Friday, October 17, 2014

Endometriosis Awareness Campaign

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I may not have the healthiest of lifestyles, I don't exercise a lot, I don't watch my diet strictly,
but I'm quite lucky in the sense that I don't fall sick very often.
Even when everyone around me is down with flu or something, I'm usually the one who's still going strong hahah!

But there's just one thing that my body can never fight - menstrual cramps.
This is one of the biggest problems in my life that leaves me totally helpless, and I absolutely hate that feeling.
At least 1 or 2 days a month, I find myself breaking out in a cold sweat, rolling all over my bed like an bug on fire, wincing in pain.
I can't function normally, I can't be as productive as I'd hope to, I can't get out of my bed to meet anyone, I can't run any errands, and sometimes I can't even submit my work on time because of my cramps :(

I even blacked out twice in my life before because of the pain. Once when I was in school at 15, and another at Downtown East (yes omg, in public!!) when I was 20.
Thankfully on both occasions I didn't fall too hard and injure my head, else I may not even be here typing this right now :/
So I'll usually try schedule my important events away from the week of my period where I stay home to rest,
which may be quite a hassle sometimes, but I don't have much of a choice.

Also, if you follow me on my social media accounts (especially Twitter), you'll probably know when I'm on my period cause I'll always tweet rant about the pain LOL

Growing up, I was always told by adults that period cramps are normal, and that all girls will have to go through this.
But mine always hurts so much (to the extent of fainting), it really doesn't make sense to leave it be and hope for the cramps to magically disappear when I grow older?
Thinking back, I've been suffering from menstrual pain helplessly for the past 10 years already -_- omg what?!

But I recently attended a talk about Endometriosis by Dr Fong Yoke Fai, the Head of the Benign Gynaecology Division in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, NUH,
and then for once, a ton of my questions about period cramps became clearer to me.

Apparently, there ARE logical, scientifically backed up explanations and solutions to menstrual cramps!
They don't just happen out of the blue, causing the kind of intense pain that make you wish you could just rip your uterus out of your body.

I'm obviously not an expert just after listening to Dr Fong's talk, but here're the important bits I gathered from it
and I think it's important for me to share with girls (& guys who know of girls suffering in silence) who are reading this.

What causes menstrual cramps?
During the menstrual cycle, the lining of the womb (in preparation for pregnancy) is being shed, and sometimes the muscular wall of the womb contracts.
This causes the release of chemicals in the body which triggers pain.
Period pain is very common, and up to 75% of women were reported to be suffering from menstrual cramps.

However, when the pain is really severe, it may be a sign of a more serious underlying problem (for example, Endometriosis).
One in five women experience pain so intense that it stops them from doing their daily activities. Yours truly is one of them :(

Endometriosis
Endometriosis is a condition where the tissue that lines inside of the womb (endometrium) is found in areas outside the uterus.
Like a normal endometrium, these tissues also respond to hormones secreted by the ovary, growing and shedding.
However, unlike the tissues in the uterus, this "internal menses" has no way to flush out of the body.
Over time, this can lead to the formation of brownish cysts in the ovaries, or bumps around and on the surface of pelvic organs.
The endometrial tissue may also grow in the muscle layer of the womb wall, causing it to thicken.
This process is called Adenomyosis.

The cause of Endometriosis is unknown, but the most widely accepted theory is the backflow of menstrual blood into the pelvis through the fallopian tubes.

Symptoms
The most common symptoms of Endometriosis includes:
→ Painful and/ or heavy periods
→ Painful intercourse
→ Infertility
→ Pelvic pain not related to menses
→ Pain before, during or after opening bowels
→ Pain before, during or after passing urine
→ Diarrhea, constipation and colic
→ Bleeding from the bowel especially during menses

However, some women with Endometriosis may have none of these symptoms at all.
But just to be on the safe side, it's always better to go for checks once in awhile!

Complications
The main complication of Endometriosis is impaired fertility.
This happens when the endometrium blocks the fallopian tube and keep the egg and sperm from meeting.

So if you're planning to have kids in future, it'll be advisable to seek diagnosis and treatment for Endometriosis at an early age because the condition may worsen with time.

Dr Fong mentioned that are some rare cases of Endometriosis damaging other body organs (such as the kidney) due to the drastic swelling of the ovarian cysts.

He also informed us that Endometriosis affects about 10% of women in the reproductive age group, and it can occur any time from puberty until menopause.
And the whole time in my head I was like "oh crap, I think I'm one of the 10%" because I'm really bothered by my super painful cramps.
For those who may be wondering, Endometriosis is not cancer by the way! (phew~~)

So I'll definitely want to arrange for a doctor's appointment at NUH for a quick check soon,
especially since I'm going to be married soon and I'll want to have a kid or two! :X

Examination
The check for Endometriosis is done through pelvic examination,
and the treatments are targeted to relieve the symptoms (especially period pains), improve fertility and improve our quality of life!

I really can't wait for the day I can completely break free from the painful chains of period cramps!!!

Treatment
There are several treatment options for Endometriosis and they vary due to the age of the patient, her expectations and severity of the condition.
Medicines like pain killers, oral contraceptives and progestogens that help with hormone levels can be of help for Endometriosis at a milder level.
There are also options for implants, injections and even surgery to remove the endometriotic lesions.
I can't tell you which is the best solution because it really depends on the individual's preference and needs, so it'll be advisable for us to speak to our doctors to see which treatment suits us more.

I would really like to thank NuffnangSG and NUH for allowing me to attend this talk by Dr Fong! :D
I really gained a better understanding of my body and am glad that there's an actual explanation for the period pains I've been confused by all this while.
Of course, it's also really comforting to know that there are treatments I can go for IF I were to be diagnosed with Endometriosis :X

On a side note, I was also really impressed by how knowledgeable Dr Fong was from the way he thoroughly answered all our paranoid & panicky doubts after the session.
You can always tell if someone is a good doctor from the way they advise you about your concerns.
Good doctors provide different treatment options based on the patients' needs and preference, instead of hard selling specific treatments! :D

Long gone are the days when females remain ignorant and suck it up when we're in pain.
It's time we take control of our menstrual cramps and not let it lord over our schedules!!
Millions suffer in silence, don't let it be you!

If you're keen in going for a check-up for Endometriosis like me too,
you can contact
NUH Women's Clinic
Kent Ridge Wing 2, Level 3
Tel/Appointment: 6772 2255 or 6772 2277
Email: Womens_clinic@nuhs.edu.sg
Website: www.nuhgynae.com.sg


As a reward for making it this far down my long naggy post, here are some of my personal tips on dealing with period cramps, plus some I gathered from brochures haha!

1. Eating Chocolates
This really helps better my mood when I'm all frustrated from my cramps, and it's great as a momentary distraction before my body tires out and falls asleep eventually :P
Drinking hot chocolate or Milo helps too!


2. Heat
I like to use glass bottles and fill it up with hot water, wrap a small towel around it and place it on my tummy.
I find that this really aids in easing the pain. And when the hot water cooled down a bit (and doesn't burn), I'll just remove the towel and place the glass bottle directly on my skin so I can use the water for a longer time hahah!
You can also buy those heat pads but I personally prefer my hot water bottles~



3. Sleeping in Aircon
As mentioned above, I always end up having cold sweat when I'm having my cramps, and the additional sticky feeling from my perspiration definitely doesn't make me feel any better.
Which is why on the first few days of my period, I'll choose to blast my aircon and have a really comfortable blanket with me so I can fall asleep comfortably and hopefully sleep through my cramps.


4. Exercise
I read on from a patient education brochure about menstrual cramps that gentle exercising (walking, cycling etc) can actually help reduce the pain.
I'll definitely need to try and see if this works, if my body allows me to even get out of my bed haha!

(hahah my boyfriend and I laughed so badly when I was trying to pose for this photo)

5. Relaxation Techniques
Also from the patient education brochure, Yoga and Pilates are recommended to help distract you from pain and discomfort!

6. Medication
When all else above fails, I'll turn to medication to stop the pain as my last resort.
There are over-the-counter pain relievers like our usual Pink Panadol, and also other alternatives such as NSAIDS and Arcoxia.

Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS) such as Ponstan & Synflex are effective in reducing menstrual cramps but these drugs are often associated with gastric side effects.
Plus they also need to be taken 2 to 3 times a day for effective pain relief.
Arcoxia is highly effective in reducing menstrual cramps, and it works like NSAIDS
Good news is it is associated with LOWER risk of gastric side effects than the former, it's fast-acting and you only need to take it once a day :)
(image credit to google)

If you are suffering from menstrual cramps every month, consult your GP for ways to control your cramp and don't let menstrual pain steal your days!
If you have any other tips for period cramps, feel free to leave a comment below cause I'll really appreciate it!I hate my cramps so much, I'm willing to try anything to get rid of period cramps hahah! Thank you for reading, love you all!

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