,” he says.

Oh man, I would be so excited to try this. If their theory is that increasing bloodflow to the area. I notice my cramps get way worse if I drink too much caffeine, which restricts bloodflow.
posted by bleep at 9:28 PM on February 17, 2016 [5 favorites]


Too many women live for too long with treatable reproductive system because to the majority of the medical community our pain is either imagined, exaggerated, or just openly ridiculed.

So if your period causes pain, don’t grimace and bear it: Tell your doctor, your friends, your colleagues. We need to talk about period pain long and loudly enough for doctors to finally do something about it.

oh for fuck's sake. WE ALREADY DO. NO ONE LISTENS OR CARES.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:31 PM on February 17, 2016 [169 favorites]


I've had extremely painful periods since it started when I was 15. I'm now in my early 30s. And my entire life, every doctor has told me that it's fine, just deal with it, take some Advil, etc. I tried birth control pills and they made me totally crazy and I had to get off them. And I've tried pretty much every pain reliever. The worst part is - other women in my life, friends and family members - they think I'm making it up. Oh there's no way she could have THAT much pain, she just must want attention. Yeah, thanks, I'm over here in the corner throwing up and having diarrhea and in agonizing pain because I want you to look at me. Thanks.

I've missed days of school and days of work due to the agonizing pain, cramping, vomit, migraines - you friggin name the symptom, I've had it with my menstrual cycle. I wish for once a doctor would take me seriously and figure out what else we can do.

I think until we start talking about this kind of stuff more as a society without being weird about the vagina - more research for this just won't gain traction. And it's sad and annoying that myself and other women like me just have to suffer. I'm not ashamed to talk about my vagina. No one else should be either!
posted by FireFountain at 9:32 PM on February 17, 2016 [36 favorites]


I was just sharing my fascinating factoid that the patron saint of menstrual cramps is St. Elmo because, even though he's a dude, he had his intestines ripped out with a red hot hook (and/or wound around a windlass) and is therefore considered sympathetic to the intensity of the pain.

That shit's serious, yo.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:36 PM on February 17, 2016 [113 favorites]


I was actually just thinking about this with relation to a new job i just got. I'm young, in relatively good health, don't get sick all that often. I've had multiple friends since middle school who had debilitating, hide under a blanket for a couple days pain from this.

When you start at this place, you get a bunch of days of paid vacation for the year. I forget how many, but it's a bit over 20. However, you start with like an hour of paid sick hours. And yes, they total it up by the hour. Run that out? you're automatically using your paid vacation. The sick hours accumulate slowly enough that you get maybe one work day of sick leave a month.

So, even assuming you're young, in good health, don't get sick often... but have a uterus and extremely painful cramps and need to take time off... you will have no paid vacation. You'll never accumulate the sick time as fast as you use it. 20 sick days a year is 1.6 days a month With the sick hours, that gives you maybe 2-2.5 days a month/year.

Better not need more than that or you're losing time you'd otherwise be getting paid, and good luck with ever taking a vacation. I thought about this within the first couple days thinking of my friends who were constantly in trouble or treated with suspicion in high school for... missing school because of pain.

Where do we show up with torches and pitchforks to change this? I was about to say it's not my fight, but honestly it's a fucking shame on all of us that shits even legal.


Oh, and while we're at it, and i know pieces have been written on this subject for sure... Isn't the phrase cramps minimizing and fucked up in and of itself? I thought about this on preview but holy shit. No one is going to call like, a migraine a "head cramp". Even ache is treated with more intensity and severity than "cramp".

How the fuck is it so hard to have some kind of sympathy and understanding for other people even if you don't experience it yourself? Reality is depressing as hell to me sometimes.
posted by emptythought at 9:45 PM on February 17, 2016 [21 favorites]


I think some women doctors can be a bit unsympathetic because either they don’t get it themselves or if they do get it they think, ‘Well I can live with it, so can my patient.’

Internalized misogyny, much?
posted by polychromie at 9:49 PM on February 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


Oh, and while we're at it, and i know pieces have been written on this subject for sure... Isn't the phrase cramps minimizing and fucked up in and of itself?

I have no idea what menstrual pain is like, but I've had muscle cramps that were among the most painful things I've ever experienced, so "cramp" sounds quite serious to me.
posted by straight at 9:50 PM on February 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


I have no idea what menstrual pain is like, but I've had muscle cramps that were among the most painful things I've ever experienced, so "cramp" sounds quite serious to me.

Now consider that that "cramp" may not last just for a few minutes while you stretch it out, but several days.
posted by Talia Devane at 9:53 PM on February 17, 2016 [16 favorites]


Also it pisses me off that if you ask for hydrocodone you're "drug seeking". Hydrocodone isn't for that. Etc.
posted by bleep at 9:55 PM on February 17, 2016 [5 favorites]


Now that I finished the article I am full of rage from remembering things. Like, how for years when I was a teenager doctors, multiple doctors!, told me that excessive cramps were awful but that no worries, they'd be less bad after I had children. Which not only turned out to be COMPLETELY UNTRUE for me, but seems like a really irresponsible thing to tell a teenager is her only possible cure for debilitating pain.

I have always had intermittent vomiting with my periods and I didn't know it was a possible menstrual side effect until I was in my 30s. Doctors acted like it was hysterical vomiting from being upset by my own body, or at best stress vomiting from the pain and anxiety. Now, after miserable bouts of hyperemesis gravardium in all of my pregnancies, I'm pretty clear it's that I'm very reactive to my own hormonal fluctuations and vomiting from THAT, not from being upset about menstruating.

In college a professor called me up after class one day, very angry with me, and demanded to know why I'd just scowled through his entire lecture and I was just SO DONE that I snapped, "Because my uterus is trying to crawl out through my vagina and it's painful, if that's all right with you." I think if he could have died on the spot he would have. He instead uneasily suggested maybe I take a day off if I felt so bad. "Three days off? Every month?" I demanded. (In those days I used to writhe in agony on my dorm room floor trying to overcome the cramps long enough to stand up and walk to the bathroom.) We never spoke of it again. (But he wasn't a jerk; I remember him quite fondly, he was a vast help when I fell very ill and had a grandparent die at the same time late in the semester and was frantic about finishing through finals; he was the only professor who came to see me in the hospital just to see how I was feeling. We just never spoke of scowling or uterine escape attempts again.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:58 PM on February 17, 2016 [83 favorites]


my personal hell in college was organic chem class which had exams every four weeks which coincided exactly with my period. no make up exams allowed because you could drop your lowest exam score or skip the final if you were happy with your regular exam scores.

at the time my period totally incapacitated me: tremendous pain, dry heaves, etc. no one told me that birth control pills could help until a couple years later.
posted by sciencegeek at 10:00 PM on February 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


emptythought: "Even ache is treated with more intensity and severity than "cramp". "

No one who has ever woke up screaming with a leg cramp minimizes "cramp".

emptythought: "you start with like an hour of paid sick hours."

I've been working camps where you work two or three weeks in camp and then a week or two out. We get six weeks vacation pay paid out on every check but no sick time. And because it costs hundreds of dollars a day to have someone in camp the expectation is you will work everyday of your camp time (IE:14-20 days straight). One of the women I was working with on the last job missed a day every in-out cycle (I don't actually know why so a bit of speculation) which was pretty unpopular with management. That sort of thing gets you laid off first when jobs slow down. It's unfortunate especially in profession in which women are so wildly underrepresented in the first place.
posted by Mitheral at 10:23 PM on February 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


hysterical vomiting... Because my uterus is trying to crawl out through my vagina

Diagnosis: wandering womb. Hippocrates-approved!
It delights also in fragrant smells, and advances towards them; and it has an aversion to fetid smells, and flees from them; and, on the whole, the womb is like an animal within an animal.
posted by BungaDunga at 10:32 PM on February 17, 2016 [8 favorites]


uuuugh, to be reminded again that I have female-identified bodyparts and my reproductive rights and health rights is built into this world as something to be ignored. JUST ANOTHER REMINDER.
posted by yueliang at 10:38 PM on February 17, 2016 [5 favorites]


I remember how tremendously grateful I was in college when I discovered that Advil, if taken promptly, utterly eliminated my cramps. No previous OTC pain reliever had done a thing, so my only option when they were bad was to take a hoarded Tylenol 3 and sleep for a day (codeine knocks me flat, though it was very effective against pain.)

There were some times in the following years when I was damn near panicky because I realized I had forgotten my Advil and I could feel cramps starting.
posted by tavella at 10:43 PM on February 17, 2016 [5 favorites]


Regarding sick leave, there has to be some more equitable way of doing it but I'm not sure what it is.

Most work places give 1-2 sick days per month and that's certainly not unusual. Some legacy workplaces pay out sick leave upon exiting the company, so there are people I know with the capped 120 sick leave days accrued and they'll be paid about 6 months salary upon leaving the company. I know quite a number of people take maybe 1-2 sick days a year, max: I certainly feel like that's about what I take myself. Contractors are a lot simpler, you get paid for hours worked, period, and it feels fairer as well. The top performers and people on the fast track up to exec level barely take any sick leave, it seems: they never seem to fall sick. Winning the genetic health lottery I guess.
posted by xdvesper at 10:49 PM on February 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


This is a topic that can make me go from zero to enraged in about 30 seconds. For years my concerns were not addressed by so many medical professionals, and as a result I've had serious problems with my fertility. Let's just say I'm completely unsurprised to find that menstrual cramp pain can be comparable to the pain of a heart attack and yet no one really seems to give a shit.

Since the age of 12, I've been so used to having horrendously painful periods and just having to cope with the pain that basically my pain scale is completely fucked up. Most things that to other people would be an 8 or 9 I tend to describe as maybe a 5. The irony is, I'm no stoic--I've just normalized a level of pain that really should be unacceptable.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:53 PM on February 17, 2016 [31 favorites]


How the fuck is it so hard to have some kind of sympathy and understanding for other people even if you don't experience it yourself?

I don't know, but it is fucking hard, apparently. Women who don't have painful periods aren't immune to this failure, either, they can be worse than men with the "suck it up" attitude. (I dunno, maybe they resent or feel threatened by the idea that some women might actually be body-bound, and not quite fit into the genderless (i.e. default male, able, pain-free) world of business, they don't want to hear yet another man say "she must be on her period". Which is fair enough, I guess.

It's always been painful for me (pass out / puke more times than I can count, ER-level painful twice). More often than not, I can now get by, as far as pain goes, with appropriately timed NSAIDs (2 days beforehand, every 4 hours), that takes it from 11-15/10 to 2/10. Doesn't help with malaise - that sense of wrongness, feeling shaken from inside - or (frankly) feeling just kind of out of it.

And it's true that some can control all this with science's answer of BCP, which is great for them, but not everyone's that lucky, given risk of stroke past a certain age (and for some other reasons), and risk of feeling absolutely bonkers and/or sad and/or libidinally challenged, otherwise. I'm glad I'm in a risk category now, so I never have to be invited to go through the "how crazy will I feel with this one" trial and error process again.
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:00 PM on February 17, 2016 [15 favorites]


Fffuu..the pain is no joke. started at 13 and have been grappling with period pain with various success since then. my docs just tended to offer oral contraceptives, which made me have cramps throughout my cycle & go a bit depro (which was fun) as well as give naproxen, which, incidentaly, is the one painkiller that really doesnt do anything for me.

Enter finding an amazing sports masseuse with a tcm background! i was 25 and had (still do, on occasion) cramps with Dante-level lumbar pain, which radiated down my legs. Sometimes felt numb all the way down to my knees. i felt so awkward and stupid standing in his office trying to explain that, but he was like ok, lets try and get that fixed..

Holy. i had the first pain free period of my life after that visit. long story short, he said that the inflammation caused by my period was putting pressure on my spine, which was causing the pain and weakness etc. he wasnt surprised at all. and that made me cry because all my life it has either been suck it up/it cant be that bad? sort of reaction from people. i've had conversations where people are saying its not a legit reason to not show up at work, while my best friend used to spend days throwing up during her period. one doc told me painful periods are not all bad, 'cause then when you give birth the pain isn't such a shock. i couldn't even come up with a reaponse to that one. yay? i guess?
posted by speakeasy at 11:26 PM on February 17, 2016 [28 favorites]


"My period doesn't change me at all." That has been verbatim told to me by three of my partners. Invariably I see that yes, being in constant, debilitating pain does change a person. I remember in high school my one friend told me that her cramps were so bad that she felt like vomiting every single time she shifted her weight. She walked to the bus, took the bus, and walked the remainder to school every single day of her cycle. Plus a million other things. I am aware that I'm being banal but this was eye opening to me.

"It's like being stabbed in the stomach every second for five days." A very commonplace saying that one of my girlfriends sent to me over a picture of a kitten. (Again, I am being banal, but this was eye-opening to me). And yet so many men believe that periods are this yicky thing that women use as excuses to berate and belittle women,that periods are excuses to yell at men for doing nothing more than existing. Because men are not taught or expected to know empathy.

The fact that women are punished for even trying to speak about it is unbelievable. Utterly fucking unbelievable. I see mockery and condemnation for the (white) feminists who made art using their menstruation blood but it's like, how many people (especially those in power) can't even say the word menstruation or even period in conversation without whispering it or treating it like a word that needs to be spoken with a six inch wide lead wall separating it from everything else.
posted by Neronomius at 11:31 PM on February 17, 2016 [22 favorites]


Most work places give 1-2 sick days per month and that's certainly not unusual. Some legacy workplaces pay out sick leave upon exiting the company, so there are people I know with the capped 120 sick leave days accrued and they'll be paid about 6 months salary upon leaving the company.

Your meters for "most work places" and "not unusual" might need to be recalibrated. The world you described hasn't existed in the U.S. in at least 30 years, in any substantial form.
posted by yesster at 11:44 PM on February 17, 2016 [30 favorites]


I don't often get debilitating physical pain, but I do get seriously depressed to the point of suicidal just about once a month (it used to be more accurately a week before my period, but now my period is all over the place so I don't know anymore). I've tried to get help for it, because that is no way to live a life, but everyone just kind of shrugs. One doctor even told me I'd be "wasting people's time" getting fully checked out. The one place that could have helped put me on a waitlist. Birth control made it worse.

I'm seeing a doctor within the next hour, hopefully he knows of anyone within a 10mile radius that is sympathetic, though I doubt it. It's hard enough getting mental health help in Malaysia as it is.
posted by divabat at 11:58 PM on February 17, 2016 [7 favorites]


My own ultimate period horror story is the time I had a 45-day period after a round of progesterone for a burst cyst. It would. Not. Stop. I seriously thought I would be bleeding for the rest of my life.

It's funny, despite feeling rather alienated from the experience of "womanhood" in general, I've always loved my period. It's one of the places I really connect with femininity, all of that sometimes-hokey art about moon tides and Mother Earth, and Kay Gardner and Marge Piercy. There's a small company in Seattle that makes chocolates with herbs for easing mild cramps and enhancing creativity, and I'm obsessed with the stuff. I can understand why conversations like this might be painful to some trans women; it's an experience with a lot of history, and some women find a lot of meaning in it, while for others it's only ever associated with pain (it's really only my luck in having moderate, non-ER cramps that allows me to romanticize the subject).

But the neglect of women's health care and pain is a less complex subject than menstruation itself, and one that makes me really angry. I read threads like this and wonder how many stories will be enough until someone in power cares.
posted by thetortoise at 12:03 AM on February 18, 2016 [8 favorites]


I think as long as the economy is in the toilet, and companies can skirt around whatever labour laws still exist (on paper) by shuffling contractors, or hopscotching around the globe for cheap labour, anyone with imperfect health is vulnerable... I think appeals to empathy (or sympathy, or ethics) are wasted. Painfree, able people are just cheaper than those who struggle with illness; men are cheaper than new mothers, and all women pay for that.

(It's just going to get worse and worse, too [don't read this week's news about oil]... Growing up, I never dreamed it could get as bad as it has. Am actually premenstrual, fwiw, but it's all still true.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:32 AM on February 18, 2016 [8 favorites]


My wife had to endure painful periods since puberty and she found out that (aside from Ibuprofen/Advil) No-Spa (Drotin/drotaverine) helps her immensely. It's an antispasmodic medication (it relaxes the smooth muscles) available over the counter in Poland and I'm at a loss why the only study in the US I can find was terminated because of lack of interest.
posted by hat_eater at 12:50 AM on February 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


I'm a guy, but after quite a few serious girlfriends I have no trouble at all taking everything here at face value.

So much stupidity. Half the human race has to deal with this. Pretending it's not an issue is just as stupid as advocating abstinence-based sex ed (or worse perhaps).
posted by iffthen at 12:59 AM on February 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


But the neglect of women's health care and pain is a less complex subject than menstruation itself, and one that makes me really angry. I read threads like this and wonder how many stories will be enough until someone in power cares.

When will someone in power care? I don't know. And it's awful not knowing who to vote for. Who cares about this issue enough to speak up about it? We'll talk about it by the furthest of proxies. We'll talk about gender inequality, and we'll talk about equal pay (haha, not really) but we won't talk about periods. There's an entire pary that won't talk about gun violence and global warming and another that doesn't want to talk about minimum wage and intersectionality. So, when we do we talk about this?
posted by Neronomius at 1:04 AM on February 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


So if your period causes pain, don’t grimace and bear it: Tell your doctor, your friends, your colleagues. We need to talk about period pain long and loudly enough for doctors to finally do something about it.

oh for fuck's sake. WE ALREADY DO. NO ONE LISTENS OR CARES.


No shit. I would literally pass out from the pain, and before passing out, be telling people, "hey, um, I'm in really bad pain, it's not normal, I think I'm gonna pass out?" and they'd be all "no you're not you're exaggerating" and then I would pass out and when I woke up THEY WERE ANGRY AT ME FOR FAKING IT.

I WASN'T FAKING IT, ASSHOLES.

Ahem. That was my family. Thankfully, I had a GP who was totally and excellently awesome and consistently told my parents "I'm pretty sure your daughter has endometriosis, we could put her on the Pill, I've seen it help a lot of young women" but my parents refused. Because taking the Pill as an unmarried woman makes you a whore, duh.

Nine years of being repeatedly stabbed in the guts with a poker iron (this was with 800mg of ibuprofen, which my doc always told me to take with food and never more than 3x800mg a day), and one day it felt I was stabbed, kicked with steel-toed boots, body-slammed, and someone was holding my intestines and twisting them around a knife. Thankfully I was in Finland. "I think I need to go to the hospital." I walked there; it was only two blocks away. I had a burst torsioned ovarian cyst and had I waited two or three hours longer? I wouldn't be posting here today because I would be dead from the internal bleeding. Endometriosis was confirmed.

Imagine how that would've turned out if it had happened when surrounded by people who thought I faked this shit.

Patriarchal ideas that trivialize women's own knowledge of themselves can actually kill.
posted by fraula at 1:05 AM on February 18, 2016 [77 favorites]


Yes, oh my god, yes. My periods have always been extremely regular and generally non-debilitating, but this all changed the second I entered my thirties. I went from taking a single 400mg dose of ibuprofen for just one day to taking an 800mg dose every 6 hours for three to four days. (I've tried every otc painkiller and ibuprofen still works the best.) The abdominal cramps and headaches I can just about tolerate, but the pain that radiates down my legs is unbearable. It defies my otc painkller routine sometimes, and when it does, it keeps me up all night and and causes me to throw up. I swear that each time I research dysmenorrhea online, all the literature tells me that giving birth will be such a huge shock to my reproductive system that it will reset and all the pains will go away. Come the fuck on.
posted by peripathetic at 1:27 AM on February 18, 2016 [6 favorites]


I'm so sorry, fraula. :\ That is terrifying.

I had the worst cramps of my life after having a surgery near my lady-parts. I was on the floor writhing with what felt like simultaneous uterine/intestinal cramps or friction or something, and I thought it would never end. I took the hydrocodone I'd had sent home with me for post-surgery pain and it was like night and day. Went from feeling worse than when I had my IUD inserted (like, the actual moments it was being inserted) to perfectly cromulent.

I used to need to take about one sick day a month, not from the period pain but from the total fucking exhaustion that would hit me the day before it came. I would sleep through alarms. Before I made the connection I would always wonder why it seemed like I lost all self-control in terms of appetite and sleep periodically and felt like a failure, then I finally realized it was PMS of some kind.
posted by stoneandstar at 1:28 AM on February 18, 2016 [7 favorites]


I've tried to get help for it, because that is no way to live a life, but everyone just kind of shrugs. One doctor even told me I'd be "wasting people's time" getting fully checked out. The one place that could have helped put me on a waitlist. Birth control made it worse.

Me too, divabat, me too--though usually it's been for allergies, back issues, infections, and other ailments. I've never attempted to get treatment for the issues I have around and during my period. I have an appointment next Monday because it recently occurred to me that just because I don't have the actual worst pain and other symptoms possible doesn't mean my pain isn't valid or worth treating. Excruciating pain and a week of brainfog and horrible depression are unacceptable. Birth control made it worse, and I don't think they'll do anything except tell me "that's nice" (though they did once try and treat my strep throat with narcotics, so maybe I'll get some good pain meds out of it?). It's worth a shot, I guess.

Advocating for your health is really hard when the chances of getting someone to even acknowledge that you're experiencing an actual health issue are slim, and the odds of getting any kind of treatment (effective or otherwise) are even less.
posted by polychromie at 1:31 AM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


I remember how tremendously grateful I was in college when I discovered that Advil, if taken promptly, utterly eliminated my cramps.

Oh GOD yes. I hit on this routine in my late twenties - first sign of blood and BAM, some food and 3x200mg of ibuprofen right the hell now, go go GO (and then repeat every 3-4 hours for a few days). It's like a fire alarm - drop everything and make this happen.

If I wait until the pain really kicks in, it's too late. For my system, it's ibuprofen prophylactically or GTFO. And yeah, it can feel like a horror movie if I'm out of pills or away from them and the cramps are starting to build. IT BEGINNNNNS
posted by cadge at 1:38 AM on February 18, 2016 [9 favorites]


I don't get it. What kind of monster goes through life assuming that a person who says she is in pain is probably exaggerating and should be ignored or scolded?
posted by straight at 1:40 AM on February 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


I have had debilitating periods almost from the time I started. I went to the ER at least twice in my teens because I couldn't stop throwing up from the pain. Once in college, a guy was kind enough to hold my hand in my dorm for about 2 hours while I went through a bout of cramps (btw, that's an effective way to scare off your crush forever and ever!) Now I pop up to 12 ibuprofen a day during the first three days (advil makes me throw up) and I'm frightened about the state of my liver and kidneys. It seems to be the tiniest bit milder if I avoid caffeine the week before but that could be just my mind playing tricks on me.

There is no way this would still be a thing if this happened to men. No way.
posted by like_neon at 1:45 AM on February 18, 2016 [15 favorites]


I'm extremely worried about my liver and kidneys too. I read about taking naproxen sodium three days before getting one's period, only to find that for this to work (and by "work", I mean I'm less likely to be kept awake and crying all night from leg pains), I have to take one Aleve a day for a whole week before, not three days. And eat fistfuls of ibuprofen after that. I don't want to do this for another fifteen years, nor do I want to be on birth control pills for that long either. Definitely not giving birth.
posted by peripathetic at 1:53 AM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


I used to get through life taking the max dose of ibuprofen or naproxen alternated with the max dose of panadeine (paracetamol & codeine). Until my unfixable anaemia led to a diagnosis of gastric erosions and a lifetime ban from all NSAIDs.

It was terrifying. How would I survive? It's like knowing that your body will explode on X date and you'll still be required to be walking around like a regular person. Luckily my GP and I have come up with a solution that's working great for now but is not without its own risks.
posted by kitten magic at 2:04 AM on February 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


And I'd always taken the precautions around ibuprofen et al seriously; not on an empty stomach etc. But I've seen pictures now of my guts wearing away. Now I worry about everyone else who is downing handfuls of the stuff because I sure would if I could again.
posted by kitten magic at 2:07 AM on February 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


Well, this is timely. I just woke up and realized I needed to grab three Advil, stat. Hopefully I can get back to sleep after they kick in.

I think I have internalized a lot of guilt and shame about my menstrual issues. I think I am a weak person for not being able to soldier through them. (And I mostly do soldier through them, but I still feel bad that they affect me so much.) I think I'm a bad feminist for confirming misogynistic things that men say about women. I think my body is gross, and I feel bad about that. It's bad enough to have these problems, but I also feel guilty for having them and for minding that I have them, which is stupid.

I would really like for there to be some sort of safe treatment. Things like exercise and cutting back on caffeine do help, but I take handfuls of Advil, and that's not good for you. Birth control worked, but I stopped that because of the stroke risk. I know that all drugs have side effects, but you'd think they could come up with something better.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 2:12 AM on February 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


i am reading my story over and over, here. one of the reasons i can never blindly buy into the science and medical "authorities" is because i have been repeatedly told, for the past 40 years, that i am either imagining or exaggerating my pain. the fact that, within my lifetime i have been instructed by a male doctor that there is no such thing as menstrual pain - that i was simply experiencing "hysteria" upon the sight of my own blood - is appalling. i've had several female gynecologist accuse me - to my face - of faking PMS symptoms to try to get drugs. the medical community has far more often been an enemy than an ally in these matters.

which is not to say i am anti-science, nor anti-medicine. but i have spent a life-time battling institutionalized ignorance and prejudice. i learned to manage the pain through trial-and-error, gleaning information and help from girl friends who shared what they had learned. old wives' tales. feminist literature. and - until ibuprofen came along - getting my hands on codeine from family and friends who were willing to share their prescription meds.

i am so thankful for ibuprofen. nothing else works like it - i even was given naproxyn in trial runs when i was young, and it was no better than aspirin (both of which helped with the headaches, but not the cramps, or nausea, or severe abdominal distress.) not to mention the intense fatigue, brain fog, and depression that accompany my cycle. it was mildly amusing when a very (good, helpful) nurse practitioner earnestly instructed me that if i took ibuprofen in small doses in days leading up to the start of my period, i would actually not have to take as much during my period because of the cumulative effect of the anti-inflammatory. i had already figured this out on my own, over a couple of decades of experimenting. but i nodded and thanked her for the advice. it did feel good to have my own experience validated.

i am very lucky in that i have been as regular as clockwork since the day i began. and so i have established a routine, which allows me to function almost normally in life, even during menstruation. i've found that vitamin B helps (though have been told by doctors for years it is useless, it is not - it helps!) as does oil of evening primrose. have to take the vitamin b every day, the oil of evening primrose can be taken at the onset of PMS along with one or two ibuprofen per day. st. john's wort helps with the depression. pepcid, for the nausea. licorice tea, for the digestion.

all birth control pills did for me was make me INSANE, insatiable hungry, and mean. and i bled like crazy. after 3 months of trying to get the right combo/adjustment, i gave up and went back to my old-wive's cures.

as i have gotten older, the migrains have started. once a month, a few days before the period, and at time utterly debilitating for and entire day. i haven't really been able to figure out how to get rid of them. funny thing is, i get more sympathy and support for them than i ever did for cramps! and those cramps, god, are they awful, they start even before the period, and show up in crazy places like the arched of my feet, and even in my ears. yeah - EAR CRAMPS hahaha.

gah, sorry, i just went off on all this. i have PMS right now and i guess i needed to share!
posted by lapolla at 2:20 AM on February 18, 2016 [19 favorites]


all birth control pills did for me was make me INSANE, insatiable hungry, and mean. and i bled like crazy. after 3 months of trying to get the right combo/adjustment, i gave up and went back to my old-wive's cures.

This is where I'm at too. All the birth control pills I've tried caused more crazy bleeding problems than I had in the first place, so I'm reconciled to living with occasional ovarian pain. I've only been to one ob/gyn who was a jerk-- others were fine-- but that was one too many and I'm scared because I have to find a new one so I just keep putting it off.
posted by thetortoise at 2:35 AM on February 18, 2016


Ugggh. This post came on an appropriate day.

I don't get them as bad as some people I know, but I have taken days off work from cramps - and it's not just the cramps, mind you... It's the most wonderful time of the month.
posted by Gordafarin at 2:50 AM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


I wonder why they chose heart attack as something to compare menstrual pain to? They can certainly be painful, but not always; sometimes they happen without the person even knowing, especially in diabetics. And they can have symptoms other than pain, as well. But they are taken less seriously and even misdiagnosed when they happen to women, so they have that in common with menstrual pain.

I also sometimes wonder who the hell these doctors are that I read about. I'm not a gynecologist, but I recall from med school that dysmenorrhea was not something to be taken lightly, that it is debilitating for some women. This was 30 years ago, so it's not like this is news to the medical community. We were taught that uterine contractions can generate up to 400 mmHg of pressure which is more than enough to interrupt blood flow and cause ischemic pain. (I might be misremembering some details and medical knowledge may have advanced since the 1980s, but the point I was taught not to dismiss it stands.) I'm not surprised, though, that it is hard to get funding for research into dysmenorrhea.

Sildenafil sounds interesting as a potential treatment. But I recently learned that at least one pharmacy in my town charges $50 per pill for it. If that is typical then I can see insurers balking at paying for it and a lot of women not being able to afford it. Perhaps other phosphodiesterase 5 inhibitors (i.e. other ED drugs) would also work.
posted by TedW at 3:27 AM on February 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


(I dunno, maybe they resent or feel threatened by the idea that some women might actually be body-bound, and not quite fit into the genderless (i.e. default male, able, pain-free)

In my experience, it's usually the opposite. Periods aren't a disease, they're a normal part of being a woman! By daring to talk about pain, you're hating your body and "medicalizing" something natural and wonderful!
posted by Ralston McTodd at 3:28 AM on February 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


you know, it's a fiendishly clever way to be assholes to women, this culture of:
1) Women are encourage to shut up about their periods because
2) it's gross and
3) so what are you saying that your period is causing you problems AHA FEMALE WEAKNESS so then
4) The medical field is like that shruggy guy emoji
5) period related problems are untreated

And calling a migraine a head-cramp ha ha no. Not unless it's one of those cramps that makes rays of light nails into your brain, sounds like bricks dropped into your brain, and you end up vomiting and hoping that the pain knock you out

you know, one of those cramps
posted by angrycat at 3:37 AM on February 18, 2016 [7 favorites]


If you trivialise or dismiss recurring female pain, you can get back massive amounts of female labour! Without having to make accommodations, employers, co-workers, family members and everyone else in our lives get to continue uninterrupted while the women smile grimly through their cramps, tucking tampons in their sleeves as they quickly rush to the bathroom in-between meetings or use up vacation leave because they can't stand upright with the PMS side effects
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 3:38 AM on February 18, 2016 [17 favorites]


Oh yeah, and if you want to get rid of cramps naturally, just have a baby! (After years of hearing this insulting advice, I was almost a little annoyed when it actually worked for me.)
posted by Ralston McTodd at 3:39 AM on February 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


TedW: "Sildenafil sounds interesting as a potential treatment. But I recently learned that at least one pharmacy in my town charges $50 per pill for it."

The low dose version of Sildenafil is off patent in the US (and Europe and Canada) and should be dirt cheap depending on what dosage is required.
posted by Mitheral at 3:44 AM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


I don't get it. What kind of monster goes through life assuming that a person who says she is in pain is probably exaggerating and should be ignored or scolded?

Someone who has always heard that women are over sensitive and thus are probably catastrophizing everything.

Or, someone who doesn't really get that women ARE people to begin with.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:45 AM on February 18, 2016 [10 favorites]


Reading this reminded me of my extremely catholic former housemate who refused to take any treatment for her crippling endometriosis other than painkillers, because birth control, taken for any reason, was morally wrong. It hurt so much just to watch her suffer for seven full days of agony. She was entirely relying on eventually having a baby to cure it, even though endo can make you infertile in the long run (and as far as I know she still hasn't had a baby so she's had another 6 years of it).
My periods have never been a walk in the park because of lifelong anaemia problems, but I have been without them for the last five years thanks to the contraceptive implant, and you could not pay me to go back to having them.
posted by litereally at 4:29 AM on February 18, 2016


This reminds me somewhat of what I was told by a doctor colleague when I was 6 months pregnant and (still) suffering from debilitating morning sickness (not hyperemesis gravidarium, thankfully, but vomiting multiple times a day and permanent nausea, continued until 40 weeks). I asked what caused morning sickness and whether anyone was working on treatment. He said 'Nobody knows, there's no research on it because you're essentially healthy".

Yes, healthy, but in pain and discomfort, and unable to live the existence that was the norm for me.

I'm not a fan of the Royal Family or the Duchess of Cambridge, but one thing I am grateful for is that her experience meant that people were, to some extent, forced to understand that morning sickness can't always be solved with salted crackers and ginger tea.

And just as PSA, if you suffer from premenstrual migraine/headaches and are in the UK, a swift dose of solpadeine (the dilution which is easier on the headache-induced nauseous stomach) changes my life and means I can continue to function on those days.
posted by melisande at 4:33 AM on February 18, 2016 [7 favorites]


Over the years there are organizations that promote awarenesss of many diseases and disorders: HIV/AIDS, breast cancer, and so on. Let's add menstrual pain to this list; let's make an organization for fighting menstrual pain and have a menstrual pain 10k run, have people at booths at large events handing out pamphlets, giving talks at schools to promote awareness and lobbying congress and NIH for funds for research.
posted by sciencegeek at 4:37 AM on February 18, 2016 [8 favorites]


There's some list in the world of health problems that (a) primarily affect women and (b) are barely understood or researched because lol women amirite. I can't find this list right now, but this article comes close:
Experts say more women than we know walk out of doctors' offices feeling that their symptoms haven't been taken seriously. They are told that their complaints are all in their heads or that everything will be fine if they would just stop worrying.
posted by XtinaS at 4:39 AM on February 18, 2016 [11 favorites]


I feel blessed - while I used to have bad cramps, they only lasted a few hours, and they went away almost completely when I was on hormonal birth control. I had always had really long, heavy periods, but not that much pain.

But even better than birth control pills was the IUD with hormones (IUS in the UK, Mirena in the US and Canada). It not only eliminated my cramps entirely, but it reduced the amount of bleeding from seven days of heavy flow to 3-5 days of light flow. I would recommend an IUD with hormones to anyone with heavy periods, birth control being just a side bonus.

God, I loved my IUD. I would have married it (and my husband would have, too - polyamorous triad with that blessed little device).
posted by jb at 5:13 AM on February 18, 2016 [6 favorites]


Periods are being compared to heart attacks because men get those and therefore they are real.
posted by emjaybee at 5:19 AM on February 18, 2016 [39 favorites]


I'll keep it short by saying I get pain that makes me pass out vomitus as well. I finally got "old enough" to get my uterus removed but haven't (thanks effed up employer dependent healthcare system).

Buuuuuut I got put on Metformin and my downtime has been massively massively reduced. Now I limp a little and OTC meds help. Which is good because a saw an article yesterday that CDC or FDA are trying to convince the chronic pain community that their pain isn't so bad and OTC meds should be enough, forget opiates. Grrrrrr.
posted by tilde at 5:28 AM on February 18, 2016


The comparision to heart attacks is, for me, very interesting-- Is it any coincidence that many women don't recognize the symptoms when they are having a heart attack, when they've been told their whole lives that that level of pain is 'not so bad'?
posted by matcha action at 5:30 AM on February 18, 2016 [32 favorites]


i threw my horrible uterus in the garbage and my only regret is that the doctor didn't allow me to take it in a baggie from the OR to one of those Vegas big guns shooting ranges so i could blow it the fuck away with a .50cal
posted by poffin boffin at 5:31 AM on February 18, 2016 [28 favorites]


ThinkPiece Bot is very apt
posted by divabat at 5:40 AM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


I had debilitating, lie on your bed in a fetal position crying, pain in my late teens and early twenties. I remember being told that I was weak because periods were normal and natural so therefore you just have to deal and work through it.

At some point in my 20s the debilitating pain lessened in frequency and eventually having any sort of pain became a rarity. Thank goodness that but I sure do live with the internalized history of that pain. I still occasionally get cramps, mostly just little twingy things in comparison, but whenever this happens it takes me right back to super pain time and have to try not to freak out about whether this will be the time that the pain comes back. Also all of the BS and guilt about being weak and not dealing blah blah that I think I've grown and worked through reminds me that it's still hanging around on the sidelines.

I wish there was a way for people men in particular but women too to understand just how painful it can be and also how experiencing that type pain month after month due to some that's supposed 'perfectly natural and normal' can mess with your head. I've had several super painful injuries, a one with some longer term chronic pain and while I would put the pain intensity up at the same level when it's an injury or disease the response is different both internally and externally. No one gave me grief for having a bad time with debilitating back pain after a car accident. Even in my own head it was different.
posted by Jalliah at 5:43 AM on February 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


When I was 14 I started getting cramps so badly I had to go to the emergency room. Strangely, my 65-year-old grandfather (who raised me) took me seriously from the start and I was taken to the doctor to be prescribed birth control pills.

The doctor said this wasn't an excuse to start having sex, before he gave them to me.

The pills cut down the pain of cramps from being unbearable to just icky. Luckily I've only had repeats of that sort of menstrual pain 3-4 times in my life. I got a mirena IUD a few years ago and it's been amazing - no more periods. No more cramps.
posted by Windigo at 5:46 AM on February 18, 2016


Patriarchy. There's no other answer to the question.

There's another factor (which is related to the patriarchy.)

You're playing sports, you get hurt. You're told "rub some dirt on it and get back in the game." Society basically tells boys from a young age that letting pain stop you is weak.

And, when they become older, they hear anyone saying "I really hurt" and they're thinking inside "rub a little dirt on it and shut up" because society has drilled it into them that only the weak let pain stop them.

Usually, the way to cure an individual male of this is a kidney stone.
posted by eriko at 5:49 AM on February 18, 2016 [11 favorites]


I don't get it. What kind of monster goes through life assuming that a person woman who says she is in pain is probably exaggerating and should be ignored or scolded?

Fixed that for you.

Mine are bad, but not debilitatingly bad, and the nausea ended in my early 20s (without having had children) -- overall most of the worst symptoms ended then, and Advil pretty much clears everything else up. I have a long cycle and only get bad pain every other month, so I just don't follow the maximum dose regs.
posted by jeather at 5:53 AM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Always had terrible periods. 1-2 days off work EACH MONTH for debilitating cramps, throwing up maybe 3 times per year from it, with a 50/50 chance of passing out on day one. Went through 3-4 pads a day (cramps hurt too bad to use tampons and they were basically done right after I put them in), etc. etc. Once when I was doing field work in the middle of nowhere in China it was so bad that I had them put boiling water in a Nalgene bottle. I have a scar from where it bubbled my skin because it was so hot. It was the only thing that even remotely dulled the pain. I didn't notice I was burned until the 3rd day.

Of course, pretty much all the men at work, in the field, etc. were always mystified about why I would disappear once a month, why I was 'getting sick' reliably every month, why I retreated to my tent for a full day with a request for boiling water. Fucking pay attention basically.

Anyway, I told my doctors about this plenty of times, and was basically told it was 'normal' for some women and to just take ibuprofen and tough it out. So I'd been on birth control through undergrad until I ended up on medication and stomach issues that made it pointless, although it'd never taken that much off the edge anyway (I spent one day in undergrad crying in a thankfully unlocked custodian's closet after passing out because it was the only private place I could make it to before collapsing), but then I couldn't afford any other birth control options until the Affordable Care Act. I got an IUD last October. It's not all gone and peachy but I don't HAVE to have a heating pad every month anymore. That's a MASSIVE step. I can function now.

Anyway I guess what I'm saying is, thanks Obama.
posted by suddenly, and without warning, at 6:16 AM on February 18, 2016 [9 favorites]


for what it's worth the doctor who helped me get set up with the IUD was amazing and when I told her what my periods were like to find the right fit and whatnot she looked absolutely horrified. best doctor I've ever had.
posted by suddenly, and without warning, at 6:18 AM on February 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


I was diagnosed with dysmenorrhea and put on birth control finally in my 20s. Every time I have to get my prescription refilled, I have to explain to each doctor once again why I need birth control even though I am not sexually active and why want to keep taking it (because I like being able to function in society and keep food down for that one extra week a month in addition to being relatively free from cystic acne). But things like this make me wonder if there's more going on. The article's description of hip and back pain really resonated (ow) with me. I have also been treated as drug-seeking and exaggerating by doctors. What do I say? Do I have to bring articles like this with me to my next appointment?
posted by koucha at 6:22 AM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


I am certainly not ever going to defend shitty, patriarchal doctors, but I also think that I didn't get help for my menstrual problems because I didn't ask for help. For a really long time, I had no idea that what I was going through wasn't normal. Everyone got cramps, and I didn't realize that not everyone got debilitating, awful cramps. I also really didn't want to get too specific when I discussed my problems, because that meant talking about poop and vomit, and poop and vomit are gross. I developed an eating disorder pretty soon after I got my period, and at that point I was really hesitant to bring up vomiting with my doctors, because I was pretty sure they would assume I was intentionally vomiting, not that puking was part of my menstrual issues. Also, my eating disorder made me really good at ignoring and distrusting my experience of my body, so it was easy to tell myself it was my fault or all in my head or that I should prove my value as a human being by pushing through or whatever.

I was seriously in my 30s before I ever asked a doctor is my menstrual symptoms were normal. As soon as I laid it all out, she told me that this was not normal and that I should be treated for it. Maybe that would have happened when I was 12 if I had known to ask for it, or if doctors had had a better way to screen for it.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:00 AM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


I was taught that Eve condemned man out of the garden of eden and that women were cursed to is menstrate as punishment.

My period pain is fairly intense and after passing out during a gynecological exam and navigating the medical system I've settled on 3 months on birth control between periods. It had given me more energy to actually deal with them (4 x a year)and also has decreased the pain. It works for me.
posted by AlexiaSky at 7:00 AM on February 18, 2016


I had debilitating periods until I got a Mirena a few years ago. I mean, to the point where if I was cooking dinner and had a cramp, I would have to call my spouse to come finish cooking for me so I could lie down. It was truly terrible. Thankfully, my insurance picked up the Mirena, and now I don't have any periods at all, but I got very lucky that I found a solution. Holy cow.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:12 AM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


I just had this huge light bulb moment - my wife and I were at physiotherapy recently (we sit side by side in beds because we're that couple) and I wondered why it was so much easier for me to place my pain on a 10-point scale every time I am at physio than her.

I am not having something resembling a heart attack each month, which I can only imagine makes it really challenging to contextualize other pain you may be feeling. I am relatively pain-free otherwise, so my mind can zero in specifically on the affected area and rate it a 5.

For my wife - how can she zero in on a 5's worth of pain in her upper back if she's also dealing with a 9 or 10 at the same time? It's akin to trying to place how a bruise feels around a broken bone - at least one week a month, it's not even the most pressing and painful thing she's feeling, so trying to baseline is next to impossible.
posted by scrittore at 7:15 AM on February 18, 2016 [14 favorites]


"But things like this make me wonder if there's more going on. The article's description of hip and back pain really resonated (ow) with me."

I think it's worth asking the doctor about ... when I was pregnant I had sciatic nerve pain issues and things-swelling-in-my-back issues (which everyone accepts are real and temporary things that come and go with the baby, whereas other temporary, non-injury-induced back pain is treated as if you're a weirdo) that caused a lot of back and hip pain, and they were able to give me several physiotherapy stretches and exercises to help with the pain and improve mobility which -- surprise surprise! -- also work on period-induced back pain type things. Which I'd always before been told "take some Advil, it's fine" about.

In fact googling "sciatic pain pregnancy" will probably pull up a few.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:21 AM on February 18, 2016 [2 favorites]




(I dunno, maybe they resent or feel threatened by the idea that some women might actually be body-bound, and not quite fit into the genderless (i.e. default male, able, pain-free)


In my experience, it's usually the opposite. Periods aren't a disease, they're a normal part of being a woman! By daring to talk about pain, you're hating your body and "medicalizing" something natural and wonderful!


I honestly thought I was enlightened for not believing in PMS etc. I thought it was merely the modern expression of the dismissive attitude that created the diagnosis of hysteria. e.g. "Chicks be crazy, amirite?!"
My wife disabused me of this error and more broadly of the conception of women as dudes with some optional equipment. (I suppose my racial perspective should have opened my eyes to the danger of colorblindness as a substitute for equity, but it hadn't.)
posted by Octaviuz at 7:29 AM on February 18, 2016


when I told her what my periods were like to find the right fit and whatnot she looked absolutely horrified

I think for a good number of women, the horribility ramps up slowly over the years, and you're like "idk, i guess they're pretty bad?" but you can't really remember what it was like before they got so horrible, maybe this is a normal part of being in your 30s/40s, who even knows? And your usual doctor who has been your doctor for so long doesn't really see the big picture either, so when you get a new doctor or a second opinion they're looking at it with brand new eyes and they're like W T F LADY HOW ARE YOU ALIVE. So I always recommend 01) taking your own pain seriously and 02) going to as many doctors as your health insurance will allow until you find someone who will take your concerns seriously.

But yeah in general they just don't give a single fuck and treat you like a moronic toddler who is deliberately wasting their time. The incredible relief I felt recently at having an obvious legitimate diagnosable source for my unbearable neck pain, the incredible relief at having a doctor, numerous doctors, look at my MRIs and xrays and say right away "you must be in considerable pain! how can we help you with this, how aggressively do you want to treat this?" my god, it was astounding. And frankly also a little terrifying because if male doctors are looking at my neck and listening carefully and not condescendingly to my medical concerns, me, a lady human person, and they're still openly saying "yes this looks bad and painful and serious," well then I must be somewhere pretty fucking close to death.
posted by poffin boffin at 7:36 AM on February 18, 2016 [22 favorites]


The decades of agony I experienced monthly were never remotely addressed by the docs I went to. PMS and dysmenorrhea were seen as totally trivial.

Turns out period pain is very typical of thyroid disease and that's what I had. In fact, thyroid cancer. Went untreated for decades.
posted by nickyskye at 7:37 AM on February 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


Genesis: "To the woman he said, 'I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”

But guess what!

Revelation: "And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away."

So basically, lump it, until the end of time. Gimme dap, Sky-Man!

[I'd never really noticed how, uh, fucked up the last sentence is in that Genesis passage: "yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” Like, you'll love your husband, but he's going to be a son-of-a-bitch.]
posted by Zerowensboring at 7:46 AM on February 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


I honestly thought I was enlightened for not believing in PMS etc. I thought it was merely the modern expression of the dismissive attitude that created the diagnosis of hysteria. e.g. "Chicks be crazy, amirite?!"
My wife disabused me of this error and more broadly of the conception of women as dudes with some optional equipment
.

Yeah, I mean one would like to avoid damaging essentialist ideas etc., but some of the related biology kind of works against that.

I myself abhor and resent menstruation, experience it as a horrible ambush every month (decades into it), would join poffin boffin's gun club.
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:48 AM on February 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


How the fuck is it so hard to have some kind of sympathy and understanding for other people even if you don't experience it yourself?

As a guy, my answer is: not very hard at all.

OK, until I was older (around when I got married, like early 20s), I wasn't aware just how bad this pain was for some women. I'm not an insensitive clod, but no one I knew -- mom, sister, aunts, girlfriends, friends-who-are-girls-but-not-girlfriends -- ever talked about it.

Now that I know, though, it seems like accommodating this should be…just part of life, you know? Like, "It's a thing, so schedule around it at work, and make allowances for it at school, and see it as part of the general Don't Be A Jerk Life Policy."
posted by wenestvedt at 7:49 AM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


it seems like accommodating this should be…just part of life, you know? Like, "It's a thing, so schedule around it at work, and make allowances for it at school, and see it as part of the general Don't Be A Jerk Life Policy."

Yeah, but not all women get this (or can't find a satisfactory way of managing it). (I can't even accept that it's part of my life. I don't want it to be. That probably doesn't help matters, though.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:56 AM on February 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


My mother did not have horrible cramps and basically told my sister and I that any PMS symptoms, whether physical or emotional were all in our minds, and to "knock it off".
posted by Sophie1 at 7:57 AM on February 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


Regarding sick leave, there has to be some more equitable way of doing it but I'm not sure what it is.

Is this another call for equal time off for men who don't menstruate or have parenting responsibilities? Because it's not fair?

JUST IN CASE that's what you're getting at, I will remind you that a) taking time off work because you're bleeding and can't sit upright or drive a car is not funtimes vacation, b) taking time off work to grow and maintain a human infant is not funtimes vacation, and c) this stuff is literally the work of keeping our species going on Earth.

If you don't find yourself missing work for these types of reasons, congrats! That's your equitable way.
posted by witchen at 7:58 AM on February 18, 2016 [23 favorites]


What is the success rate of getting opiates for period pain?
posted by josher71 at 8:04 AM on February 18, 2016


c) this stuff is literally the work of keeping our species going on Earth.

I'm still vaguely hoping for the idea of baby farms to take off so we can get rid of that connection altogether, economy be damned. About as productive as hating my cycle, I realize.

posted by cotton dress sock at 8:08 AM on February 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


Not all women get pain like that either, though. I have no problem with a policy that amounts to trusting people when they say they're too ill to work, regardless of gender.
posted by peppermind at 8:11 AM on February 18, 2016 [8 favorites]


A serious question to the people who need to take questionable amounts of NSAIDS in order to function: do diuretics help? I always dismissed Midol as a marketing gimmick in my mind (overcharging for a female version of the same thing), but now I'm wondering if it actually does help some women. Of the SOs I've had who have had extreme pain, none used it, but that's me working from a non-representative sample.

I was reminded of this video of a bunch of men being subjected to the painful contractions due to labor by the placement of electrodes. I don't know how many people it convinced, but it gave me, as a guy, a better understanding of what women have to look forward to when giving birth.

Could something similar be done with the pain from periods? Because to too many people (mostly men, but some women also), things are not real unless they happen to men. So set the electrodes and crank up the voltage.

And seconding cotton dress sock, we need artificial uteruses yesterday. Actually, several decades ago.
posted by Hactar at 8:13 AM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


This topic enrages me. Like all of you, I've had my physical pain diminished by doctors, including female doctors. As I get older my periods get worse, and the response has almost always been along the lines of "haha those wacky hormones, amiright?!" I've had bleeding so heavy that I thought I'd lost control of my bladder and peed myself. But no, that's just my uterus playing fun games. My mother and grandmother both had hysterectomies due to never ending menstruation, as soon as their doctors were sure they were done having children, of course. (They were both given a vague "hormones" explanation as to why they needed to have an organ removed from their body.)

I don't want floating days off for dysmenorrhea. I want the medical community to get its shit together and start researching and treating women's health. So many of us should not have to deal with this. It is absolutely unacceptable.
posted by Stonkle at 8:14 AM on February 18, 2016 [9 favorites]


I found it incredibly sad that a knee injury had my doctors scrambling to give me heavy duty painkillers, whilst I've never been given anything for my period pains despite my period pains being a) vastly more debilitating and b) far more frequent.

I never used my heavy-duty painkillers for my knee (OTC painkillers for that) but instead I'm carefully using them to take off the worst edge of the really bad months when I'd otherwise throw up from pain.

I'm 40 years old now and I've been trying to get actual help from doctors since I was 12.
posted by kariebookish at 8:22 AM on February 18, 2016 [14 favorites]


I was reminded of this video of a bunch of men being subjected to the painful contractions due to labor by the placement of electrodes. I don't know how many people it convinced, but it gave me, as a guy, a better understanding of what women have to look forward to when giving birth. Could something similar be done with the pain from periods?

Not just something similar - you can do exactly the same thing, because the muscles that cramp from periods are the same fucking muscles that come into play in childbirth. Because it's the same fucking process - the only difference is that the uterus is only trying to squeeze out blood and uterine lining as opposed to an entire separate human. But it's still your uterus trying to squeeze something out of you.

I usually have it easy crampwise, but once I had these massive Cramps From Hell while on a family vacation when I was 17. I am very grateful that my family took it seriously (not "let's call an ambulance" seriously, but "let's get EC back to the hotel room and give her an Advil rather than telling her she was overreacting" seriously). And I also I also am aware that people have different pain threshholds (mine may be a little higher than it should be, I think sometimes) and that people have different experiences of menstruation; so my easy go of it isn't carte blanche to say this doesn't happen.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:26 AM on February 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


What is the success rate of getting opiates for period pain?
I'm certainly not knocking anyone who uses opiates for period pain, but I, personally, don't want to be taking opiates a couple of days a month for 35-40 years. I don't think it's too much to want methods for dealing with this that are both safe and effective.

For me, birth control pills really did help. I'm at high risk for stroke anyway, because I have migraines with aura and a couple of members of my extended family had strokes when they were relatively young, and I decided that the stroke risk wasn't worth it.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:28 AM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


I just want to give a shout-out to my single-sex middle/high school, which had a really comprehensive biology class/self-care class/health curriculum, a nurse, painkillers, and beds with heating pads in a dark room for any student of any age who needed them. Knowledge, being cared for, and being taken seriously? Priceless. Everyone should have that.
posted by jetlagaddict at 8:35 AM on February 18, 2016 [8 favorites]


I don't think it's too much to want methods for dealing with this that are both safe and effective.

I'd argue that opiates are both of these when taken a few days a month, but I get your point.
posted by josher71 at 8:38 AM on February 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


We're in the process of trying to legalize medical use of marijuana in Iowa. There was a bill out there that had like 12 conditions allowable to be treated, and they were going to have a few dispensaries, a a couple authorized grow and manufacture operation. Then the bill got knocked down to a few (3) conditions and a couple combination grow/manufacture/dispensaries, and it's questionable if it will pass. We have a prohibitionist governor (for life!) that is a despicable fuckwad (IMHO) and he's just so deathly afraid that the real reasons people want it legalized for medical reasons is to push the recreational agenda.

Last year cannabis oil was approved for medical treatment of sever epilepsy, but ONLY after a slew of moms brought their seizing children to the capital steps and parked them in front of the politicians. Also, the local news station covered this family that moved to Colorado to get treatment for their kid. Dozens of seizures a day prior, severely limited and manageable after. That kid rules the news for a week or two. So yay! We got oil. Thing is you can't legally make it here, and you can't transport it here, since you have to cross at least one state where it's illegal (fuck Nebraska!).

So we're chipping away, but in a shitty way. In a way that makes me question who is benefitting. It's a GOP senator that is pushing for medical marijuana (Crownie). So who is getting these lucrative licenses? Or will it be the state?

Las night they showed these sad individuals on the news begging for their conditions to be added. It made me shout at the TV. I was pissed these people were so focused on PTSD or fibromyalgia or whateverthefuck. I was all, "Why are you only concerned about you? And why are you not mad that a politician is making this choice and not a fucking doctor?" Then the guy who is a chronic pain sufferer gets up there and says just that. "I want a doctor to decide."

Thing is, I am biased as fuck. First, I too am a chronic pain sufferer and I honestly do not know if marijuana will help, but I resent the pieces of shit coward politicians who are making this choice for me. Fuck those guys (harder than Nebraska!). I am also a tax payer living in an agriculture state. We could grow the shit out of that stuff and make bank. No reason Iowa kids have to be graduating from college $40k in the whole, no reason they need to flee the state after (they have been doing this for three decades. It's called the "Iowa Brain Drain," since they can always do better with an education elsewhere).

I want those people to get help. I want the person with PTSD to be made whole. I want the woman with terrible menstrual cramps to be functional. I want people to live happy productive lives. And it some dumbass puritan is keeping this from happening I get filled with rage.

I'm visiting two states soon where I can try legal marijuana for the first time. I honestly hope it doesn't help, since that will mean I've had over a decade of unnecessary pain. It will also mean I will probably want to move, and that won't go over well with my family. Because until Governor Branstad and his ilk finally are replaced I doubt it'll be legal here any time soon.

I also get pissed at the politicians who say it should be a state issue. That's exactly what I don't want. I don't want to worry about if I am legal in Wisconsin, but not in Illinois. I don't want to take off in Colorado with a legal substance only to land in Iowa to be arrested. It should be a basic human right, and if you want to use it recreationally, well, I support that as well. Your body, your life, get the government out of my marriages, my bedroom, and my body.

Thank you very much!
posted by cjorgensen at 8:39 AM on February 18, 2016 [14 favorites]


OK, until I was older (around when I got married, like early 20s), I wasn't aware just how bad this pain was for some women. I'm not an insensitive clod, but no one I knew -- mom, sister, aunts, girlfriends, friends-who-are-girls-but-not-girlfriends -- ever talked about it.

Yeah this is why my boyfriend pretty much gets a menstrual play-by-play from me every month. Thanks to the pill I actually don't deal with a whole lot of trouble, but frankly it's still inconvenient and unpleasant and I'll be damned if I'm gonna suffer in silence in my own house.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:59 AM on February 18, 2016 [10 favorites]


And so today an amendment at the end of the article: Correction (Feb. 18): An earlier version of this article quoted John Guillebaud as saying period pain can be “as bad as a heart attack,” when in fact he said it can be “almost as bad.”

Yes, of course. Not as bad. But almost as bad. Hear that, ladies?

ARGH
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 9:45 AM on February 18, 2016 [7 favorites]


I wish there were more massive menstrual studies for things beside pain too, because for some reason I seem to catch colds mostly right when my period starts. What is that about? Is my immunity down and I'm more susceptible? It's the kind of thing doctors go "pssht!" at you about, but I almost never get colds and when I do, it's that week.

They also blew me off when I told them birth control pills made me a crazy hormonal mess even on the lowest dose, actually told me I was imagining it, because yeah, I enjoyed imagining pain and bloating and yeast infections every two weeks and depression and low sex drive the rest of the time. What fun! Assholes.

My mom and my sister both had hysterectomies because of fibroids/bleeding/menopausal misery, something I haven't had so far. I'm keeping my fingers crossed, because recovery from that is a real bitch by all accounts.

And yeah, it definitely screws up my ability to measure normal pain.
posted by emjaybee at 9:50 AM on February 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


I wish there were more massive menstrual studies for things beside pain too, because for some reason I seem to catch colds mostly right when my period starts.

Me too. Also get MSK injuries from routine activity much more easily - apparently relaxin *might* have something to do with that.
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:53 AM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


because recovery from that is a real bitch by all accounts.

the worst part is trying to poop while on opiates without tearing open your stitches and/or prolapsing your vajeeper
posted by poffin boffin at 9:58 AM on February 18, 2016 [7 favorites]


the worst part is trying to poop while on opiates

During Passover.
posted by jeather at 9:59 AM on February 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


I wish there were more massive menstrual studies for things beside pain too, because for some reason I seem to catch colds mostly right when my period starts.

Dental pain! And menstruation gingivitis. Depending on the week of the month, I either have horrible irretrievable severe gum disease or like, a mild gingivitis issue. And my dentists totally don't buy it, even though it's a thing.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 9:59 AM on February 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


What I have trouble with is gauging how bad the pain has to be before I think "there's something wrong here." I tend to think I get standard cramps/backache: they hurt, sure, but only once a year or so do they hurt bad enough that I end up curled up in bed riding it out.

I once had premenstrual pain in my thigh/pelvis bad enough that I scheduled a next-day appointment immediately, and the doctor checked to make sure it wasn't a blood clot and then shrugged and said to take more ibuprofen or schedule an appointment with an orthopedist if it didn't get better. But I've never done that, because the pain is only once a month, only preceding/during my period, and I don't know what exactly I'm supposed to do to fix it. The pain radiates down from my pelvis/groin down to my knee and ankle. But I figure I can walk and usually it doesn't keep me up at night, so how bad could it be?

Also! Ovulation pain! What the fuck! No one ever told me about this, no one suggested it when as a teenager I went to the doctor for pain in my lower back/side (they checked for kidney issues because family history). It was only in my 20s when I started using a period tracker website that told me when I was ovulating that I made the connection. All the descriptions of mittelschmerz suggest it's not that bad or whatever, but, uh, no. It really fucking hurts. It hurts worse than my period some months.
posted by yasaman at 10:06 AM on February 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


I had horrible cramps well into my 20s--so bad I could barely move. My doctor's recommendation: Take a walk. Exercise. You'll feel better. After I had my first baby at 28, no more cramps.
posted by byjingo! at 10:10 AM on February 18, 2016


Hell yeah menstrual gingivitis. "You're bleeding a lot today." "Yeah, I'm menstruating." "I mean while I'm cleaning the gum line." "Like I said, I'm menstruating. It's hard for me to get days off, I'm not moving it because my period decides to start."

My kid is getting cyclical gingivitis as a tween so I fear for her puberty onset. :(
posted by tilde at 10:15 AM on February 18, 2016


During Passover.

it is the 11th plague
posted by poffin boffin at 10:15 AM on February 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


This is what the LORD says: you shall have a terrible pain in your kishkes
posted by poffin boffin at 10:16 AM on February 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


let my poople go
posted by poffin boffin at 10:19 AM on February 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


let my poople flow


i am a monster
posted by XtinaS at 10:26 AM on February 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


My wife has found that in addition to ibuprofen and heating pads, tea and snuggles also have a palliative effect.
posted by grumpybear69 at 10:50 AM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


I have not been shy about asking for Vicodin, and I have been lucky enough to get it. I haven't had to use it in about five years but I still hoard my precious stash.
posted by bq at 11:42 AM on February 18, 2016


I know this is plain regressive, but there are times where I want to bugger off to a modern menstrual hut where I can just lie down for days with hot water bottles strapped all over the lower half of my body and shout curses into the void. Heating pads are weaksauce.
posted by peripathetic at 12:05 PM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Well, the only misogynistic thing about that is that it's a hut. Why a hut? Why not a spa?

I would be down with a monthly spa visit that included massages, painkillers, and a private room.

Maybe also a giant TV room that played nothing but Lifetime specials and musicals. I would hang out there between massages.
posted by emjaybee at 12:39 PM on February 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


Because I don't want anyone around and I loathe massages. It's isolation, but of my own choosing. My hut, of course, should have a fully stocked fridge, a steam shower, and wi-fi.
posted by peripathetic at 1:09 PM on February 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


We can have huts and spas, with cats or cat-free.
posted by jeather at 1:17 PM on February 18, 2016 [7 favorites]


i want a menstrual versailles or at the very least a menstrual hameau de la reine
posted by poffin boffin at 1:25 PM on February 18, 2016 [14 favorites]


No no no no no the palace must be small because we can't hobble but so far when we're doubled over from pain. Un Petit Trianon Menstruel.
posted by witchen at 1:29 PM on February 18, 2016 [9 favorites]


Wait. that's GENIUS.

Make it a whole menstrual compound, where you have a huge main building where everyone gets a private bedroom but there are also spa treatment rooms and massage rooms and a bunch of different TV rooms and game rooms, and the people who want to hang out with other people can go there, and then there are a bunch of other smaller cabins on the grounds where you can go to those if you want to be by yourself - they're remote, but they've got big shower rooms and a jacuzzi and a fabulous view, and someone comes and stocks your fridge every day or comes to cook for you or deliver you food; so the private experience is there if you want it, but so is the spa experience.

The 24-7 lifetime channel TV room is a sweet idea but I hate the Lifetime Channel, so you need more than one TV room
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:30 PM on February 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


What is the success rate of getting opiates for period pain?

I have no idea in terms of across the population success, but my success rate at getting any kind of rx pain medicine for severe period pain is zero. However, I have tried taking Vicodin (leftovers from dental stuff) and found that it's not particularly effective for me - it's not as helpful as taking 800mg ibuprofen every four hours. And yes, I know that 800mg of ibuprofen six times a day for 2-3 days is more than the maximum dose and not a great idea, which is why I talked to the doctor about pain management options in the first place.

I do find that marijuana is very effective for cramps - definitely more so than ibuprofen, and seems likely that it's not as harmful as massive doses of NSAIDs (though it would be fantastic if more studies were permitted). And while I enjoy smoking pot, I'd be SO HAPPY to have a marijuana-derived medication for pain that does not have any mental/psychoactive effect so that I could take it and go to work / drive / have a normal day.
posted by insectosaurus at 1:46 PM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Hactar: And seconding cotton dress sock, we need artificial uteruses yesterday. Actually, several decades ago.

Already patented.
posted by clawsoon at 2:48 PM on February 18, 2016


I had a Tylenol 3 prescription for my unbelievable period pain for a while. I was pretty much treated like a drug-seeker by all pharmacists and doctors (including the one who prescribed it for me!) in spite of the fact I only got my prescription refilled about once a year because I only used it once a month when I needed it like I was supposed to!
posted by Jess the Mess at 3:05 PM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


For me, along with the horrific pain, comes a very heavy flow. This means more pads (my vagina cannot handle anything inside when the flow is going out). The damn cost of these essential items makes me batshit crazy. There were times in my life when it came down to pads for the week and cheap crappy food or no pads and fresh produce.
posted by Burn.Don't.Freeze at 3:19 PM on February 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


Make it a whole menstrual compound

good lord no, why would i want to invite other people.
posted by poffin boffin at 3:31 PM on February 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


Regarding sick leave (in the US): I'm one of those fortunate enough to work for an employer who who gives unlimited sick leave. My period isn't really that bad, but it makes it so I can literally sleep for 2-3 days straight. I have regularly taken sick days because of it, if it doesn't happen on a weekend.

My male manager never had a problem with it. My female manager noticed the pattern and wasn't sure if what I was doing was okay. So I emailed HR and they were okay with it. Now I have it in official writing.

I want to point out that these kinds of employers do exist, though of course I'm lucky to have one like this.
posted by ethidda at 3:33 PM on February 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


good lord no, why would i want to invite other people.

The more people there are, the greater the bulk discounts on Scotch and Scharfen Berger.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:34 PM on February 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


i don't want to be trapped in a compound with 1,000 drunk women who are really fucking pissed about having terrible cramps. that is hell and it can wait until i am dead.
posted by poffin boffin at 3:41 PM on February 18, 2016 [9 favorites]


Regarding sick leave, there has to be some more equitable way of doing it but I'm not sure what it is.

Is this another call for equal time off for men who don't menstruate or have parenting responsibilities? Because it's not fair?


I apologize if that's the vibe you got - I was thinking more about systems and how the band aids we slap on to them to try address inequality most times end up not working. We could, for example, attempt to institute a system of unlimited sick leave in order to equalize pay between people who need to take 30 days off versus people who take no days off, but in practice there will be subtle pressures within the organization at every level to preferentially promote "certain" more productive individuals. Same goes for any kind of equality policy - race, income, age.

After sleeping on the topic I think one real solution is to take this out of the hands of the employer altogether and have the government institute something like a sick leave levy - say 5% of all gross salary paid - and then the government refunds money back to the employer for every sick leave day taken by their employees. In this way the employer is mostly indifferent to employing and promoting an employee who needs a lot of leave vs an employee who needs little leave - because they end up paying for only the time the employee spends working - while all workers also get their full pay regardless of leave taken. Under this system it's the government that takes on the role of redistributing income equitably, without involving the individual employer - upon reflection, it's ridiculous that we're making corporations do that now, it's ridiculous to think they would do a good job at it!
posted by xdvesper at 4:31 PM on February 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


The only gauge I have for my period pain is comparisons to other injuries. So far, things that hurt less than menustration: everything! It's sort of similar to getting my teeth drilled before the injection kicks in, but also not because that pain is way more localised so it's a lot easier to deal with.

Nobody should ever ask me how much some obvious injury hurts because I honestly never know. 9? 5? What's a 10? I've gotten some horrified looks in the past because I keep going with injuries I barely notice. "It's not as bad, so it doesn't matter." Which is actually kind of detrimental to overall health because I don't stop to rest as much as I should and there have been knock-on effects already. It turns out that just because you can walk it off by comparison doesn't mean it's a good idea, but that doesn't stop the general social rewards of the athlete mentality.
posted by E. Whitehall at 4:38 PM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Only for the last few months of my life have I had periods where I can stand upright like I normally do (due to acupuncture). Before I would walk around hunched over like a very old person and even that while being near tears. But during the times I was employed, I could never call and say I can't come in because I am on my period and near death. Whether I had a male boss or a female. Because I have asked women I know before if it's okay to mention my period to people (not just to bosses, but for example when canceling social plans last minute) and they say no. I asked because it's a very relevant part of my life, and comes up often to disrupt and change things. One day I went to work hunched over like an old lady and all my co-workers just stared at me like I was crazy walking like that all the sudden (my job involved walking by a lot of people sitting at their desks). But yeah, apparently as absurd as it is, I must keep it hidden and irrelevant.
posted by Blitz at 6:18 PM on February 18, 2016


I lost one day a month for years before I got my endometriosis diagnosis and prescription meds. There was pain for one than one day a month, but it was unbearable, usually, just for the one day. Now I'm a grateful graduate of menopause. Yay! As for sick days, this is my first week at a new contract gig. Am super happy to have temp work but hope not to get sick. I get 3 sick days per year and need a doctor's note. Thanks for the link, OP!
posted by Bella Donna at 6:24 PM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


> "Experts say more women than we know walk out of doctors' offices feeling that their symptoms haven't been taken seriously. They are told that their complaints are all in their heads or that everything will be fine if they would just stop worrying."

Here are a couple of recent related threads in case anyone missed them.
posted by homunculus at 6:33 PM on February 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


Misogyny - and racism - have a long history in gynecological medicine.

There are three statues in the United States honoring Dr. James Marion Sims, a 19th-century physician dubbed the father of modern gynecology. Invisible in his shadow are the enslaved women whom he experimented on. Today, they are unknown and unnamed except for three: Anarcha, Lucy, and Betsey. This week, we grapple with their story and the troubling history of medical experimentation on African Americans.
posted by nickyskye at 10:55 PM on February 18, 2016 [8 favorites]




But I've never done that, because the pain is only once a month, only preceding/during my period, and I don't know what exactly I'm supposed to do to fix it. The pain radiates down from my pelvis/groin down to my knee and ankle. But I figure I can walk and usually it doesn't keep me up at night, so how bad could it be?

Get checked out for polyps or fibroids, I forget which one can cause radiating groin pain. It might be pedunculated polyps? If you have pain w/piv sex or tampon insertion that is another sign. OR it could potentially be from increased pressure on your sacrum if you a retroverted uterus. Fibroids will also make that worse.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:28 AM on February 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


My periods are not that bad, thank goodness -- although HELLO GRUMPINESS, which birth control pills only made worse. (I didn't notice the difference very much, thanks ongoing depression, but people who knew me on and off BCP informed me of it.) But the first day of my most recent, I had kinda bad cramps and a hatred of the entire human race, and at the same time, my boss was out with a dreadful cold: so I cancelled a meeting. And she had been talking about "oh, I'll try to make it in for the meeting," which: nope, please do not. The whole thing made me think about sick time, and work culture, and maybe how if we were more honest about the days we're not 100% it might make for a better world...

Also, when I learned about how hormones affect pooping, at AGE FORTY, it was srsly a revelation. Just knowing what's even in the range of normal is such a relief.
posted by epersonae at 9:53 AM on February 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


Even for those of us that birth control helps with this, there are consequences. We're now finding that Sex Binding Hormone Globulin is remaining high even after discontinuance of hormonal birth control. This leads to lower bioavailable testosterone which has its own suit of issues, one of which is decreased pain tolerance.

I loved my bc and took it for 16 years. I took it so I only had periods 4 times a year. It was glorious, they were mild and I was in control of when I had them. Now I have chronic pain. I've been off birth control for 4 years and SHBC is still high. I have chronic pain, and though it's not caused by the hormones, my endocrinologist is convinced it's making things worse.

And ibuprofen or naproxen? Causes hearing loss.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 11:23 AM on February 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


(And in spite of the findings of elevated SHBG, nearly 10 years later all we know is that more research is needed.)
posted by [insert clever name here] at 11:30 AM on February 19, 2016


this just in, from Atlas Obscura -

Doctors used to prescribe women opium-soaked tampons to relieve menstrual and other reproductive pain.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:26 PM on February 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


I was reading all these stories and thinking "Wow, thank goodness my periods aren't that bad" and then I remembered that I started HBC when I was 16 because of debilitating cramps, went off it to have a baby, and with the exception of the time I was trying to get pregnant, have spent the last 11 years either pregnant or with a Mirena in place. And my first strong cycle after I went off the Pill was a revelation, and not in a good way.

But BIG FIST BUMP to whomever mentioned ovulation pain, above. When I ovulate from my right ovary, it's not so bad, but when I ovulate from my left ovary, it's. . . it's unreal. The pain is like a burning coal in my abdomen, serious enough that it is always the top-level thing in my consciousness, for anywhere from four hours to three days. I can usually knock it back with 800mg of ibuprofen, but not always. It's serious enough to make it hard to read, or have a conversation, or watch TV, or sleep; sometimes I wake up yelling. I had a doctor say "uh, are you sure it isn't your gallbladder? where is your pain?" and when I pointed to the spot she said "ooh, yeah. No, you're right, you are pointing directly to your ovary there."

I can't think of any other processes that can so regularly be so absolutely debilitating that are blown off so completely by the medical establishment that aren't experienced primarily by women. It's infuriating.
posted by KathrynT at 1:03 PM on February 19, 2016


Ha, weirdly enough, it's also my left ovary that hates me! When it's bad, it feels like someone very slowly and deliberately just twisting and squeezing something in there. And that whole left side of my abdomen and back ends up feeling tender and achy. Left ovary, you are the worst, basically. Ovulation pain, and ovulation symptoms in general, are really something I wish had been mentioned by...literally anyone to me, before I took a female sexuality class in my last year of college. But no, none of it was ever mentioned to me in sex ed, or by any doctor I saw about abdominal pain.
posted by yasaman at 5:44 PM on February 19, 2016


OK, until I was older (around when I got married, like early 20s), I wasn't aware just how bad this pain was for some women. I'm not an insensitive clod, but no one I knew -- mom, sister, aunts, girlfriends, friends-who-are-girls-but-not-girlfriends -- ever talked about it.

It was similar for me. I'm an only child and my mother had a hysterectomy when I was little, so early on I didn't know much beyond the basic biological facts learnt in school and what passed as 'common knowledge' in early adolescence. It wasn't until my late teens, when I had my first serious girlfriend and several close women friends, that I learned how bad and how common intensely painful periods actually are. Here were friends I cared deeply about who had to suffer for several days every month and were expected to just grin and bear it by society at large. That was when I first began to get a sense how real, how pervasive and how toxic patriarchy really is.
posted by homunculus at 8:02 PM on February 19, 2016


Another mittelschmerz sufferer here. On left ovary months, I always envision the alien bursting out of John Hurt's stomach.
posted by Dr. Zira at 9:46 PM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


And ibuprofen or naproxen? Causes hearing loss.

...There is an increased risk of hearing loss over years of regular (6x plus per week) use, per 2015 study. And it doesn't seem to be higher for women than men. Don't get me wrong, it's a real correlation, but don't let it stop you from taking your Midol (or rather, I won't let it stop me from chowing down on the generic ibuprofin two days a month. iPods and the subway are probably worse for my hearing.)
posted by maryr at 2:54 PM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


(...Yes, I know I'm lucky that I only need to do that 2 days a month and I am not trying to minimize anyone's pain. I just mean that given the risk of NSAID induced hearing loss and presence of pain, IANAD but I'd take the risk of hearing loss.)
posted by maryr at 2:57 PM on February 23, 2016


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