Every beginning is difficult. And also the start of your menstruation can go hand in hand with pain and other complaints. But does this automatically mean something is wrong? Or is it just a case of start-up problems?
For most girls, the menarche (first menstruation) isn’t really a cause for celebration. Apart from all the other puberty issues, like acne, breasts, pubic hair and falling in love for the first time, you now also have to deal with monthly blood loss. Which most likely is accompanied by tummy pain, cramps, mood swings, tiredness, a craving for sweet (chocolate) or salt (crisps), etc. Not nice at all. But is it a reason to worry? Not always.
Girls on their period are ill! Or not?
Nowadays, there’s more conversation about menstruation. And that’s a great step forward. Because until recently, your period and any complaints it might have caused were supposed to stay hidden. What do you mean, you’re feeling unwell? Stop moaning. Off you go, time for school. Now we’re speaking about the subject more often and in a normal way, the scales seem to have been tipped in the other direction. You’re in pain! You can’t function! Shouldn’t you be on menstrual leave, girl? In an article on the Dutch website Scholieren.com, for example, student Melissa claims that girls are really ill when they’re on their period. She’s asking for some more understanding, because: ‘If somebody has broken her leg, you wouldn’t tell her to stop moaning either, would you?’
Forcing girls who can’t even walk upright because they’re suffering from cramps to join in physical education classes, is definitely not a good thing. It’s always a smart idea to listen to your body. But what’s suddenly overlooked, is that menstruating is actually a sign of good health. Your body is strong enough to deal with a pregnancy (although you probably don’t want to think about that yet). Everything is functioning the way it’s supposed to. Also important to realise: very few adolescents immediately have a perfect and pain free cycle of exactly 28 days. Start-up problems actually happen quite a lot.
From the 40 years you’re menstruating, only about 15-20 years everything runs like clockwork
It’s completely normal to experience more pain or have a heavier menstruation in the early days. That’s because the hormonal system isn’t yet functioning the way it should. The menstrual cycle is an incredibly complicated railway map with all kinds of junctions, switches and signals. When looking at the timetable, a wrong switch seems almost unavoidable. A punctual schedule just isn’t achievable in the beginning.
Hormones not being entirely in balance can for example cause anovulation. Because the ovaries haven’t released an egg, there isn’t a real menstruation. Due to the absence of ovulation, the uterine lining keeps building which leads to a heavy and often painful bleeding that seems to last forever. The same can happen in the premenopause. For the same reason, only then it’s not start-up problems, but winding down problems. From the average 40 years you’re menstruating, only about 15-20 years everything really runs like clockwork.
1 in every 10 women has endometriosis. In other words: 9 in 10 women don’t have it
It’s of course possible that something is wrong. The numbers speak for themselves: 1 in every 10 women has endometriosis for example. But that also means that the large majority – 9 out of 10 – don’t have endometriosis. That 1 in 4 women suffers from PMS, means that 75% get through the time between ovulation and menstruation without any noteworthy psychological or physical complaints. Same goes for menorrhagia (heavy menstrual bleeding) that affects 1 in every 5 women. In other words: 4 in every 5 women do not suffer from heavy blood loss.
Menstruating doesn’t have to be problematic. A menstruating women is perfectly able to do her job, even if she’s an astronaut. Being on your period isn’t automatically a reason to feel sorry for yourself and stay at home on the couch with a hot water bottle – sometimes it actually helps to do some sports. The endorphins you release when exercising make you feel better. However, if you continuously suffer from menstrual complaints, don’t ignore them! Instead, visit a doctor.
To all the young girls who are currently struggling with tummy ache every month: courage! There’s a big chance these are just start-up problems and the complaints will pass. It sucks right now, but it might get better soon. Your hormones are working hard to interact together. Sometimes something goes wrong, which leads to painful and heavy menstruations. But this also means you’re becoming a woman, and that everything is probably functioning the way it’s supposed to. So yes, the menarche is definitely a time for celebration.