Painful Periods

Most women experience some form of cramping pain during the menstrual period. For some women, it is something that does not bother them, and does not require any pain killers or other treatment. However, many women suffer from significant period pains, and this may interfere with work or school, and can impact on family life and relationships.

Painful periods can be debilitating for some womenPainful periods are referred to as “dysmenorrhoea” in medical terminology. It has been reported that up to 60-90% of adolescent girls report having painful periods. The prevalence of painful periods reduces with increasing age.

The pain often starts just before or with the onset of the menstrual bleeding. Period pains are usually described as “cramping”, but some women will experience a “sharp” pain or “stabbing” pain. The pain is often confined to the lower abdomen, but many women also describe their period pain radiating to the back, and sometimes into the vagina or the legs. The period pain may be associated with nausea, headache, or sometimes diarrhoea.

Painful Periods – What are the possible causes?

Primary dysmenorrhoea refers to women who have painful periods in the absence of any identifiable pelvic conditions.  This is common in young girls, especially those who have anovulatory menstrual cycles.

Women with secondary dysmenorrhoea may have painful periods due to pelvic conditions such as endometriosis.  For more information, click here to find out more about endometriosis.

Endometriosis can cause period pain for many womenOther causes for painful periods include:

  • Adenomyosis (endometriosis within the muscle layer of the uterus)
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (e.g. Chlamydia)
  • Uterine fibroids

Painful Periods – Treatment Options

Treatment for painful periods depends on the underlying cause, as well as the severity of the period pain and how this is affecting the quality of life of the woman.  Options for investigation and treatment may include:

Heat packs

  • The use of heat packs for treating painful periods has been studied in placebo-controlled scientific studies, and have been reported to be as useful as pain medications such as Ibuprofen.
  • The use of heat pack in combination with Ibuprofen may reduce the time before pain relief is felt, compared with the use of Ibuprofen alone without a heat pack.
  • Another scientific study reported that the use of heat packs was more effective than regular Paracetamol for relieving period pains.

Pain medications

  • Anti-inflammatories, such as Ibuprofen
  • Paracetamol.  This can be taken together with anti-inflammatories, such as Ibuprofen

Hormonal therapy

  • Oral contraceptive pill
    • Many women with painful periods often find it helpful to use the oral contraceptive pill continuously (i.e. skipping the sugar tablets).
  • Mirena
  • Other progesterone therapy

Laparoscopy (Keyhole surgery)

  • Surgery allows definitive diagnosis of endometriosis
  • Other conditions which may be causing the pain (e.g pelvic inflammatory disease) can also be diagnosed
  • Laparoscopy is not only diagnostic, but can also be therapeutic at the same time, as endometriosis can be removed surgically if present

Laparoscopy keyhole surgery for endometriosis can be useful for women with painful periods is a gynaecologist who specialises in the diagnosis and treatment of women in Brisbane with painful periods.  He offers comprehensive care for these women, identifying the cause of the problem, giving a detailed explanation and options for treatment.  To discuss your specific concerns about your painful periods with this Brisbane gynaecologist, please contact Dr Ken Law to arrange an appointment at Greenslopes Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

Greenslopes Obstetrics and Gynaecology