Painful periods

Overview

The medical term for painful periods is dysmenorrhoea. You may describe it as pain, discomfort or cramps around the time of menstruation.

There are 2 types of dysmenorrhoea: primary and secondary.

Primary dysmenorrhoea

This generally occurs soon after a woman starts her periods. It is very common, and may occur in as many as 50% of adolescents. Most of the time your symptoms will start in the heavy part of menstruation, and last for a few days only.

Causes

It is caused by prostaglandin production. Prostaglandins stimulate uterine contractions.

Treatment

Hormonal contraception is often an effective treatment.

Secondary dysmenorrhoea

This is when there is an underlying cause for the painful periods.

Causes

Common causes are endometriosis and adenomyosis.

Treatment

If you are experiencing pain with periods we recommend review by an experienced practitioner in this area. It may be a trial of hormonal therapy is a reasonable first step before more intensive options are considered such as laparoscopic (keyhole) surgery.

How we can help

If you are experiencing painful periods and would like to talk to us about how we can help, please feel free to contact us. You can also request an appointment online.

Further information

Conditions

Adenomyosis

Adenomyosis is similar to endometriosis. It occurs when the inside lining of the uterus (endometrium) is found within the muscular wall of the uterus. This may cause the uterus to become enlarged. Adenomyosis may be patchy, or severe, causing a severely enlarged uterus. Find out more

Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a common disorder that affects many women in New Zealand. It occurs when endometrial tissue, which should only be found in the uterus, also grows outside the uterus, such as on ovaries or the bowel. This can be very painful and is why women with endometriosis usually have pain around the same time as their period. Find out more

Prostaglandin production

Most of the time symptoms start in the heavy part of menstruation, and last for a few days only. It is caused by prostaglandin production. Prostaglandins stimulate uterine contractions.

Procedures

Hysterectomy

A hysterectomy is when a woman's uterus is removed. This may be because methods to stop heavy bleeding are not successful, side effects of medications are intolerable, fibroids are problematic or endometriosis is severe enough that a more permanent solution is required. Find out more

Mirena

A mirena is a small plastic device placed inside the uterus with small strings extending out through the cervix. In addition to being used for contraception, mirena can be used to treat adenomyosis. Find out more

Endometriosis resection

This entails keyhole surgery, where a camera is placed through the bellybutton to view the pelvis. The abdomen and pelvis are carefully explored, and abnormal tissue removed. Cysts may also be removed from the ovaries. Find out more

Prostaglandin treatment

Hormonal contraception is often an effective treatment.