Western Sydney University researchers have found that roughly 50% of young women are not taking pain medication properly when trying to manage their period pain.
Researchers surveyed 5000 Australian women, aged between 14 to 25, about periods, and found that almost 75% of respondents thought that some amount of pain during a period was perfectly normal.
They also found that half of the women who responded to the survey were taking less than the recommended dosage of ibuprofen or paracetamol, and taking it only after the pain had started. 80% of women surveyed also said that their pain was still a concern even after taking medication, probably because they hadn’t taken the right dose.
40% of women described missing a university lecture or school day during one three-month period as a result of period pain, and 80% said that at least some of the time, their concentration was negatively affected by their period.
Lead researcher Dr Mike Armour told ABC that while some pain was normal, pain that impacts your daily life (aka your ability to go to school or work) should be investigated: “Most of the time there’s something that can be done to reduce its impact, so I think it’s really important for young women to know you can do something.”
Debilitating menstrual cramps aren’t at all uncommon, but they can be managed and if you’re consistently experiencing them, you should talk to your doctor. Many women ignore their own pain because we’re told it’s not important, or it’s to be expected, or because we’ve dealt with doctors who’ve downplayed the seriousness of our concerns.
Unfortunately, this survey doesn’t tell us anything about how trans and gender non-conforming people manage period pain, but given how little healthcare professionals know about trans people’s needs, I can’t imagine it’s any easier for them, having to navigate a field that subscribes to a binary they don’t necessarily fit into.
A recent study in the US found that women are more likely to die after being treated by male doctors for a heart attack, while men treated by male or female doctors or women treated by female doctors aren’t. The researchers concluded that many men have trouble treating female patients, which isn’t surprising when everyone has told them from a young age that women’s pain isn’t a cause for concern.
Debilitating cramps could mean PCOS, or endometriosis, or just that your body hates you and needs to be kept in line with medication. In my case, I was missing a day of school every week until I started taking the Pill, at which point my cramps virtually disappeared, and periods are no longer a stressful experience for me.
Better education on the seriousness of period pain is needed, which is the end goal of this survey; the researchers have created an online resource called ‘Menstruation Matters’ that teaches young women about what is and isn’t normal for periods, and if and when they should go to the doctor about their symptoms. The resource is being trialled for three months before being released to the public next year.