woman in pain bending as she holds her stomach

Why are my periods so painful?

I am 20 years old. I experience very painful periods and they are getting worse. Is this normal?

Many women experience menstrual cramps/pain a few days or hours before and/or during their menstrual periods. Menstrual cramps are also known as dysmenorrhea.

Menstrual cramps are normal as long as the pain is mild. It is also normal for this pain to be accompanied by diarrhea, tender breasts, nausea, headache, and vomiting (or feeling like you want to throw up).

Some women, however, experience excessive pain that they cannot do their everyday activities such as going to work or school. Some cannot even stand on their own.

There are two kinds of period cramps: Primary and secondary.

Primary: Cramps that come before or during your period. This pain becomes milder after the first few days of your period. They also tend to become milder with age and are known to improve after childbirth.

Secondary: This pain occurs if the woman has a disorder in the reproductive system. It tends to get severe with time and lasts longer than the primary cramps.

Today we will focus on secondary cramps.

What causes secondary cramps?

First, let’s look at factors that put you at risk. You are at risk of secondary cramps if you:

  • Are younger (normally under 25)
  • Have heavy periods
  • Have irregular periods
  • Smoke
  • Started puberty quite early (mostly before 11 years)
  • Have a family history of painful periods

Common causes of painful periods include:

Endometriosis – This condition is painful and it causes cells from the lining of the uterus to grow in the fallopian tubes, ovaries, lining of the pelvis, and other parts of the body.

Uterine fibroids – Fibroids are noncancerous growths or tumors that, if large enough, can cause painful periods or affect normal menstruation by putting pressure on the uterus area.

Adenomyosis – This condition occurs when the lining of the uterus grows into the muscular wall of the uterus. This causes inflammation, pressure, and pain. It is a rare condition.

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) – This condition occurs when the uterus, fallopian tubes, or ovaries are infected. This infection is often caused by sexually transmitted bacteria leading to inflammation and pain of the reproductive organs

Cervical stenosis – This is a rare condition that occurs when menstrual flow is slowed down because of a narrow or thin cervix. This leads to increased pressure inside the uterus which, in turn, causes pain.

The best solution to eliminating secondary cramps is to treat the cause.

When to go to the hospital

It is advisable to go to the hospital if you experience any of the following:

  • Painful menstrual cramps that disrupt your life every month
  • Your symptoms worsen over time
  • You started having severe menstrual cramps after age 25
  • You have pain in the lower abdomen when not on your periods
  • Are Passing blood clots

Do you have painful periods? Do you think they are primary or secondary? Talk to us in the comments section.

Did you learn something new?

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