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Chinese tennis player Zheng Qinwen, 19, was on the path to victory against world number one women’s tennis player, Iga Swiatek, as they played their fourth round match in the French Open on May 30. However, her dreams soon crashed and she blamed the excruciating menstrual cramps that she experienced. Qinwen took a medical time out at 3-0 down in the second, had her back massaged and came back with her right thigh strapped. She soon lost the match and in the press conference later, she asserted, “I wish I can be a man on court, but I cannot in that moment…I really wish I can be (a) man (so) that I don’t have to suffer from this.”
Well, until a few years ago, female athletes did not prefer to speak about their periods or menstrual cramps on a public platform. But as athletes are now opening up about it, it is quite certain that it isn’t easy to be running a marathon while on your periods.
Also, read: Ever wondered how female athletes manage their periods? Let’s find out
For women, in general, the first 14 days of the menstrual cycle when the egg is building up, also called the follicular phase, is when they have to be careful. In the case with athletes, they are at higher risk of getting tissue injuries, including tears of the anterior cruciate ligament in the knee.
When the uterus contracts to shed its lining, the contractions are triggered by hormone-like substances called prostaglandins. People with higher levels of this hormone suffer from more severe menstrual cramps. However, sometimes it may be a symptom of an underlying medical condition.
“If period cramps start interfering with your work and life, then it is surely time to consult a doctor because it could be because of some other underlying condition. In this case, if an athlete is not able to exercise or take part in a tournament, it could be a sign of fibroids, endometriosis, or even pelvic inflammatory disease, birth control devices etc. If there’s excessive bleeding and it’s causing a problem, it should definitely be checked,” Dr Shelly Singh, Senior Consultant, Gynecologist, Rosewalk Hospital, told HealthShots.
In fact, the expert says it’s a myth that women should just keep resting and not move around doing their business as usual during periods.
“Traditionally, people think that we should rest but actually, if you keep moving or exercising even during the periods or doing some form of yoga, it helps you to relieve the period cramps,” Dr Singh added.
Also, read: Wondering if you can exercise during periods? Mirabai Chanu is the inspiration you need
The first and foremost is healthy exercise and diet along with reduced stress. Over-the-counter painkillers can be used in case of excruciating pain.
“Use a heating pad, avoid fried/spicy food, limit alcohol, caffeine and aerated drinks. Instead, have soothing drinks like chamomile tea, mint tea or you can try having fennel seeds or cinnamon. All these are natural ways to reduce menstrual cramps. Last but not the least, do not sit over it and think. Every woman goes through menstrual cramps. Instead, find the reason behind it and get it fixed by making lifestyle changes,” Dr Singh signed off.
Each woman’s body is different, and all of us, including athletes, should not ignore the warning signs.
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