Painful periods

Dysmenorrhoea (painful period) is an extremely common and sometimes debilitating condition for women of reproductive age. Although some pain during your period is normal, excessive pain is not.

It occurs in up to 50% of menstruating females and can cause significant disruption in quality of life and is the leading cause of lost time from school and work among women in their teens and 20s.

The optimal management of this symptom depends on an understanding of the underlying cause. Painful menstrual periods fall into two groups, depending on the cause:

  • Primary Dysmenorrhoea
  • Secondary Dysmenorrhoea


Primary Dysmenorrhoea is menstrual pain that occurs around the time that menstrual periods first begin in otherwise healthy young women. This pain is usually not related to a specific problem with the uterus or other pelvic organs. Increased activity of the hormone prostaglandin, which is produced in the uterus, is thought to play a role in this condition.

Secondary Dysmenorrhoea is menstrual pain that develops later in women who have had normal periods and is often related to problems in the uterus or other pelvic organs, such as:

  • Endometriosis
  • Fibroids
  • Sexually Transmitted Infection
  • Stress & Anxiety

Risk factors

The following Risk factors have been associated with more severe episodes of dysmenorrhoea

  • First period at a young age
  • Long menstrual periods
  • Heavy menstrual flow
  • Smoking
  • Positive family history

Obesity and alcohol consumption were found to be associated with dysmenorrhea in some (not all) studies.  Physical activity and the duration of the menstrual cycle do not appear to be associated with increased menstrual pain

Treatment options