|Disclaimer: This article is for information only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice. Always seek the guidance of your doctor with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition.|
Period pain is also known as ‘Dysmenorrhea’ which means ‘Painful monthly bleeding’ in Greek. Period pain is very real and is a common problem that affects many biological women. Not everyone experiences it the same way though. It can be severe, debilitating and reduce quality of life, but it's usually treatable if you take action and seek medical help. In this article we will discuss what the different types of period pain are and why they occur.
There are two key different types of period pain: primary dysmenorrhoea which occurs normally when menstruating (periods) and secondary dysmenorrhoea which tends to occur later in life and is usually due to an underlying problem such as pelvic infection or endometriosis.
During your period, prostaglandins (a chemical released) causes the wall of your womb to start to contract vigorously to help shed its lining – your period.
These contractions can compress (put pressure on) nearby blood vessels which line the womb. This cuts off the blood supply temporarily which likewise deprives the womb of oxygen (as the blood supplies the body with Oxygen). Without oxygen, chemicals are released which causes pain.
This pain can range from mild to severe – enough to make you stop what you're doing for a while.
It's not known why some women experience more pain than others. It may be to do with an increased sensitivity to the prostaglandins, increased levels of prostaglandins or build up of them which cause stronger contractions.
There are two different types:
Primary dysmenorrhoea is a form of period pain that starts before or at your period and may last for several days. It usually starts in the lower abdomen and can be mild to severe. The pain can be accompanied by nausea and diarrhoea.
It's normal for your period to be different each month and there are many reasons why this happens—it could be a change in your hormones, stress levels during the month or even a lifestyle factor like diet changes. Much of this we have no control over, but there are some lifestyles which have been shown to cause increased period pain or less period pain on average. Everyone is different when it comes to period pain – some people experience it below their belly button, others in their back or thighs.
Secondary dysmenorrhoea, unlike primary dysmenorrhoea, is not normal and should be taken seriously. It includes conditions such as endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease and fibroids. One of the key signs of secondary as opposed to primary dysmenorrhoea is when the period cramps get worse with age and last for longer each period.
There are several possible causes of secondary dysmenorrhoea:
- Endometriosis – where the tissues that normally line the inside of your womb grow outside it. This tissue acts like the tissue inside of it, and sheds layers, but because it has no way to leave the body, it gets rapped and builds up. This can cause serious pain, bleeding between periods, pain with intercourse, excessively heavy menstrual flows, pain with urination or bowel movements and infertility. The most common sign of endometriosis is when you have a painful period that makes you miss school, work or be unable to do your normal daily activities. Period cramps should not be painful enough to interrupt your daily life. Effective treatments exist, so if you have this please seek medical help.
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection of reproductive organs which is a complication of some sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s) for example gonorrhea or chlamydia. Symptoms include pain in your lower abdomen, unusual smelly discharge from your vagina, pain or bleeding during sex, bleeding between periods or a fever. You are at a higher risk of PID if you have an untreated STD, have multiple sex partners, your partner has multiple sex partners, douche or are sexually active. PID can be treated if caught early, but can cause long term reproductive issues if not caught early – so make sure to get treatment fast if you suspect you have it.
So hopefully now you understand more about what causes period pain! For period pain relief, over the counter painkillers such as ibuprofen or aspirin are helpful. Otherwise other more natural remedies such as drinking a lot of water, heat, exercise and a healthy diet can also help relieve your pain.
If you are concerned, talk to your doctor about any underlying health problems that might be causing your pain.