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There must be more awareness on endometriosis

An American celebrity is calling for more awareness about the health risks endometriosis poses to women and especially those in the African American community.

When it comes to period cramps and women complaining of particularly painful ones, the consensus is usually to suck it up and keep going, because it is normal to have painful cramps when on your period.

In an essay published in OprahMag.com and WomensHealthMag.com, Tia Mowry-Hadrict, reveals that it took years for her to learn that the pelvic pain she had always dealt with was actually endometriosis, even going to multiple doctors.

“I’d been experiencing extreme pelvic pain for years and went to several doctors. Each one would brush me off. ‘Those are just really bad cramps, some women get them more severely,’ one told me. ‘Just put heat on it,’ one suggested. Another doctor simply said: ‘Get on the treadmill — working out helps,’ ”she said.

This is the story many women who experience the painful health phenomenon usually tell, until they are diagnosed accurately by a doctor who is well verse in the signs of endometriosis.

Endometriosis is a painful disorder in which the tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus instead grows on the outside. The displaced endometrial (uterus) tissue continues to act as it normally would, however because it has no way to exit the body, it becomes trapped and can cause severe pain especially during the period, which can also lead to fertility challenges.

The primary symptom of endometriosis is pelvic pain and is generally associated with the menstrual period.

Twenty-seven year old Yomi Perkins, an attorney in Barbados recalls her own battles with endometriosis stating that before her diagnosis, she would need to be on drips for the pain every month.

“I didn’t think anything of it as everyone always told me it’s normal to have cramps with your period. Years went by with these monthly cramps. I realized something was wrong when I was 21 my periods started coming every 2 weeks so I decided to see [my doctor], he did an ultrasound and told me my right ovary had a large cyst and he would have to run some test to ensure it’s not ovarian cancer.” She said in an interview with this magazine.

When the results came back, she was diagnosed with endometriosis and scheduled to have surgery to remove the ovary.

As most women with endometriosis can attest to, becoming pregnant is rare, and delivering a successful pregnancy can be extremely tough.

Recounting her experience with her now 4 month old twin babies, Perkins explained that every day she was still carrying was nothing short of a miracle.

“The pregnancy was a tough one I had to have an emergency cerclage in place as my cervix was practically nonexistent at 15 weeks and had to be on bed rest having weekly progesterone injections for the remainder of the pregnancy. I also had an elevated heart rate for the entire pregnancy my resting heart rate was 110.  I was also on tender hooks as every day I felt like my period would come,” she said.

Tia Mowry- Hadrict, revealed that she revamped her diet and underwent multiple surgeries to not only relieve her pain, but also increase her odds of successfully having her two children.

“Compared to other communities, it feels like there’s a void when it comes to talking about healthy living and medicine from African American women, for African American women,” she said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Talking about heavy periods and treatments

With the launch of heavyperiodtalk.ca, Dr. Yolanda Kirkham, an obstetrician and gynecologist, discusses her role in the campaign and why it’s recommended that women educate themselves on their menstruation.

Dr. Kirkham is an OBGYN at the Women’s College Hospital and St Joseph’s Health Centre in Toronto. Her role in the campaign is to do what she does on the job every day: educate, counsel, and treat women’s reproductive health concerns. “Through this campaign and website, women can quickly access factual information and peer-to-peer stories that encourage them to seek medical attention for a problem they may not have known was treatable,” she said.

She was a recent panelist at the Heavy Period Talk comedy show in Toronto, which she said was a great way to talk about a taboo topic in a fun and educational way. “The campaign also supports the Canadian Foundation for Women’s Health and local charities. I hope that women will know they don’t have to live with what they think is their ‘normal,’ and that there are so many individualized options for heavy periods,” she said. “They don’t have to live with the fear of leaking, missing out on activities, or feeling miserable each month. Heavy periods don’t have to cramp your style.”

This quote really stuck with me. I thought about myself and how I enjoy running. At times, I felt afraid of leaking and I would be constantly thinking about it on the course instead of my pace.  I found Dr. Kirkham’s information helpful.

If you suffer from heavier periods than you may be familiar with its older term: menorrhagia. Dr. Kirkham explained that heavy periods can affect a woman’s quality of life. “They are periods that are heavy, require pad or tampon changes every one to two hours or through the night, have clots, and last a week.”

“Heavy periods affect 1 in 5 women of all ages. But even one is too much,” she continued. “These can be young women who have just started their periods, are midlife, or nearing menopause. There are various causes, including bleeding disorders, hormonal changes and anovulation (not releasing a monthly egg) in puberty/perimenopause/polycystic ovarian syndrome, medications, other medical conditions, and cervical or uterine cancer.” She added that women in their forties have the highest rates for bleeding and associated conditions that lead to the heavy bleeding, such as polyps, fibroids, pre- or uterine cancer, or anovulation.

“All of these causes are treatable.  And it is important to treat to prevent anemia (low blood levels) that can affect concentration, energy levels, and ability for the body to function at its best,” she said. “Management of heavy bleeding can also reduce the need for blood transfusions, which are sometimes needed in dire cases.”

If you’re dealing with a heavier period or need more information, then Dr. Kirkham believes heavyperiodtalk.ca is a good place to start. “We hope that by sharing stories of how heavy periods affect them, more women will be encouraged to open up that conversation with each other and with their health care professional,” she said. “Stories shared on heavyperiodtalk.ca will benefit the Canadian Foundation for Women’s Health, which is a charity administered by the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologist of Canada.”

She added that you should be turning to your family doctor or nurse practitioner if you need treatment or other individualized options that include medications, office procedures, or minimally invasive surgical procedures. “Something as simple as anti-inflammatories at the drug store can help,” she said. “But there are more sophisticated options such as medication to decrease flow (tranexamic acid) during heavy bleeding only, and all contraceptives also decrease flow (and pain).” She recommended hormone blockers, hormonal intrauterine device, or endometrial ablation procedures as well.

Periods were rarely spoken about years ago, and Dr. Kirkham believes this is one of the reasons why there wasn’t much education on the topic. “We are now in a society where people are more comfortable opening up about everything, and finding anonymous avenues to do so, such as online.  Women with very heavy or painful periods also tend to think that it’s normal for them and don’t realize their periods do not have to be dreadful,” she said. “I would encourage women to take time to look after themselves and seek attention for their periods if they are heavy or painful.  Blood is a precious commodity. Periods happen every month and over 40 years, that’s almost 500 periods! That’s something worth talking about!”

Visit your doctor or gynecologist if your periods are affecting your quality of life and keep the conversation going.

Want a natural way to get rid of menstrual cramps?

For most women, menstrual cramps are a terrible experience. It can feel like you are being torn apart from the inside out. For myself, it is as if my hip bones are being pulled in two opposite directions and my lower legs go completely numb. In other words, it’s hell. In these moments, all I want to do is sink into a pile of chocolate and cozy blankets for a few days, but alas I must continue through the daily grind.

Unfortunately, most of us can’t simply stay home and wallow — we have to continue working and living our lives. Traditionally, women have used herbs to help with menstrual cramps before drugs become available in convenient little pills. Medications don’t always relieve all of the pain or symptoms associated with our time of the month, so why not try some natural remedies. They worked for our ancestors and they will work for us.

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One of the best herbs for cramps is ginger. It is easy to find in grocery stores and is known to soothe menstrual cramps as well as aide in bloating. Simply shave a few slivers of ginger and place into a cup of boiling water with a spoonful of honey and a splash of lemon. Having a mug of homemade ginger tea nightly will help alleviate menstrual pain substantially.

Halloumi salad with fennel, croutons and pomegranate.
Halloumi salad with fennel, croutons and pomegranate.

Another option to help ease cramps is fennel. Fennel contains anethole, which is a compound that helps to ease pain. There are many ways to eat fennel both raw and cooked, and it has a celery-like texture. Slice the fennel into thin pieces and add to a salad. Use the leafy fronds (the top of the fennel) to add to salad. You can also cook chopped fennel and put it in a delicious tomato fennel soup. Roasted fennel is simple, but delicious if you like the liquorice taste.

Cherry tomato and sage pasta.
Cherry tomato and sage pasta.

Another herb that has truly magical qualities is sage. Along with helping menstrual cramps, it also lifts the mood and increases memory. Sage goes well with asparagus and can be added for extra flavour in a variety of Italian pasta sauces. It also pairs well with pineapple. Sage tea also helps with sore throats and in the summer, frozen sage in ice cubes makes a refreshing drink during your menstrual cycle.

Common pain relievers can have negative health side effects for some people, and natural remedies can provide an alternative. By incorporating ginger tea into your evening routine and sage into your pasta sauce, some of the symptoms of cramps may be alleviated. Any solution to helping get rid of cramps is a welcome one, and using herbs is surely a delicious way to get rid of pain.