Every mens¬≠trua¬≠ting per¬≠son expe¬≠ri¬≠en¬≠ces their own period indi¬≠vi¬≠du¬≠ally. The term period pro¬≠blems is used to describe various types of dis¬≠com¬≠fort or pain that can occur during mens¬≠trua¬≠tion. While some people have no sym¬≠ptoms at all, others suf¬≠fer from severe mens¬≠trual pain every month. That is why we are going to look at what types of period pro¬≠blems exist, what is nor¬≠mal and why we actually have them.

Primary period pain is mostly mild

Mens¬≠trual cramps are divi¬≠ded into pri¬≠mary and secon¬≠dary period pain. Pri¬≠mary period pain is mil¬≠der and can be relie¬≠ved natu¬≠rally with (simple) home reme¬≠dies and a healthy diet. Alt¬≠hough the pain is unplea¬≠sant, it is beara¬≠ble and usually harm¬≠less. The cau¬≠ses of pri¬≠mary period pain are not dise¬≠ase rela¬≠ted and are very indi¬≠vi¬≠dual. Rea¬≠sons for mens¬≠trual pain can be, for example, the early onset of the first period, low body weight, a long mens¬≠trual cycle or even gene¬≠tic pre¬≠dis¬≠po¬≠si¬≠tion. Ask the mens¬≠trua¬≠ting people in your family how they expe¬≠ri¬≠ence or have expe¬≠ri¬≠en¬≠ced their period. Maybe your expe¬≠ri¬≠en¬≠ces with mens¬≠trual pro¬≠blems are simi¬≠lar? The good news is: Sta¬≠tis¬≠ti¬≠cally spea¬≠king, the pain decre¬≠a¬≠ses with age.

Secondary period pain is caused by a disease

Secon¬≠dary period pain, on the other hand, is cau¬≠sed by an under¬≠ly¬≠ing gyne¬≠co¬≠lo¬≠gi¬≠cal or orga¬≠nic dise¬≠ase. These can be, for example, endo¬≠me¬≠trio¬≠sis, polyps, can¬≠cer or inflamma¬≠tion of the repro¬≠duc¬≠tive organs. Endo¬≠me¬≠trio¬≠sis is the most com¬≠mon cause of secon¬≠dary period pain. In some cases, the sym¬≠ptoms are so severe that those affec¬≠ted can¬≠not go about their nor¬≠mal daily lives for several days a month. To relieve secon¬≠dary period pain, the focus is on the tre¬≠at¬≠ment of the under¬≠ly¬≠ing dise¬≠ase. It is best to speak directly to your gyne¬≠co¬≠lo¬≠gist if you suf¬≠fer from severe mens¬≠trual pain. 

Why do we experience period pains?

You may ask yourself: Where does mens¬≠trual pain come from? During your period, the ute¬≠rus con¬≠tracts cramp-like, causing con¬≠trac¬≠tions of the ute¬≠rine mus¬≠cles. The mus¬≠cle move¬≠ments are cau¬≠sed by hor¬≠mo¬≠nes, for example pro¬≠sta¬≠glan¬≠din. Depen¬≠ding on the strength of the con¬≠trac¬≠tions, these can cause pain. But why does the ute¬≠rus con¬≠tract at all? Every month during the mens¬≠trual cycle, new ute¬≠rus lining forms to pre¬≠pare for the fer¬≠ti¬≠li¬≠zed egg. If fer¬≠ti¬≠liz¬≠a¬≠tion does not occur, the lining of the ute¬≠rus is not nee¬≠ded and is rejec¬≠ted along with the unfer¬≠ti¬≠li¬≠zed egg. This con¬≠su¬≠mes a great deal of energy from the body. The mus¬≠cles of the ute¬≠rus con¬≠tract in waves, which can lead to cram¬≠ping pain. The rhyth¬≠mic mus¬≠cle move¬≠ments also cause the blood cir¬≠cu¬≠la¬≠tion wit¬≠hin the ute¬≠rus to be inter¬≠rup¬≠ted by the cramps. This can cause a lack of oxy¬≠gen, which is the rea¬≠son for addi¬≠tio¬≠nal period pain (ischemic pain). 

Which period problems are there?

Mens¬≠trual pro¬≠blems are very uni¬≠que and can occur in up to 150 dif¬≠fe¬≠rent forms. The com¬≠p¬≠laints can range from an unplea¬≠sant fee¬≠ling in the back to diar¬≠r¬≠hea and severe abdo¬≠mi¬≠nal cramps. Diz¬≠zi¬≠ness, nau¬≠sea, a fee¬≠ling of ten¬≠sion in the bre¬≠asts or tired¬≠ness are also typi¬≠cal. Hea¬≠da¬≠ches and abdo¬≠mi¬≠nal cramps are among the most com¬≠mon com¬≠p¬≠laints during mens¬≠trua¬≠tion. Bes¬≠i¬≠des phy¬≠si¬≠cal pain, mood swings can also occur.

Menstrual cramps: What is normal?

The sym¬≠ptoms usually appear a few hours before the start of your period and last for a day or two. All mens¬≠trua¬≠ting people can be affec¬≠ted by mens¬≠trual cramps. Up to a cer¬≠tain point, period pain is nor¬≠mal, espe¬≠cially at the begin¬≠ning of your period. But it is dif¬≠fi¬≠cult to say exactly to what (pain) degree period pain is nor¬≠mal. As long as the mon¬≠thly mens¬≠trual pain is beara¬≠ble and simple home reme¬≠dies help, ever¬≠ything is pro¬≠bably okay. Howe¬≠ver, if the sym¬≠ptoms during your period (severely) restrict your ever¬≠y¬≠day life and your own per¬≠for¬≠mance, you should make an appoint¬≠ment with your trus¬≠ted gynae¬≠co¬≠lo¬≠gist. This is because dise¬≠a¬≠ses, such as endo¬≠me¬≠trio¬≠sis, can be the cause of the severe pain. Pain¬≠ful or dif¬≠fi¬≠cult peri¬≠ods with sym¬≠ptoms are medi¬≠cally cal¬≠led dysmenorrhea.

INFO-BOX: How can I track my period pain?

You might be won¬≠de¬≠ring whe¬≠ther your mens¬≠trual sym¬≠ptoms are (still) nor¬≠mal? Often it helps to talk to other mens¬≠trua¬≠ting people about your period pro¬≠blems in order to get a bet¬≠ter fee¬≠ling of how others expe¬≠ri¬≠ence their peri¬≠ods. Here are a few ques¬≠ti¬≠ons that can help you to clas¬≠sify your pain:

  • On a pain scale from 1 to 10: Where would I rank my period pain?
  • Can I ease my com¬≠p¬≠laints with simple home reme¬≠dies or do only pain¬≠kil¬≠lers help?
  • What kind of mens¬≠trual pro¬≠blems do I experience?
  • Do I suf¬≠fer from the same com¬≠p¬≠laints every month?
  • Does my period inter¬≠rupt my ever¬≠y¬≠day life? Do I have to can¬≠cel dates or appoint¬≠ments because of the pain?
  • Do the sym¬≠ptoms have a nega¬≠tive effect on my well-being or my productivity?

Some¬≠ti¬≠mes it helps to ask yourself these ques¬≠ti¬≠ons every month anew and to create a small period jour¬≠nal over time. This way you will get a good pic¬≠ture of your sym¬≠ptoms, reco¬≠gnize pat¬≠terns and deve¬≠lop a fee¬≠ling for which sym¬≠ptoms and pain are ‚Äėnor¬≠mal‚Äô for you. Take your notes with you to your next appoint¬≠ment with your gyne¬≠co¬≠lo¬≠gist and get medi¬≠cal advice on it.

Period pain: When should you see your doctor?

In case of severe mens¬≠trual pro¬≠blems that restrict your ever¬≠y¬≠day life, a medi¬≠cal exami¬≠na¬≠tion is important! Sud¬≠denly occur¬≠ring mens¬≠trual pain or chan¬≠ges in the dura¬≠tion or inten¬≠sity of your peri¬≠ods should always be pro¬≠fes¬≠sio¬≠nally exami¬≠ned. It is bet¬≠ter to have ano¬≠t¬≠her check-up to make sure that ever¬≠ything is fine and to get the necessary medi¬≠cal sup¬≠port to treat your mens¬≠trual pro¬≠blems, if necessary.

How are you experiencing your period?

How are you fee­ling during your period? Are you more of care­free period per­son or do you suf­fer from all kinds of mens­trual cramps? What are your most com­mon com­p­laints? And has it always been like this or has your period chan­ged over the years? Tell us about your sym­ptoms and how you feel during your period.

Illus¬≠tra¬≠tion by Mag¬≠da¬≠lena Otter¬≠stedt / Kopf¬≠√ľber Design for Vulvani

Britta Wiebe, period education, Vulvani
Co-Foun­der Vulvani | britta@vulvani.com | Web­site | + posts

Britta Wiebe is the co-foun­der of Vul­vani. She loves rese­ar­ching, wri­ting and designing new arti­cles or inno­va­tive edu­ca­tio­nal con­cepts about mens­trua­tion all day long. When she is not tra­vel­ling the world, she enjoys spen­ding time with her loved ones in the beau­ti­ful city of Ham­burg in Germany.