5 Reasons Why Your Periods Might Be Painful

Published on 08/27/20

Most women complain about menstrual pains. Some, a dull aching and constant annoyance and many others, a debilitating painful period called dysmenorrhea. 

The “time of the month” is never exciting. And unlike the typical stereotype, women tend to deal with more than just menstrual cramps. Periods come with a side of mood swings, bloating, intense hunger, gas, diarrhea, back pain, nausea, just to name a few or all of the additional symptoms that can come with “Aunt Flow”. Don’t let them fool you, these symptoms can be mild or disrupt your ENTIRE life for a few days a month.

Sounds concerning, right?

Well, it is. 

These symptoms, especially on the severe end, should never be ignored. Although every woman generally gets a period, these symptoms are signs of possible OTHER underlying problems. 

When left untreated, these can continue to be a painful disruption, cause infertility or additional problems as a result. 

Symptoms

Ovarian Cysts – These cysts can be a result of Endometriosis. They become enlarged sacks and can be very painful. With the possibility of becoming so large that they need to be physically removed. 

Painful Intercourse – Known as dyspareunia, penetration may cause localized pain due to endometriosis underneath the uterus. 

Constant Pelvic Pain – Prolonged disease and scarring can cause severe pelvic pain in women, even when they don’t have their periods. 

Painful Cramps and Heavy Flow – A heavier than normal flow and debilitating pain as opposed to regular cramps. This is also common in women with endometriosis.

Infertility – This is when a woman cannot conceive naturally within a year without contraception. Also caused by endometriosis in 10% of women, it’s one of the top causes of infertility in women. Scar tissue, damage, and inflammation in the fallopian tubes hinder conceiving naturally and can affect the quality and number of eggs in the body.

5 Underlying Causes for Painful Periods 

  1. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) – Often caused by a sexually transmitted bacteria that creates inflammation and pain via infection in the fallopian tubes, uterus, and/or ovaries.
  2. Adenomyosis – Usually causes longer and heavier periods, this is a fairly rare condition that causes the uterine lining to grow in the muscular wall of the uterus. This can cause inflammation and pain.  
  3. Endometriosis – this is a condition that can be extremely painful. Where the cells from the lining of the uterus grow into different parts of the body like the ovaries, fallopian tubes or tissue that lines the pelvis.
  4. Fibroids – noncancerous tumors that can cause unusual periods or grow to put pressure on the uterus. 
  5. Premenstrual Symptom (PMS) – this is the most common condition among women caused by hormonal changes in the body a couple weeks before menstruation

Lifestyle Changes

All irregular and painful periods should be discussed with your healthcare provider however, some of the symptoms caused by heavy and painful periods can be managed through lifestyle or at-home remedies. This is important, not only your health but for your sanity. Finding personalized approaches to relieve cramps can be helpful in managing period pain:

Over the Counter Medications – medications like iBuprofen can help reduce inflammation. Hormonal contraceptives like the IUD or birth control can use synthetic hormones to block ovulation and shedding of the uterine wall.

Supplements – Deficiencies in Zinc, Magnesium, etc, and natural painkillers like ginger are all experimental supplements that have some studies but no definitive and proven results 

Stress Relief like Yoga and Meditation

Exercise

Changes in Diet – higher intakes in calcium from dairy or vitamin D have been in research and found to have made a difference in menstrual pain. Also deficiencies in vitamins like magnesium can be linked to intense menstrual cramps.

Heating Pads – a cheap and easy way to reduce cramps and menstrual pain by relaxing the muscles with no side effects

Self-care some days laying in bed and watching tv or distracting yourself with your favorite foods are good ways to take care of yourself in a time where you need it most.

A lot of these pain reliefs can help:

  • Increase Uterine blood flow
  • Help manage pain
  • Limit prostaglandin production
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Treat underlying conditions

Supplements for Period Cramps

Checking with a Dietitian and/or Nutritionist before deciding on any supplements will be a guaranteed way to set yourself up for future success. The evidence for supplements to treat menstrual cramps aren’t solid enough to definitively say they work but if you’re open to experimenting you may find something that works just for you. Make sure to check all the labels for side effects or evidence that the supplement may interfere with the body. 

For instance, ginger is known to be a common painkiller. Clinical trials found that the pain seemed to be reduced in comparison to a placebo that was administered. 

Magnesium as a deficiency may play an important part of painful periods. Magnesium was also studied and found that it may lessen period pains in comparison to placebos from additional clinical studies. 

Vitamin B1 and zinc, similar to magnesium has also been shown to have the same effect on period cramps and/or pain. 

Other supplements that have been researched have been, vitamin E, B6, D, and extensive use of fish oil

Medications for Period Cramps

A known and sure-fire way to get relief from menstrual pains are from anti-inflammatory painkillers. Ibuprofen being the most popular over the counter painkiller to date. These may reduce pain and may also be used to reduce heavy bleeding. 

In other alternatives, some people use contraceptives,usually hormonal, like an IUD or birth control, to help relieve menstrual cramps, block ovulation, and shedding of the uterine lining. In turn, this can reduce or even remove all associated pain like contractions and cramping. 

Exercise For Periods

Increasing the blood flow to the abdomen with exercises like stretching/yoga, and aerobic exercise can help decrease the duration of period pain and help in reducing stress which enhances period pain. 

All in all, when it comes to your period, cramps are normal. However, if these cramps, pain, or PMS symptoms in general become debilitating or hinder your regular life in any way… it’s time to talk to your healthcare provider. Severe pain can be a sign of an underlying problem like endometriosis or adenomyosis. These pains are far different than normal menstrual cramps and should be taken seriously when speaking to your doctor. 

Irregular and heavy periods are common but you shouldn’t accept them as normal.

Our Doctors at Rosh Maternal & Fetal Medicine in NYC are here for you

These conditions can signal an underlying health problem that should be treated to prevent serious problems from developing. You can count on the extensive experience of the doctors at Rosh Maternal & Fetal Medicine to identify the cause and effectively treat irregular and heavy periods. If you have any questions about your menstrual periods, call their office in the Midtown East area of New York City, or schedule an appointment online.