Skip to content

    Women's Health

    Select An Article

    Menstrual Pain

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Menstrual cramps are pains in a woman's lower abdomen that occur when her menstrual period begins (or just before) and may continue for two to three days. They may be throbbing or aching and can be dull or sharp. Symptoms can range in severity from a mild annoyance to severe pain that interferes with normal activities.

    Menstrual cramps are the leading cause of absenteeism in women younger than 30. Although over half of women who have menstrual periods experience some discomfort, 10% are temporarily disabled by symptoms.

    Women’s Health Slideshows

    From fighting fatigue to keeping your weight in check, look and feel better with these visual guides to better understanding your health.

    The following circumstances may make a woman more likely to experience menstrual cramps:

    • She started her first period at an early age (younger than 11 years).
    • Her menstrual periods are heavy.
    • She is overweight or obese.
    • She smokes cigarettes or uses alcohol.
    • She has never been pregnant.

    Causes of Menstrual Pain

    Prostaglandins are chemicals a woman's body produces that cause many of the symptoms associated with menstrual discomfort. The tissue that lines the uterus makes these chemicals. Prostaglandins stimulate the uterine muscles to contract. Women who have high levels of prostaglandin may experience more intense contractions of their uterus and more pain. Prostaglandins may also be responsible for vomiting, diarrhea, and headaches that accompany painful periods.

    Other menstrual-type cramps can be caused by conditions of the reproductive tract, such as the following:

    If a woman has had menstrual pain ever since her periods started, the condition is classified as primary dysmenorrhea. If a physical condition such as pelvic inflammatory disease or endometriosis has developed and is causing the pain, this is called secondary dysmenorrhea. Once the medical condition is treated, the menstrual pain usually goes away.

    Symptoms of Menstrual Pain

    In addition to cramps in the lower abdomen, a woman may also experience some of these symptoms with menstrual cramps:

    1 | 2 | 3 | 4
    Next Article:

    Today on WebMD

    hands on abdomen
    Test your knowledge.
    womans hand on abdomen
    Are you ready for baby?
     
    birth control pills
    Learn about your options.
    insomnia
    Is it menopause or something else?
     
    woman in bathtub
    Slideshow
    period
    VIDEO
     
    bp app on smartwatch and phone
    Slideshow
    estrogen gene
    Quiz
     

    Send yourself a link to download the app.

    Loading ...

    Please wait...

    This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

    Thanks!

    Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

    Blood pressure check
    Slideshow
    hot water bottle on stomach
    Quiz
     
    question
    Assessment
    Attractive young woman standing in front of mirror
    Quiz