Menstrual pain is common in women of all ages. Menstrual pain is the feeling of cramps you get in your lower belly with your monthly period. This condition is called dysmenorrhea.
Menstrual pain usually isn’t a serious condition. During your teens, your body is growing and changing rapidly. Your body is producing a lot of hormones. One hormone, called prostaglandin, makes your uterus clench, or contract. Some of these contractions can push the uterus against nearby blood vessels, causing pain. As you get older, menstrual cramps usually hurt less. Menstrual pain often goes away after you have a baby.
There are two types of menstrual pain. If your menstrual pain is caused by your period, it is called “primary” dysmenorrhea.
Secondary dysmenorrhea is caused by more serious conditions. Some of those include:
- Adenomyosis, and
- Uterine fibroids
The main symptom of primary menstrual pain is severe menstrual cramps. Other symptoms include:
- Feeling tired
- Feeling sick to your stomach
- Pressure or fullness in your belly, and
- Pain in your hips, legs, and lower back
Usually, these symptoms will go away in two to three days.
To find out why you have menstrual pain, your health care provider will ask you about your periods and your symptoms, and will probably do a pelvic exam.
Most menstrual pain can be treated with over-the-counter medications. These are medications that you can buy without a prescription. These include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or N-SAIDs, like ibuprofen. Naproxen is another popular N-SAID. In some cases, your doctor might also suggest that you try aspirin.
Other treatments, like placing a hot water bottle on your belly or taking a warm bath, may also help you feel better. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco. These substances can make your cramps worse.
If your symptoms don’t get better, your doctor might suggest birth control pills. Birth control pills help your body keep your hormones regular. Before starting birth control pills, your health care provider will need to know about any medical problems you have and any other medications you might be taking. All medicines have potential side effects. Talk with your health care provider about your concerns.
If you still have symptoms after about six months, your health care provider might want to do some tests on your blood and urine. You may also have tests on your uterus and ovaries. Depending on the cause of your menstrual pain and your response to other treatments, you may need surgery.
Things to Remember
- Most menstrual pain gets better as you get older. You may not have any menstrual pain after you have a baby.
- Most menstrual pain can be treated with over-the-counter medications and home treatments. If your symptoms are still bad after 6 months, talk with your health care provider.
- Menstrual pain caused by a more serious condition will require more aggressive treatment, and possibly even surgery.
If you have pain with your monthly period, talk openly with your health care provider about what you’re feeling. Working together with your provider is the best way to get answers and help you feel better.
What We Have Learned
- Menstrual pain is a sign of a serious illness. True or False?
The answer is False. Menstrual pain is usually not a serious condition and is common in women of all ages.
- The main cause of menstrual pain is hormones. True or False?
The answer is True. A hormone called prostaglandin makes your uterus clench, or contract, causing pain.
- Menstrual pain is most often treated with home remedies. True or False?
The answer is True. Over-the-counter medications like ibuprophen or aspirin, as well as putting a hot water bottle on your belly or taking a hot bath can relieve menstrual pain.