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  • What is Period Pain?

    Period pain is also known as dysmenorrhoea. It is a normal part of a woman’s menstrual cycle. The condition is usually felt as painful muscle cramps in the lower abdomen, which can also spread to the back and thighs.
  • What causes Period Pain?

    Uterine contractions cause most of the pain associated with dysmenorrhoea. As the womb contracts, the blood flow to the womb becomes temporarily restricted. This brief lack of blood supply will deprive the womb of oxygen, which in turn causes the release of pain- triggering chemicals.
  • What are the symptoms of Period Pain?

    The main symptoms of period pain are as follows:
    • Aching pain in the abdomen – this pain can present as a dull ache or as a more intense spasm. The pain experienced during period pain can range from mild to severe. The pain can spread to the lower back and inner thighs.
    If the period pain is more severe in nature, other associated symptoms can include:
    • Vomiting
    • An upset stomach
    • Loose stools
    • Headaches
  • How long does Period Pain last?

    Period pain normally begins at the onset of menstruation and generally doesn’t last for more than 2-3 days. The pain is usually at its worst when your bleeding is heaviest.
  • What medicines can I use to treat Period Pain?

    For the majority of sufferers, period pain can be successfully treated at home using over-the-counter painkillers, such as Ibuprofen and Aspirin. However, Ibuprofen and Aspirin should be avoided if you suffer from stomach or kidney problems, or if you have asthma. In these circumstances, Paracetamol would be the suitable alternative. If over-the-counter pain-relief is proving ineffective, your GP can prescribe you a stronger painkiller, such as Naproxen.
    Your doctor may suggest using the combined oral contraceptive pill. These pills can relieve period pain because they reduce the thickness of the womb’s lining. A thinner lining means the womb’s muscles do not have to contract as much in order to shed away your monthly period. The combined contraceptive pill also has the added benefit of reducing the amount of prostaglandins released by the body. Prostaglandins are pain-triggering chemicals.
    If the combined contraceptive pill proves to be unsuitable, contraceptive implants or injections may be a good alternative.
  • What non-medicinal alternatives can I try?

    There are several self-help techniques that can help relieve the symptoms of period pain. These include:
    • Exercise – exercising during a painful period can help reduce the discomfort. Exercise causes the release of endorphins, which help counter the pain triggering effect of prostaglandins.
    • Stop smoking – smoking is believed to increase the risk of suffering from period pain.
    • Heat therapy – applying a heat pad or hot water bottle can help reduce period pain. Always ensure hot water bottles are wrapped in a protective layer.
    • Massage – gentle massage of the lower abdomen can help ease period pain.
    • Relaxation – partaking in relaxing activities can help soothe the discomfort of period pain.
    • Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) – a compact battery powered device that delivers mild electrical currents to the abdomen, which can help relieve pain.
  • Can Period Pain be prevented?

    Sadly, period pain can’t always be prevented. Adopting a healthy lifestyle and practising self-help relaxation techniques is the best method for reducing the occurrences and severity of period pain.
  • Do I need to see my GP about my Period Pain?

    Period pain is perfectly normal. In fact, most women suffer some level of discomfort or pain during menstruation. However, if the cramping becomes severe, or if it is associated with nausea, diarrhoea, or headaches, then it is recommended to see your GP or gynaecologist.
    It is also recommended to speak with your GP should the normal patterns of your periods change significantly. For example, if you periods start to become irregular or heavier than what you are used to. In these circumstances, your doctor will likely run a few tests to check for possible underlying conditions that may be causing the irregular, painful periods. Possible underlying conditions include:
    • Endometriosis
    • Pelvic inflammatory disease
    • Fibroids
    • Adenomyosis
  • Can Period Pain affect my fertility?

    Period pain that’s caused by your natural monthly menstruation won’t affect your fertility. However, if the pain is being caused by an underlying condition, such as endometriosis, then there is a chance fertility may be affected.
  • My Mother suffers from Period Pain, will I suffer the same fate?

    A family history of dysmenorrhoea can increase your risk. However, it can’t always be generalised, meaning there is a chance you won’t suffer the same levels of discomfort. You can actively reduce your risk by following a healthy diet, regular exercise, and practising stress-relieving techniques.

Authored By:

A photo of  Andy Boysan

Andy Boysan


Published on: 29-05-2019

Last modified on: 29-05-2019

Andy is a co-founder, the superintendent pharmacist and director at The Independent Pharmacy.

Reviewed By:

A photo of Dr Donald Grant

Dr Donald Grant

MB ChB DRCOG MRCGP Dip.orth.med

Reviewed on: 29-05-2019

Next review date: 29-05-2021

Dr Don Grant is a GP with over 30 years experience and is the Clinical Advisor at The Independent Pharmacy

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