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Emma asked...

Stomach pain and periods

Hello, a week after my regular monthly period I am having stomach pains and discharge (brown colour) - not a large amount. A week before my period I also get very sore breasts and tummy pains which go to my side and sometimes lower back. I am booked in to see my doctor and have regular smear tests that are always normal.

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The answer

We are going to explain the menstrual cycle and the symptoms that can be experienced throughout the process and hopefully this will reassure you prior to you seeing your GP.

A woman’s menstrual cycle once established roughly occurs every 28 days but can vary in length from 21 – 32 days between cycles.

The length of the menses can vary from 3 – 7 days.

Ovulation occurs at roughly day 14 of the cycle but will occur sooner if you have a shorter cycle or later if you have a longer cycle. In other words from when you start bleeding approximately 14 days later you will ovulate.

Sometimes women can experience some lower abdominal pain and some light bleeding that lasts 1-2 days when ovulation is occurring and this is due to actual release of the ovum from the mature follicle sac on the ovary. This is sometimes referred to as the Mittelschmerz pain.

The menstrual cycle is a hormonal process involving various hormones including oestrogen and progesterone. It is these hormones that allow the lining of the uterus to thicken, eggs to develop and be released as well as pregnancy to occur. However it is the side effects of these hormones that can lead to symptoms being felt leading up to your next bleed.

The symptoms that women experience are often referred to as ‘Premenstrual Syndrome’ (PMS) Symptoms can include bloating of the abdomen, swollen and tender breasts , food cravings, abdominal pain, change in bowel habits, headaches and nausea.

If symptoms of PMS are severe, bleeding very heavy or other unpleasant symptoms are occurring on a regular basis it is wise to see your GP for assessment to rule out conditions such as Polycystic Ovaries and fibroids or just to discuss analgesia or contraceptive methods to regulate your body.

From what you describe Emma, we would suggest that you are one of the 20% of women who experience Mittelschmerz and one of many who suffer from PMS.

Your GP ,we are sure will take a good history from you and perform some tests to exclude any abnormalities and to help treat any unpleasant side effects of the menstrual cycle. The GP may discuss options such as effective analgesia, forms of contraception to reduce the symptoms you are experiencing . If your GP feels that there is anything abnormal going on then he will refer you to a Gynaecologist for further investigations.

Answered by the Health at Hand nurses  

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