Painful Periods (dysmenorrhoea)

Most women experience period pain at some point in their lives.

Period pain or dysmenorrhoea is usually felt as painful muscle cramps in the lower tummy, which can sometimes spread to the back and thighs. Sometimes the pain comes in intense spasms, while at other times the pain may be dull but more constant.

The pain usually starts when your bleeding begins, and normally lasts for 48 - 72 hours.

Why it happens?

Most cases of period pain occur when the muscular wall of the womb contracts and presses against nearby blood vessels, briefly cutting off the oxygen supply to the womb and triggering pain.

Occasionally, period pain can be caused by an underlying medical condition, such as endometriosis or pelvic inflammatory disease. This is known as secondary dysmenorrhoea.

How common is it?

Period pain is extremely common. Some studies suggest up to 90% of menstruating women experience pain and discomfort during their period.

However, period pain that isn't caused by an underlying condition tends to improve as you get older. Many women also notice an improvement after they have had children.

What to do?

Most cases of period pain can be treated at home. You can buy a number of painkillers over the counter to help manage your pain. There are also a number of self-help techniques which may help, such as applying heat or gentle exercise.

If your period pain is severe, visit your GP to check that no medical condition is causing your pain.

Visit your CarePlus Pharmacy for more advice.