Why are periods so painful?


What do periods and pain have in common? The letter P? If you chuckled at that lame joke then you surely are a man! For most women, periods and pain are more or less like a “choiceless buy one get one free” deal because it is their lived realities! Periods are always accompanied by pain of varying degrees.

Many are quick to dismiss period pains as “it’s all in the mind” or “it’s a psychological reaction towards the dislike for periods”! Well, having periods is definitely not a thing many women look forward to. But Science has by now proved that period pains are nothing about mind mumbo jumbo and have everything to do with the body’s mechanisms. In medical terms period pain even has a name: Dysmenorrhea.

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Types of period pains/ Dysmenorrhea

You might wonder how pain can be of different types? Well, it can, depending on the causes. Period pains are of two types viz Primary Dysmenorrhea and Secondary Dysmenorrhea. 

In Primary Dysmenorrhea, you have the pain associated with periods and occur due to the strong contraction of the uterus. There is no other underlying cause that creates the pain. However, in Secondary Dysmenorrhea, the pain is caused due to an underlying cause such as a pelvic infection or any medical condition that has affected the uterus and other reproductive organs such as endometriosis, uterine fibroids. And also, pain in Secondary Dysmenorrhea need not happen only during the periods. 

Primary Dysmenorrhea is the condition most women have when it comes to pain associated with periods. Before you get scared that this is a textbook case for doctors, let us reassure you that it is not an extremely serious condition. You need to take help from a doctor only if you are unable to manage your pain. The doctors will prescribe the needed medications that will help you manage the pain. 

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So what exactly causes the pain?

In two words if we were to give you the answer, it will be Prostaglandins hormone. This is not a bad hormone! It has its role in making the uterus contract and thus the linings of the uterus can detach and exit through the vagina later on. 

But what happens in many women is that there is an excess amount of Prostaglandins (it is not in your control to produce just the right amount of the hormone!) and they cause the uterus to have strong contractions. When this happens the blood flow to the uterus is restricted. This is tricky because the uterus muscles get the needed oxygen from the blood! Thus when there is less blood flow to the uterus, there is less oxygen for the uterus muscles. And this creates the cramp in the muscles. 

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How much pain is too much pain?

The intensity of pain varies from women to women. Some have pain just a few days before the period starts. It can start as severe pain but gradually subsides as the periods start. For others, the pain starts on the day of the periods and this too gradually subsides as periods progress. There are a few for whom the pain appears and disappears randomly during their periods. Many women are told that pain is normal and they just need to put up with it! Well, we need to tell you: you and only you get to have a say whether your period pain is mild or severe. Do not let anyone tell you that “it’s nothing” or “it will pass”. If you are in pain and you think you cannot bear it anymore then surely visit your doctor and get the necessary help to manage your pain. 

If you want to know more about managing period pain, read this: 10 ways to reduce Periods Pain

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