In many cases, this pain is normal, but if it’s so bad that you’re missing work, school, regular activities, or cannot get out of bed, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor. Here are a few questions to be prepared to ask your OB-GYN, so you can get the information you need.
1. Is my pain abnormal?
Usually, period pain is caused by primary dysmenorrhea. This is known as menstrual cramps and is completely normal. This condition often begins in teenage years and becomes less frequent in adulthood.
If your pain is so severe that it impedes your everyday life and prevents you from going to work or school, it may be caused by secondary dysmenorrhea. This means that there’s an underlying cause of the pain that may need further treatment. Often, it’s a disorder in the reproductive organs.
2. What could be causing the pain?
If primary dysmenorrhea (menstrual cramping) is to blame, it’s caused by an excess of prostaglandins. These are hormones that control the female reproductive system. As many as 50% of women who menstruate suffer from this condition.
If the problem is secondary dysmenorrhea (something other than menstrual cramps), the pain could be caused by a number of disorders:
Endometriosis is caused when tissue—similar to the type that grows inside your uterus—grows outside the uterus. It could be growing on the outer wall of the uterus, on the ovaries, or elsewhere in the pelvic region. This tissue sheds every month just like the wall of the uterus, causing symptoms, such as severe pelvic pain, infertility, and excessive bleeding.
Another possible disorder is adenomyosis. This condition is caused when tissue that normally grows on the walls of the uterus grows in the muscle of the uterus. Possible symptoms of adenomyosis include heavy bleeding or bleeding between periods, passing blood clots, and sharp, knife-like pelvic pain.
Uterine fibroids could be another cause of secondary dysmenorrhea. Fibroids are noncancerous tumors that grow on the inner wall of the uterus and can cause period pain and heavy bleeding. Some other symptoms include urinary incontinence, an enlarged abdomen, and anemia.
3. How can the pain be treated?
Primary dysmenorrhea can usually be treated with anti-inflammatory medicine such as Ibuprofen. Sometimes exercising or using a heating pad also helps. If the pain still persists, your doctor can prescribe birth control pills.
Depending on the cause of secondary dysmenorrhea, there are a number of options. Endometriosis and adenomyosis can be treated with birth control pills or hormone therapy. In extreme cases, surgery may be required.
Uterine fibroids can be treated in a number of ways. Depending on the severity of symptoms, your doctor may prescribe hormonal or non-hormonal medications.
There are also a number of non-invasive and minimally invasive treatments available.
One minimally invasive option for treating uterine fibroids is a procedure called uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), which involves blocking the blood supply to the tumors, causing them to shrink and symptoms to improve. UFE is done as an outpatient procedure, meaning you’ll be able to go home the same day you’re treated. Learn why 90% of all women are satisfied at final follow-up after UFE.
If you’re still in pain after trying treatments for dysmenorrhea, surgery may be needed. A hysterectomy is usually performed as a last resort.
Contact your doctor if you’re experiencing severe pain, heavy bleeding, fever, bleeding between periods, or pain that lasts more than a few days.
Explore our website for more information on uterine fibroid embolization and find out if it could be right for you.
PLEASE NOTE: The above information should not be construed as providing specific medical advice, but rather to offer readers information to better understand their lives and health. It is not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician.