What causes period pain?
When you are having your period, your uterus (womb) sheds the lining it has prepared ready for conception. Substances called prostaglandins trigger contractions in the uterus to help it expel the lining. Severe period pains are usually caused by higher levels of prostaglandins.
Although many women experience some degree of period pain, one in five women suffers from dysmenorrhea, or painful periods, to the point where they can interfere with her life. According to Professor John Guillebaud, Professor of Reproductive Health at University College London, in some women, menstrual cramping can even feel “as bad as having a heart attack.” For women who suffer with very painful periods, there are options available to help them manage their symptoms.
Period pain can be:
- A cramping or throbbing in your lower abdomen.
- Intense painful spasms.
- A dull ache.
- Pain in your back and thighs.
Some women can also feel sick, suffer from diarrhoea and/or headaches. The symptoms may also vary from cycle to cycle.
Conditions that may make period pain worse
Although for many women some period pain is normal, there are some medical conditions which may cause severe pain. These include:
Endometriosis: where the lining of the uterus starts to implant in places other than your uterus, usually your ovaries, fallopian tubes or pelvic lining.
Uterine fibroids: these are benign (meaning non-cancerous ) muscular growths in the wall of the uterus.
Adenomyosis: a condition in which the lining of the uterus starts to grow into the muscles of the uterus wall.
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID): an inflammation which can be caused by a sexually transmitted infection.
Cervical stenosis: A condition where the cervical opening is too small to allow menstrual flow to escape properly, causing a painful build-up of pressure in the uterus.