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Experiencing severe period cramps? It could be a symptom of retrograde menstruation

Retrograde menstruation is when the period flow doesn't move in the right direction. Severe period cramps and painful sex are some of the symptoms of retrograde menstruation.
Know everything about retrograde menstruation. Image courtesy: Adobe stock
Natalia Ningthoujam Published: 24 Nov 2023, 06:30 pm IST
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Retrograde menstruation is a condition in which period blood that has endometrial cells flows backward into the pelvic cavity. It is a common condition that many women experience. In this case, the menstrual blood moves from the uterus into the pelvic cavity instead of exiting the body through the cervix and vagina during periods. Retrograde menstruation is considered a significant factor in the development of endometriosis, which is associated with severe pain during periods. So, here’s what you need to know about the symptoms of retrograde menstruation and how to reduce the risk.

Retrograde menstruation is a condition that 90 percent of women face, as per a 2013 research published in the Yonago Acta Medica journal.

A woman experiencing period pain
Retrograde menstruation is quite common. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

What are the causes of retrograde menstruation?

The exact cause of retrograde menstruation is not entirely understood, but several factors may contribute to this condition, says Dr Bharathi Ramesh, an obstetrician and a gynecologist. These factors include:

1. Genetic predisposition

There may be a genetic component that makes some women prone to retrograde menstruation.

2. Immune system dysfunction

The immune system needs to be strong, not just to keep the common cold at bay. If there are issues with the immune system then it may cause retrograde menstruation.

3. Hormonal factors

Hormonal imbalances could contribute to changes in the endometrial tissue and its ability to properly shed during periods, says the expert.

The backward period flow can lead to implantation of endometrial cells outside the uterus, a condition known as endometriosis. When endometrial cells flow backward and implant themselves outside the uterus, they can grow and form lesions, causing inflammation, pain, and other symptoms associated with endometriosis.

What are the symptoms of retrograde menstruation?

The symptoms of retrograde menstruation are often associated with endometriosis. Some of them are:

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1. Pelvic pain

Immense pain in the pelvic area, especially during periods, is a common symptom of retrograde menstruation.

2. Period cramps

Almost all women experience period cramps every month, but severe menstrual cramps that may be more intense than usual can be a sign of retrograde menstruation.

3. Painful sex

Vaginal dryness can affect your sex life, but there are times when the discomfort and pain during sexual intercourse have got nothing to do with a dry vagina. It can be a symptom of retrograde menstruation.

4. Painful bowel movements or urination

Endometrial implants on the bowels or bladder can cause pain during bowel movements or while you are peeing.

5. Infertility

In some cases, retrograde menstruation and endometriosis can contribute to fertility issues, says Dr Ramesh.

What are the ways to treat or manage retrograde menstruation?

There are over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen that may help to manage pain.

Woman having period pain
Pain relievers may help to manage period pain. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Other options are:

1. Hormonal therapy

Birth control pills, hormone therapy, or other medications may be prescribed to regulate hormonal fluctuations and reduce the growth of endometrial tissue, shares the expert.

2. Surgery

In severe cases, surgery may be recommended to remove endometrial implants and alleviate the symptoms.

3. Fertility treatments

If you experience fertility issues, you may consider assisted reproductive technologies.

Tips to reduce the risk of retrograde menstruation

These measures may contribute to your overall well-being, but the specific prevention of retrograde menstruation and endometriosis is not always within your control, as genetic factors may also play a role. If genes have got nothing to do with the condition, these tips can help.

1. Regular exercise

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise can help to regulate hormonal levels and promote overall well-being.

2. Balanced diet

Eating a balanced diet, and avoiding fatty foods can improve your hormonal balance and overall health, suggests the expert.

3. Avoid excessive stress

Chronic stress can impact hormonal balance, so try out some stress management techniques, as they may be beneficial for you.

If you experience any symptom or concern related to your menstrual health, consult with a doctor, who can help to detect and address any reproductive health issues early.

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About the Author

Natalia Ningthoujam has written on various subjects - from music to films and fashion to lifestyle - as a journalist in her career that started in 2010. After getting stories from the crime scene, police headquarters, and conducting interviews with celebrities, she is now writing on health and wellness which has become her focus area. ...Read More

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