Curled up on her small bed at the corner of the Hostel, Fifteen year-old Maria was in severe pain. She writhed and groaned trying to keep the whimpering low because she didn’t want to wake up the other girls again.
The young Lady broke out in oily sweats even as the weather was somewhat cold. It was another time of the month when she is faced with the challenge of painful menstruation.
For four years on, Maria has had to bear and cope with the agony of going through unending cramps and pains each month of her menstrual flow. She would not only miss classes she has sometimes also, missed exams because the pains were always indescribably unbearable.
The School clinic couldn’t help her manage the condition as all medication given her offered only temporary relief.
Her mother had no solution as well except to encourage her by always saying, “Painful flow is normal with young girls; you would outgrow it once you are married and began to have children”.
But truly, should Maria have to go through this monthly agony without any hope for solution?
In the Medical Parlance, painful cramps before, during or shortly after monthly flow is known as Dysmenorrhea and could be Primary of Secondary
Primary dysmenorrhea is another name for common menstrual cramps which can be mild or severe. These pains usually become less painful as a woman ages and may stop entirely after the woman has her first baby.
But for the Secondary dysmenorrhea, it is described as pain caused by a disorder in the woman’s reproductive organs. Cramps associated with this condition are known to usually begin earlier in the menstrual cycle and last longer than the common menstrual cramps.
Speaking to Healthstyleplus, Medical Director Nordica Fertility Centre, Dr Abaymi Ajayi said, “Of significance is the secondary dysmenorrhea because it can have several causes one of which several doctors are not conversant about, hence are unable to recognise or diagnose it. And it has been discovered that many women who experience painful menses often suffer from the condition known as Endometriosis”, said Ajayi.
Ajayi who incidentally is one of the very few who understands the condition and treats women, described Endometriosis as “a condition that occurs when tissue, similar to the lining of the womb (uterus) grows in other areas of the body”.
In this state, the tissues which have grown outside their natural environment would still behave as if they are in the natural state that is, the tissue behave as if they are in the womb bleeding monthly (as in menstruation) and so cause various degree of pain from moderate to severe and even chronic in the affected woman”, said Ajayi.
However, it would require a proper diagnosis using an instrument called Laparoscope to probe and see exactly what is responsible for the cramp or pain a woman who is going through the condition experiences.
In celebration of the World Endometriosis week, the Endometriosis Support Group of Nigeria would on Saturday, March 5, join the rest of the world to take the awareness campaign on Endometriosis to Lagos and March around to ensure that everyone joins hands to put an end to painful menstruation among Nigerian women.
Endometriosis is estimated to occur in roughly 6–10% of women. A major symptom of endometriosis is known to be recurring pelvic pain.
The pain can range from mild to severe cramping or stabbing pain that occurs on both sides of the pelvis, in the lower back and rectal area, and even down the legs.
A lot of women who suffer painful menses and are silent on it, may in fact have Endometriosis, said Ajayi and more often, they suffer infertility.
“When Endometriosis is properly diagnosed, it can be managed successfully and the patient can in fact be treated to live normal life”, Ajayi explained.
Some of the other effects of Endometriosis could be painful sex, abnormal bleeding from every orifice in the body, dysuria (urinary urgency, frequency), and chronic pelvic pain among others.
According to him, “Endometriosis or secondary cramp is not the end of life and a woman with the condition can still live a very normal life once she receives adequate treatment”.