​​Is Your Period Pain Normal? When to Seek Help from a Gynecologist

Woman holding stomach in pain

When it comes to period pain, it can be tough to say what’s normal. Researchers have only just begun to unravel the complex mystery of pain tolerance, and we’ve recently learned that there are biological and psychosocial factors involved with each person’s experience with pain. Still, understanding how your individual period pain stacks up against typical cramping can help us determine whether there’s another, underlying issue. If your periods are debilitatingly painful, here’s what you should know.

Period Pain: What’s Normal & What’s Not?

“Experiencing some pain during your period is considered normal,” assures Dr. Obiamaka Mora.  Each cycle, your uterus sheds its lining. And to assist in this body-cleansing process, surrounding tissues release prostaglandins: hormone-like substances that trigger muscle contractions. For some women, these contractions are simply bothersome, while for others, the pain may be so intense that it interferes with day-to-day activities.

In general, symptoms of menstrual cramps include:

  • Throbbing or cramping pain in the abdominal region ranging from mild to intense
  • Discomfort that begins one to three days before your period and ends within two to three days after your period starts
  • A dull, persistent ache
  • Discomfort that radiates to the lower back

“The challenge here is that terms like ‘severe’ and ‘intense’ aren’t universally defined,” says Dr. Mora; “each person’s pain tolerance is different, so it’s impossible to say what menstrual cramps ‘should’ feel like.” While more than half of women experience at least some period pain, only some women experience pain so severe that it interferes with normal activities for several days each cycle. If you fall into this camp, it’s probably time to seek help. Missing out on multiple days of your routine each month can be disruptive at best, but more importantly, no one should have to live in pain.

What Can Cause Severe Period Pain?

Normal levels of pain caused by your menstrual cycle is known as primary dysmenorrhea. But there are several reproductive conditions that can make period pain more intense in what’s known as secondary dysmenorrhea, including:

For some women, periods will unfortunately just be more painful than they are for others. But when painful periods are caused by an underlying factor, your gynecologist can help.

How Can a Gynecologist Help with Period Pain?

Sometimes, self-care measures like hot baths and heating pads are enough to alleviate period pain. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) also bring relief, and can reduce the amount of prostaglandins your uterus produces, thereby minimizing cramping.

But if these approaches aren’t enough to alleviate your pain, talk to your gynecologist. We can discuss symptoms with you, and perform a pelvic exam or medical imaging to see if an underlying issue is present. Sometimes, hormonal birth control can be used to alleviate intense period pain. In other cases, there may be conditions requiring treatment, such as surgery to remove uterine fibroids.

Schedule a Women’s Health Appointment For Period Pain Today

Are painful periods stopping you in your tracks each month? If so, Avant Gynecology is here to help with personalized women’s health services. To schedule an appointment, call 404-352-2850 or send us a message online.