What We Want You to Know About Painful Periods

What We Want You to Know About Painful Periods

Some cramping around your periods is to be expected, but millions of women deal with debilitating pain that takes them out of action for a few days each month. Here’s what we want you to know.

You dread the arrival of your period each month thanks to painful menstrual cramps that are far more than just a minor discomfort. 

More than half of women who menstruate experience cramps for a day or two during each period, and this is perfectly normal. For those who have dysmenorrhea — the medical term for painful periods — the discomfort reaches an entirely different level — one that makes curling up in bed the only course of action.

Although this is certainly one way to handle pelvic pain due to painful periods, the team of board-certified OB/GYNs here at Bay Area Physicians for Women’s Health wants to recommend another path, starting with reading this blog post.

What’s behind your menstrual cramps

Let’s first review why women experience cramping during their menstrual cycles. When you ovulate, your uterus prepares to receive a fertilized egg by making the endometrial lining thicker. When the egg doesn’t arrive, your uterus sheds out the lining to prepare for a new cycle. 

To facilitate this shedding out, your body produces a chemical called prostaglandin, which causes your uterus to contract. These contractions help to expel the extra blood that was lining your uterus, which can lead to cramping, especially during the first day or two of your period.

Beyond normal menstrual cramps

As you might imagine, everyone has a different tolerance toward pain, so defining painful periods is somewhat subjective. In many cases, dysmenorrhea describes pain that's debilitating and that interferes with your ability to function normally,

As well, many women with dysmenorrhea also experience other symptoms, such as:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Diarrhea
  • Headaches

These symptoms can start a few days before your period and persist through your period.

Is your dysmenorrhea primary or secondary?

The first thing we do when we have a patient who’s experiencing painful periods is to determine whether the issue is primary or secondary. 

With primary dysmenorrhea, the painful periods have been there from the start, and they’re usually caused by high levels of prostaglandins, which lead to abnormal contractions.

With secondary dysmenorrhea, the painful periods begin sometime after puberty and haven’t always been a part of the landscape. In these cases, they’re most likely the result of other issues, such as endometriosis or pelvic inflammatory disease.

Getting relief for your painful periods

Once we figure out what’s driving your painful periods, we take steps to make you more comfortable. With primary dysmenorrhea, this may come down to hormonal controls of your ovulation, but this isn’t a great solution if you're trying to get pregnant since it prevents ovulation.

If you’d rather not use birth control to address your painful periods, we recommend relying on nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications that target prostaglandins and their effects.

If your painful periods are caused by an underlying condition, we get to work on resolving that issue so that your menstrual cycles are more normal again.

Ultimately, we believe that painful cramping isn't something you should just grit your teeth and bear. We feel it’s best to have us check you out so that we can get you on the road to more normal periods.

To get started, please contact our office in Mobile, Alabama, to schedule an appointment.