Painful menstruation, referred to by doctors as dyysmenorrhoea, is probably the commonest gynaecological symptom. It is certainly the leading cause for time loss from school and industry. It is claimed to affect at least 10 per cent of schoolgirls, probably many more. Although many women will notice some degree of pelvic discomfort with their periods, dysmenorrhea is reserved for those cases in which the discomfort is really disabling, when the person is unable to attend to normal duties, necessitating bed or medication, or both.

Statistics from America show that at least 140 million working hours are lost annually by women with dysmenorrhea. Pro rata, Australia may have a similar ratio.

The most common type occurs in young women, starting 2-3 years after the menarche (the commencement of periods). It is at its maximum intensity between the ages of 15 and 25 years. Generally it is unrelated to any serious underlying disorder. (Some women experience another type of dysmenorrhea, usually after the age of 20 years and invariably related to pelvic disease, which will be discussed later.)

The pain usually starts a few hours before a period is due. It rapidly rises to a peak, persists for about 12 hours, and then subsides. It is usually all over within 24 hours. It is a cramping sensation in the lower abdominal region.

All manner of treatment has been advocated over the years, from the use of simple pain-killers, to surgery.

Indeed, pregnancy and delivery of a baby usually ends this form of period pain-but this is not always desirable, particularly in young women still at school.

However, this has led some doctors to the belief that dilating the cervical canal of the womb wilt effectively bring relief. In many cases of severe and persisting pain, it may certainly bring about a miraculous beneficial effect. But happily, simpler forms of treatment are now readily available.

One remarkable feature is that some of the old-time remedies have now found a new use, not merely for their pain-relieving properties (for which they have been prescribed in this complaint for decades) but for entirely different reasons.

This is the story: Let's get back to the hormone, progesterone. Although it is very valuable, particularly in the event of pregnancy occurring, it is also a troublemaker of the first order-as women with P.M.T. have discovered.


Women's health