You feel a surging pain in your body and fall to the floor. Your vision goes blurry and the next thing you remember is an ambulance siren. You’re rushed to the emergency room, where a nurse asks you how much pain you feel on a scale of one to ten. Unable to speak, you raise ten fingers, indicating that you’ve never felt anything worse than the pain you’re going through right now. The nurse asks you where it hurts. You point to your lower abdomen.
“Are you on your period?” The nurse questions.
You nod yes. The nurse laughs. You’re handed some ibuprofen and released immediately. You walk out of the hospital feeling a fool.
If you’ve ever been told that extremely painful periods are normal or that period pain is something every menstruator has to tolerate, then you’ve unfortunately been lied to. A few years ago, professor of reproductive health at University College London, John Guillebaud, revealed that menstrual cramps or period pain can be “almost as bad as having a heart attack.” As menstruators everywhere echoed “I told you so,” we wondered why concerns about pain during periods have systematically been ignored by medical institutions across the world.
Far too many menstruators currently suffer agonising pain – yes, agonising, not mild pain – during their periods, which often disrupts their day to day lives. According to research studies, dysmenorrhea, the medical term for painful periods, occurs in 20% to 90% of all women of reproductive age, but research about dysmenorrhea is limited and rarely considered important.
This is primarily due to the fact that women are considered to be “dramatic,” “weak,” or exaggerating their discomfort due to lower pain tolerances. And these sexist stereotypes have incredibly harmful repercussions: because menstruators routinely attempt to ignore their pain, conditions such as endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, and uterine fibroids are largely underreported and remain undiagnosed for many years in at-risk patients.
Sexism infiltrates every aspect of society and puts women and other menstruators in danger, exposing them to detrimental illnesses and laying their lives on the line. If you visit a doctor who tries to minimise your pain or the seriousness of your symptoms, hold them accountable and inform their place of employment. Doctors are expected to take you seriously and treat you with respect and without prejudice. If you’re looking for a non-judgemental gynaecologist in India, this crowd-sourced list is a great resource.
We believe in your right to a pain-free period. Your medical practitioner should too.