Learning how to talk to your doctor about period pain is essential. It’s crucial because no one takes period pain seriously. At least, that’s been my experience. I struggled with painful periods for most of my life, and no one believed I was experiencing the pain I did. It wasn’t until my mid-thirties that I was able to get answers. And to my misfortune, it cost me an ovary and left behind a nasty scar to remind me of the inefficiencies of the medical system. However, this experience taught me one thing: knowing how to talk to medical professionals and advocate for your health so you’re taken seriously.
Tracking Symptoms Of Period Pain
Talking about period pain with your doctor requires being detailed and concise. That’s why before you step into the doctor’s office, you must come prepared with as much information as possible. Hence why tracking your symptoms is imperative. You can track symptoms in various ways, whether it’s charting your cycle via the symptothermal method, using a cycle tracking app, or a symptom log. Whichever method you choose, ensure you keep track of symptoms you’re experiencing throughout your monthly cycle and on your period.
Some key metrics you’ll want to pay attention to include cycle length, period duration, and extreme symptoms experienced during your period (i.e., nausea, vomiting, diarrhea). Additionally, you’ll want to note the intensity of your cramps and where you feel them. For example, it’s common to experience spasms in the lower abdomen, pelvis, lower back, and legs. Another side effect of painful periods includes heavy menstrual flow, so you’ll want to keep a record of this.
Discuss Health History During Your Appointment
The next step is to schedule the appointment and meet with your doctor. When scheduling, you should tell them that period pain is the main reason you’re coming to see them. Avoid booking a well-woman exam or pap smear since those appointments take time away from discussing specific issues and can feel rushed. Instead, you want to spend your time wisely and focus on your painful periods, and if an exam is needed, they will recommend one.
During the appointment, discuss your health history and be as transparent as possible, providing all available information you have. For example, start by disclosing the family history of painful periods or conditions like endometriosis, adenomyosis, or other genetic conditions that may contribute to period pain and menstrual irregularities.
Next, proceed to share your personal menstrual history. Tell the doctor when you first began menstruation, your typical cycle length, how heavy your blood flow is if you notice blood clots, and the intensity of your cramps. Additionally, when talking about cramp intensity, you’ll want to share medications you’ve taken, how cramps have disrupted your life, and if the pain became so great that you had to visit the emergency room. This information provides context about the extremity of your period pain.
Furthermore, you’ll find it beneficial to share how long this has been occurring for you. Doing so will establish a history of symptoms and let them know it’s a longstanding issue. Additionally, alert them of any changes you’ve recently noticed, such as symptoms increasing in intensity or if new symptoms are beginning to emerge.
Lastly, you’ll want to share your treatment history. What remedies have you tried? Did you seek help from a doctor before this appointment? Are there things that help ease the pain, such as medications, heat pads, or alternative therapies? If none of the above has provided relief, let them know this.
Use Clear, Descriptive Words And Phrases
When talking about period pain, it’s essential to explicitly describe the intensity of your period pain. For example, avoid using general statements about your period pain when describing your cramps, such as “it hurts a lot.” Such phrases do little to explain your period’s debilitating effect on you. Instead, use terms such as knife-like cramps in the abdomen, radiating pain from the pelvis to the lower back, burning sensation from the lower back to legs, or sharp, throbbing pain in the lower abdomen.
In addition to using powerfully descriptive phrases, elaborate on how this pain interferes with daily life. For example, let them know that the pain is so intense that you’re nauseous and vomit for days at a time. Tell them how often you must miss work or school because of your period pain. Share with them about the period pain making it difficult for you to participate in daily activities because medications don’t work. And share with them that if your blood flow is so heavy, you soak through pads and tampons every hour.
Being descriptive and illustrating how your symptoms decrease the quality of your life makes you more credible in their eyes. Thus, making it easier for them to understand how disruptive and painful your periods are.
Communicate Ideal Goal for Treatment
As you talk with your doctor about period pain, you must communicate your purpose and goal of seeking help. For example, share how you want to increase your quality of life, so you can avoid missing work or school so much. Ask them about the possibility of underlying conditions contributing to these issues and if you can take a screening, blood, or imaging test.
Lastly, inquire about treatment options and what they’d look like for you. What non-invasive treatments are available? What do they recommend? Is the birth control pill an appropriate action if there’s a possibility for an underlying condition that hasn’t been diagnosed? Would medications help reduce period pain until proper diagnosis and treatment are found?
Ask in-depth questions and clarify that you’re determined to find answers, but you need their help. It would help if you struck a balance as diligent yet respectful of their expertise so as not to offend or overstep your reach as a patient.
Get A Second Opinion
If all else fails and your doctor refuses to talk about period pain with you and validate your concerns, get a second opinion. Don’t waste your time seeking help from a doctor who has proven dismissive and unreliable. Instead, continue tracking your symptoms as you research and investigate other, more qualified doctors to help you get answers.
Talking about period pain with your doctor can be overwhelming and intimidating. I know from personal experience. However, it’s important to advocate for yourself in these instances because your health is essential. And many underlying conditions can cause debilitating period pain, and when left untreated, they begin to progress and increase complications. So, when dealing with a doctor who doesn’t want to help or listen to you, don’t hesitate to move on and find one who will. It may take time to find a doctor that’s willing to listen and work with you. But, with persistence and determination, you can get appropriate care and find solutions to your pain and symptoms.