All women experience their menstrual cycle differently. However, one thing most can expect each month is period pain, which is caused by contraction of the muscles in the uterus.
Period pain – also known as dysmenorrhoea – is different for everyone, and can include cramping or heaviness in the pelvic area, as well as pain in the lower back, stomach or legs. These symptoms can result in lethargy, nausea, vomiting, paleness, diarrhoea or loose bowels
Period pain is very common and can usually be managed with over-the-counter painkillers and other management techniques such as heat packs and massage. However, for some women, period pain can be far more severe.
Normally, pain should only last for the first few days of your period, and should be manageable with period pain killers, and other management techniques. If your period pain is not manageable through these means, continues for longer than a few days, or is so debilitating that it affects your day-to-day life (meaning you can’t go to work or school, or go out), then it may be considered abnormal. In this case you should get in touch with your gynaecologist.
There are two types of period pain: primary and secondary.
• Primary dysmenorrhoea is what most women experience, where there is no underlying condition in the uterus. Pain is caused by contractions of the muscles in the uterus to dislodge the thickened lining.
• Secondary dysmenorrhea is pain that is caused by an underlying condition affecting the uterus. This is more common in older women. Aside from painful periods, there may be other symptoms that point towards a condition, such as heavy bleeding and pain during intercourse.
Secondary dysmenorrhea may be caused by several conditions, including:
• Endometriosis: Endometriosis is condition where the innermost layer of the uterus – the endometrium – grows outside of it, causing painful adhesions on the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes and bowel.
• Adenomyosis: Adenomyosis where the endometrium grows into the muscle of the uterus.
• Fibroids: Fibroids, also known as myomas or leiomyomas – are benign tumours that can appear on the uterus during a woman’s childbearing years.
• Cervical stenosis: Cervical stenosis is the narrowing of the opening to the uterus.
• PID: Pelvic inflammatory disease – abbreviated as PID – is an infection of the upper part of the female reproductive system namely the uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries and the inside of the pelvis.
• Sexually transmitted infections.
• Stress and fatigue.
• Applying a heat pack to help relax the muscles around the uterus
• Gentle exercise to help release endorphins
• Pain relief medication
• The contraceptive pill
• Complementary therapies such as acupuncture
• Yoga and other stretching activities
• Massaging the area
• Soak in a warm bath
Treatment for secondary dysmenorrhea will depend on the underlying issue. If you are experiencing painful periods and normal management methods such as painkillers, a heat pack or relaxation techniques are ineffective, you should make an appointment with your gynaecologist.
You should also see your gynaecologist if you are experiencing severe pelvic pain, increased vaginal discharge, clots in your menstrual discharge, or pain outside your period.
Investigation and diagnosis will usually entail questions about your health, blood tests, examination of your cervix and vagina, a pelvic ultrasound, or surgical examination to find the cause of the pain.
If you have any questions regarding irregular or painful periods, or would like to book an appointment, please don’t hesitate to give us a call. We will strive to offer advice and compassionate care in every way possible.