Dysmenorrhea with Menorrhagia in the Adolescent: “My Poor Bunny is Dying”

I never let go of her hand, kneeling next to her, holding a hot rice-sock to her lower back.  I talked quietly to her as she lay on her side, encouraging her.  “Don’t  leave me!”  She had said, clamping a tight grip on my hand, when I had earlier made a move towards my coffee-cup.  

She rocked there, curled up on her side, humming and rhythmically pulling her eyelashes.  Then she rolled to her back, moaning, groaned and rubbed her open palms against her face.  She began to thrash side-to-side and cried out, “Why?  Why does it hurt so bad?” only to, a few moments later, quietly slip again into an exhausted sort of calm.  Laying quietly.  Eyes closed.  Just breathing for the moment.  Waiting for the need to start humming again.

This is  not a picture of me as a doula.  This is not a woman in labor.   This is me being a Mom.  And this is my teenage daughter having her period.

Dysmenorrhea is a Greek word (as are many medical words) whose parts literally mean: bad/harsh/wrong/ill-monthly-flow.  This condition is more generally referred to as “horrible period cramps.”

What is it exactly that causes some to be virtually crippled for 1-3 days per month while others sail on virtually unaffected?  The best answer science has to offer is this: over-production of prostaglandins.

Prostaglandins are hormone-like entities that exist and are synthesized in virtually every cell of the human body.  Their role is varied and important in both men and women.  One of the physiological effects of prostaglandins is powerful smooth muscle contractions.  Because muscle is found in the uterus, stomach, intestines, and blood vessels, overproduction can cause agonizing cramps, nausea, diarrhea, and even headaches.

So, what to do?

It seems the most frequent doctor recommendation is to put a girl on birth-control pills to “balance her hormones”.  But this approach does not sit well with many parents.  And for at least one good reason: it is far from side-effect-free.   However, that doesn’t mean conventional medicine has nothing to offer. In fact, there is something that works for many people.  Something most people already have in their cupboards:  over-the-counter NSAIDs.

It turns out that NSAIDs like ibuprofen (“Motrin” or “Advil”) and naproxen (“Aleve” or “Midol Extended Relief”) can actually interrupt the production and/or action of the responsible prostaglandins.  But, for best results, one needs to take an appropriate dose of NSAIDs before the onset of period-pain and symptoms.   Taken in the right dose, at the right time, NSAIDs may just help a gal avoid the whole excruciating prostaglandins-induced situation.

Thankfully, ibuprofen seems to work for The Bunny.  But I’d like to find something more of a real “cure”.

Being the person I am, I’d like to understand the reason for this imbalance in the first place.  I would like to be able to explain to my daughter which supplements, or dietary changes, might actually help her change the way her body works–for the better.  I would love to have her be able to say, “I just don’t have that problem anymore.”  And she would like the same thing.

It turns out that virtually all “experts” (conventional medical folks and naturalists alike) have similar suggestions on dietary and daily supplements to try, including:

  • B vitamins: B1 (thiamine,) B3 (niacin,) and B6 (pyridoxine,) and B12 (cobalamin)
  • 3-4 servings of calcium-rich foods along with magnesium-rich foods or a magnesium supplement
  • omega-3 fatty acids (fish/krill oil)
  • vitamin E
  • vitamin C

…and possibly these anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, “wonder supplements” (all of which I happen to already have in my cupboard to help combat my ADHD and musculoskeletal pain.)

I’m hoping that if she starts actually taking the high-B multivitamin and krill-oil, sitting in the cupboard, along with a few of these other supplements, this might be the last month that The Bunny ever needs a period-doula.  And hopefully, in the near future, she won’t even need NSAIDs.

I just want to see her healthy and painfree–period.

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3 thoughts on “Dysmenorrhea with Menorrhagia in the Adolescent: “My Poor Bunny is Dying”

  1. One of my girls had difficult periods. She took the pill for 6 months and then stopped and has been fine since. I don’t know if you remember but I was put on the pill in high school because I’d not gotten my period yet. I remember being thoroughly miserable. Poor bunny. Another of my daughters is heading towards the time to worry about it but according to the doc, she shows few signs that she’s going to get it for the next couple of years. I hope things work more smoothly for her! Sadly, we are all irregular in our cycles and it’s hard to predict the start date so that we can do a preemptive strike with the NSAIDS.

    On a slightly related note: I still have not gotten my period and Harper is over 19 months old now…Grateful on one hand and dreading on the other. Ugh.

  2. This was ME as a teen and all the way up until I had my first child at 27. Horrible, paralyzing, vomitous cramps that sent me to the ER twice because I was convinced I was dying. I missed out on countless days at school and even work. Then, magically, I have no idea why, they completely and totally lessened to a very manageable level after I had my first baby. Having had 2 babies med-free now, and having felt what real labor cramps feel like, my period cramps were right up there with what I experienced before transition.

    I hope your daughter gets some relief. My go-to solution growing up was LOTS of water the days before I knew I would start (dehydration made them fierce, a lesson I learned very hard after a horrible hangover in college), 4 Advil the day before (or the minute I started if I didn’t catch it in time), and, honestly, not wearing tampons for that one really horrible, painful day. I don’t know why, but the cramping was so much worse with a tampon in. I HATED how disgusting it felt to wear pads when I was at my heaviest, but it was some relief. Oh! And THESE!! http://www.thermacare.com/menstrual-heatwraps
    Man, I hope my daughter doesn’t have to deal with this.

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