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All through my adolescence I had terrible cramps a week before and a few days WOULD A BABY into my period. I was put on Demerol and my doctor told me that the pain would EASE THE PAIN? go away after I had a baby. I went to work instead of having a baby and another doctor gave me Darvon. So I took painkillers a long time, and finally, I did get married and gave birth to two children. Now I'm thirty years old, and my periods are a little better, but I still have pain. Also, I find that I come down with colds and flu right around the time I menstruate. Is something wrong with me?


Lake Placid, New York

Many women have said that doctors have told them that after they have babies they'll feel better. Sometimes after she has a child a woman feels more sanguine during her period because her uterus has relaxed, her cervix is more open, and the prostaglandin-containing blood exits easily. However, some women produce high levels of prostaglandins and having babies is not going to change that. After the birth of her child, a woman who has high prostaglandins will begin to feel exactly as she did before her pregnancy. Menstrual cramps will return. Also, as a woman gets older, hormonal changes may bring on more pain. Anything can happen.

Neither before nor after a woman has a child should she be treated with painkillers for menstrual cramps. Doctors must begin to treat the causes of the problem rather than the symptoms. Again, drugs that will block the production of prostaglandins should help. Midol might be used at first, and if that doesn't have an effect on the pain, then Motrin or Anaprox or Ponstel are alternatives. These drugs are not sedatives, and you will not become fatigued and have to lose work or let your children run the household.

As for the question of whether a woman is more susceptible to colds and flu around the time of menstruation, the answer is, yes, she may be. Due to hormonal changes, a woman often experiences stress just before her period, and increased stress produces more steroids, hormones secreted by the adrenal glands. The steroids weaken the immune system which normally fights disease, and a woman may not be able to fend off a rampant virus that's spreading the flu, herpes, a seasonal cold. Vitamins, especially vitamins A and B6, and good nutrition are important for strengthening the immune system at this time.


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