By Suzannah Patterson, Period Pro from the University of Central Florida College of Medicine
If you think your period pain is problematic, it’s time to ask your doctor about it (if you’re not sure, you can learn more HERE). Where do you start? You can make an appointment with your regular primary care doctor or bring it up during your next check-up. NEVER be embarrassed or ashamed to bring up concerns about your period (even if your doctor is a man!). Your physician’s job is to take care of YOU – and that includes menstrual health.
Before you go, there are a few things you can do to prepare for your doctor’s appointment and get the most out of it.
Tracking your menstrual cycles and symptoms is important. You can do that with an app or just write it in your calendar/agenda. Period tracking helps you measure the length of your cycles to make sure they are within the normal range. It will also help you keep track of what symptoms you experience, when they happen, and how long they last. This is all important information for your doctor!
Be ready to answer questions. Most medical visits happen pretty fast, so it can help a lot to be prepared with your answers to common questions doctors ask. How old were you when you began menstruating? How often do you have periods and how long do they normally last? When did your cramps start? When did they worsen? Do you have breakthrough bleeding in between periods? If you are sexually active, do you experience pain with sex? What have you tried doing or using to help the pain? Have women in your family experienced similar symptoms or had medical conditions that affected their periods?
Be ready to ask questions. If you have specific concerns or questions, make sure you write them down and have them with you. Once you’re talking with your doctor, it will be easier to remember your questions and get the answers you deserve if you have them written down.
Your doctor should be able to give you advice on how to improve your period pain or offer treatments that can help. If they suspect something serious, they may want to perform a pelvic exam, lab tests, or an ultrasound to better view your reproductive organs, check for abnormalities, or look for signs of infection.
Let’s talk about one more thing: your doctor should always do their best to take care of you, listen to you, and take your concerns seriously. Sometimes doctors brush off concerns about period pain. If this happens to you, do not be afraid to find a new doctor! You can also schedule an appointment with a gynecologist (a doctor who specializes in caring for women and their reproductive systems). If you are old enough to menstruate, then you are old enough to see a gynecologist, especially if you are experiencing severe symptoms.
It is important that you are an advocate for yourself. An advocate is someone who supports the interests of a certain cause or group – in this case, you must promote what is best for YOU! The bottom line is, you know your body better than anyone else, and you deserve a doctor who believes that too.
What did we learn?
Menstrual cramps and other mild symptoms, from back pain to breast tenderness, are a normal part of periods (ugh). However, these symptoms should only last for a few days and should feel better with Motrin or Aleve, light exercise, heat, or other simple measures.
If you experience severe, lasting period pain or abnormal bleeding, then you need to tell your doctor! Never be embarrassed or ashamed to bring up your concerns about period pain, and if your doctor brushes off your concerns without explanation, then find a new doc.
Your period should NEVER prevent you from going to school, playing sports, and doing the things you love. So be an advocate for yourself, find the care you deserve, and take charge of your menstrual health!
“When I saw a doctor for my abnormal period pain, my concerns were dismissed. I explained that my periods were nauseating and the pain was unbearable, hindering my ability to focus and function. Still, I was told it was normal and to simply take Tylenol. I remember feeling misunderstood and confused. There was a sense of shame that stopped me from pursuing the issue any further. Looking back, I wish I had known how to advocate for myself.” -Anonymous
“I never specifically went to my doctor about period pain, but whenever I had my annual check-up I would mention my symptoms and they would give me suggestions on how to manage them. I always had difference period symptoms, and it was hard to keep track of everything. So my doctor suggested I track my periods in an app. This helped me be mentally prepared for when my period was about to start. My doctor also let me know I could take pain medications and use warm compresses to make me feel better.” -Anonymous