Period pain symptoms you should not ignore

By: Osler Health International
Posted on: 15 Mar 2024

Period pain, or dysmenorrhea, is a common experience for many women during their monthly menstrual cycle, ranging from mild to severe. While mild pain is typical, severe pain can indicate health issues. It’s important for women and girls to distinguish between normal menstrual cramps and pains that signal something more serious. Ignoring intense period pain that disrupts daily activities could overlook underlying health problems.

Differentiating normal period pain vs abnormal period pain

Typically, normal period pain starts shortly before or during the menstrual cycle and lasts for 2 to 3 days. It’s often described as a manageable, dull, throbbing, or cramping pain in the lower abdomen, thighs, or back. These types of pain can often be effectively addressed with over-the-counter pain relief medications or natural remedies such as a hot compress.

Abnormal period pain, on the other hand, is not your typical feeling of discomfort. It may start earlier in the cycle and last longer, significantly impacting daily activities. This type of pain may indicate conditions like endometriosis, fibroids, or pelvic inflammatory disease, all of which requires attention from a doctor at a women’s health clinic.

Warning signs of abnormal period pain

Identifying the signs associated with abnormal pain.

Here are key symptoms not to overlook:

1. Severe pain that disrupts daily activities

Regularly missing work or school or being unable to participate in daily activities due to period pain is a significant indicator that your dysmenorrhea may be beyond the normal range. This level of pain, may require prescription medication, suggests a need for medical evaluation.

2. Cramps that last more than 2 to 3 days

While it’s common to experience menstrual cramps during the first few days of your period, pain that persists well beyond this window or begins much earlier than your cycle is atypical. These types of persistent or severe cramps could also be a symptom of underlying issues like adenomyosis or uterine fibroids, which require a healthcare provider’s attention.

3. Heavy bleeding

Experiencing heavy menstrual bleeding, where you need to change your pad or tampon every two hours or periods that extend beyond 7 days, is abnormal. This symptom, known as menorrhagia, can lead to other health problems like anaemia and might be caused by conditions such as fibroids or hormonal imbalances. Again, seek medical advice.

4. Accompanying symptoms like nausea, bowel, or urinary problems

If you’re experiencing severe nausea, vomiting, painful bowel movements, or urinary issues during your period, these could be signs of conditions like pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) or endometriosis. Such symptoms, particularly if they significantly deviate from your normal menstrual experience, warrant a medical consultation.

5. Unusual discharge or spotting between periods

Spotting or experiencing unusual discharge between periods can be alarming and may indicate several conditions, ranging from hormonal imbalances to more serious issues like cervical or endometrial cancer. Especially if accompanied by pain, please visit a healthcare provider.

When to seek help from a professional

While methods for period pain relief can vary depending on the underlying cause, ranging from over-the-counter remedies to prescription medications for more severe symptom management. For teenagers and young girls who have started their menses, understanding what are normal symptoms and what is not can be challenging. If your daughter has regular life-altering period pains, please make an appointment to see a doctor.

We have many female doctors in our clinics in Singapore. Dr Natalie Hutchins has a background in obstetrics and gynaecology from the UK and is known for her female health care and female health checkups. If you would like to discuss your health and have a check up please make an appointment.

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