Women’s Health , period pain and IBS.

Article by Sian



Many women who suffer period pain liken the pain of Irritable Bowel Syndrome to period cramps.



IBS can occur at any time, however, where as menstrual cramps are limited to certain days of the woman's cycle.

I am certainly not the only woman to wonder whether their pains are gynecological or bowel-related and it was something I asked my doctors about many years ago.


IBS or dysmenorrhea? Endometriosis? Pelvic Inflammatory Disease?
There are certain conditions associated with the menstrual bleed, such as dysmenorrhea, characterized by severe uterine pain, described as anything from burning to knife-like, and spreading into the thighs, which women may not realize they have.

It may be accompanied by very heavy bleeding, menorrhagia. I have certainly experienced both, although I have never been diagnosed with dysmenorrhea.

It is interesting to me to note that after having the Mirena IUD fitted last year, which is a no-bleed device, those intense pains, as well as the bleeding, of course, have been much less frequent. However, I still suffer from IBS.

Irritable Bowel
I mentioned to a doctor years ago that my Irritable Bowel was much worse in the first few days of a period, characterized by diarrhea, and such cramps that I was uncertain if they were IBS or period pain.

He had specialized in gynaecology and explained to me that women were so closely 'packed together down there' that the bowels, bladder and reproductive organs could all be affected by one another, and that diarrhea and heavy periods were very common.

An O.R. nurse who has been able to look inside, so to speak, confirmed that in any operation such as removal of ovarian cysts, or a bladder operation, the surgeons are always especially careful since the intestines are in such close proximity.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease is caused when micro-organisms find their way into the reproductive organs from the vagina, and may be caused by childbirth, the termination of pregnancy, or, it is thought, after a change of sexual partner.

This infection cause’s pain in one side or both sides of the lower abdomen and is sometimes accompanied by fever, vaginal discharge, heavy periods, discomfort and period pain.

A doctor can make an examination to see if there is any tenderness, and the disease can also be diagnosed by a blood test.

A laparoscopy may be performed and samples taken from the neck of the womb to identify the micro organism responsible for the infection.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease is treated easily with antibiotics.


Endometrosis.Endometrosis is a condition where cells from the woman's uterus, or endometrium, grow elsewhere in the pelvic area.

They can cause cysts, blockages, severe period pain and pain outside menstruation.

The condition may be characterized by heavy periods, pain during sexual intercourse, fatigue, allergic reactions, intense pelvic pain, bowel problems, and may affect the likelihood of a successful pregnancy.

On researching this chronic condition, I was surprised to see that there seem to be many unanswered questions as to the cause, some researchers citing environmental pollution and PCB's, while others believe it may be some form of immune system disorder.

It has apparently been the cause of many hysterectomies.

The condition is confirmed by a laparoscopy, and the tissue can be removed, although it appears this may grow back, as menstrual matter may back up through the fallopian tubes and grow.

It is certainly a condition that can be debilitating, painful and heartbreaking for a woman who has it and whose fertility is affected.


For more information on these conditions and many others which can affect women, this website is run by a lady called Marianne who has first-hand experience of living and coping with a debilitating illness. There is a great deal of helpful and sympathetic information, and a wonderful sense of not having to deal with these issues alone.


Irritable Bladder
Irritable bladder is caused by the involuntary contraction of the bladder wall which causes an urge to urinate and sometimes leakage.

I have myself been diagnosed with this and told by my GP that it can occur after a bladder infection.

I have a history of UTI's (Urinary Tract Infections), but have also found that a spasm of IBS may be accompanied by a period of irritable bladder.


Similar Symptoms to Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
The above symptoms of dysmenorrhea, Pelvic Inflammatory Disease and Endometrosis are all very similar to those of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and I am sure women like me end up almost in despair not knowing 'what' is causing the pain and diarrhea. In my own case, it has been impossible to tell what is period pain and what is IBS at the time of menstruation.

I have tested negative for Pelvic Inflammatory Disease and the doctors have not believed I needed a test for endometrosis.

However, any woman who believes that they may suffer from one of the above should discuss it with her GP, as the procedures to determine them are quite simple.

I have accepted that my IBS is worse during the time of menstruation, although that makes it no easier.

Since being fitted with a Mirena IUD (Intra Uterine Device), I have less period pain and as it is no-bleed my periods have almost completely stopped.

There has, however, been speculation that women fitted with IUD's are more prone to infection, and an IUD must be checked by a doctor every six months, and any symptoms such as pain during intercourse, vaginal discharge or pelvic pain should be reported to a GP.

I do still suffer IBS however, which although exacerbated by menstruation is not, in my case, caused by it.





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