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Dr Tariq Miskry, Consultant Gynaecologist & Obstetrician
Menstrual cramps can be a pain (literally)! Learn all you need to know about dealing with your symptoms.
Period pain or menstrual cramps are something most women face each month. Usually, they’re not a bad thing. They are a sign that your body is starting another healthy menstrual cycle. But it’s helpful to understand exactly what is happening in your body.
Usually, period pain is mild. But sometimes you can experience severe period pain. The pains can vary from sharp stabs that make you double over to a nagging pain that spreads through your belly and lower back. Some women also experience dizziness, nausea, diarrhoea or vomiting. Severe period pain is called dysmenorrhea.
There are two types of period pains: primary and secondary, so two reasons for those painful periods.
This is a big word for common menstrual pains caused by your monthly cycle, not disease. You may feel mild to severe period pain in your lower abdomen, back and thighs. It starts right before your period and usually lasts between 12-72 hours. This kind of dysmenorrhea is more common in young women and often gets less severe from the mid-20s onwards and after giving birth.
This type of dysmenorrhea is usually caused by a disorder in a woman's reproductive organs. Some of these conditions include endometriosis, fibroids, cysts or infections. It can also be caused by using an intrauterine device (IUD), which is a form of contraceptive. The pain usually starts earlier in the menstrual cycle and lasts longer than primary dysmenorrhea.
Scientists think that period pains are related to prostaglandins – a substance your uterus (womb) makes – that causes the uterus to contract. The cramping feeling is your uterus contracting.
At the start of your period, your prostaglandin levels are high, and as you start to menstruate, the levels decrease.
There are lots of natural ways to manage your period pain, and many medicinal options, too. Here are 5 great ways to tackle your painful periods.