What is Period Pain?
Period pain is a common experience for most women during their menstrual cycle. It is typically characterised by painful muscle cramps in the abdomen that may spread to the back and thighs. The intensity and frequency of the pain can vary from person to person, and some may experience pelvic pain even outside of their menstrual cycle.
What Causes Period Pain?
Period pain is caused by the muscles in the womb contracting more forcefully than usual during menstruation. This compresses the blood vessels in the womb and temporarily cuts off the oxygen supply, triggering pain.
At the same time, the body produces chemicals called prostaglandins, which further increase the pain by encouraging more muscle contractions.
It’s not clear why some women experience more pain than others, but it may be due to differences in prostaglandin levels.
Period Pain Caused by a Medical Issue
Period pain can be caused by an underlying medical condition and may affect women between the ages of 30 to 45. Some common medical conditions that can cause period pain include:
- Endometriosis: a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows outside of the uterus, causing painful cramps, heavy bleeding, and possible infertility
- Fibroids: noncancerous growths that develop in or around the uterus, often causing heavy menstrual bleeding and pain
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID): an infection of the female reproductive organs, usually caused by a sexually transmitted infection (STI), which can cause severe pain and affect fertility
- Adenomyosis: a condition where the inner lining of the uterus breaks through the muscle wall, leading to painful periods and heavy bleeding
- Ovarian cysts: fluid-filled sacs that develop in the ovaries
- Cervical stenosis: a narrowing of the cervix, which can cause menstrual blood to accumulate in the uterus
- Intrauterine device (IUD) use: some women may experience cramping and heavier periods with an IUD inserted.
It’s important to seek medical attention if you experience severe or worsening period pain or other symptoms, such as excessive bleeding or unusual vaginal discharge, as they may indicate an underlying medical issue.
How Long Does Period Pain Last?
Many women experience period pain when they start bleeding, although some may feel it a few days beforehand. The pain typically lasts for 48 to 72 hours, but it can sometimes continue for longer. It’s usually the most intense when the bleeding is heaviest.
Young girls who just started their periods often experience period pain. You can learn more about starting periods if you’re curious.
If there’s no underlying cause, period pain usually becomes less severe as women get older. Many women also notice that their pain improves after giving birth to children.
Treating Period Pain at Home
When you experience period pain, there are several ways to alleviate it from the comfort of your home:
- Apply heat: Placing a heating pad or hot water bottle on your lower abdomen or lower back can help to relieve pain and discomfort
- Exercise: Gentle exercises like stretching, yoga, or walking can help to ease menstrual cramps and reduce stress
- Over-the-counter pain relief: Medications such as ibuprofen and aspirin can help to alleviate pain and inflammation
- Take a prescription medication: If you’re in severe pain, your GP may prescribe you with a painkiller, such as naproxen
- Relaxation: Deep breathing, meditation, or taking a warm bath can help to reduce stress and ease pain
Feel Better with Healthera
If you’re currently experiencing severe period pain, you may want to take a painkiller to alleviate the discomfort.
Use the Healthera app to order your pain relief directly from your nearby pharmacy for home delivery (or collection).
To begin, click the button below to open (or download) your Healthera app.