Research Shows That Pain During Menstruation Can Be As Bad As A Heart Attack, But Do We Care?
Yes, you have heard it right. If a woman complains about cramps or mood swings during her period – it is dismissed as something natural which a woman has to bear for 2-3 days in a month. PMS or pre menstrual stress is another term used to downplay the severity of the cramps. If a woman complains about it too much then she is regarded as “hysterical”.
Historical representation of menstrual pain:
Interestingly, the word “hysterical” comes from the Latin root “hystericus” which was transmuted to English “hysteric” and got transformed into “hysteria” in the 19th century. The root word means “womb” and hence a creature with a womb (that is female) is considered to be “hysterical” or melodramatic if she voices her sorrows. This happens all the more when she voices her acute cramps during her menstruation.
From the dawn of history period blood has been regarded with sanctimonious horror and a natural proof of woman’s inferiority. While Aristotle regarded the menstrual blood as “elixir of life” because it fused with a male sperm to produce babies, Leviticus in the Old Testament opined that a woman should be isolated for seven days and reinstated into society on the 8th day when “she shall take unto her two turtles or young pigeons, and bring them unto the priest, to the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And the priest shall offer the one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering; and the priest shall make an atonement for her before the Lord for the issue of her uncleanness.”
Yet another dimension was added to this monthly phenomenon when in the 18th century the menstrual cycle was linked to the lunar cycle – from which the word lunatic was derived. We all know the meaning of lunatic too well to explain here.
Hence the downplay of menstrual pain:
Is it any wonder then, that the intense pain which is born by one in every five women (according to the findings of American Academy of Family Physicians) was either spoken in parenthesis by daughters, sisters, wives and female relatives in hushed whispers and not given the attention it deserved?
The present scenario is not much different. Yes, it is true that the taboo around menstrual cycle is being broken by bold and progressive advertisements and campaigns in the contemporary era, but at large it is still a subject which remains unspoken at large. It is considered something to be ashamed of and not to be discussed openly, especially in front of men.
The latest research:
However, a groundbreaking research conducted by John Guillebaud, professor of reproductive health at University College London reveals that period pain can be as “bad as having a heart attack”. Moreover, he told The Independent that “Men don’t get it and it hasn’t been given the centrality it should have. I do believe it’s something that should be taken care of, like anything else in medicine.”
The average waiting period for a man who complains about an abdominal pain to be attended upon is 49 minutes while for a woman the wait can stretch to 65 minutes for the same symptoms. This is due the sexist perception of woman as being “hysterical”, “dramatic” and “lunatic” and exaggerating her pain. A woman is supposed to tolerate the pain silently much as she has to bear the labour pain – it is considered to be her sacred duty to bear it.
This faulty logic is refuted by the fact that transgenders also experience period and the cramps associated with it. To top it all, the recent research bears testimony to the fact that more serious research needs to be made regarding the alleviation of such pain. At present the research into the field of period pain alleviation is rudimentary. The only medicines available are painkillers such as ibuprofen and paracetamol or mefenamic acid (a prescription-only pill, commonly known as Pontac). At times, women are told to take birth control pills which may have side effects like less blood flow.
The contemporary scenario:
Sometimes a gynecologist who may herself not experience cramps dismisses the medical enquiry of patients who complain of cramps – the logic is if the doctor can bear it why not the patient. This is twisted logic at best. Moreover, since a lot of times the pain alleviates after child birth, doctors do not want to interfere with this “course of nature”. How about those women who go for caesarian and not normal delivery? These questions are left unattended to.
Otherwise, the woman is left to household cures like holding a hot water bag tightly around their stomach and remain twisting and turning on the bed for two days which can spell horror for her. Other homemade remedies include drinking boiled basil leaves, drinking pineapple juice, and drinking carrot juice twice a day, etc. Can anyone imagine a woman going through a pain as severe as heart attack for two whole days?
The latest research is welcome:
Keeping in view all the above-mentioned assumptions and off-handed dismissal of period pain, the latest research finding is welcome by the likes of Dr Imogen Shaw, a GP specialising in women’s healthcare. She asserts, “I wouldn’t say [period pain] has been hugely investigated,” and when asked if the issue would be taken more seriously if men experienced it, said: “I suspect there would be, being very cynical.” Indeed, it can open the way for serious contemplation of period pain and serious research to minimize it.