Period Pain

< Back

Period pain cramping your style?

Istock 000032845440 Double 900

If you have period pain, you're not alone! Most women have experienced period pain. In fact, this is the most common gynaecological problem young women face. Those who get period pain usually find it starts during their teenage years, a few years after they start getting periods.

The intensity of period pain can vary, but the worse it is the more impact it has on the ability to carry out normal daily activities, including getting to school, uni or work. It's usually worst just before or right at the start of your period, and gradually goes away over the next 2 to 3 days.

What causes period pain?

Period pain is caused by natural chemicals called prostaglandins that are released in the uterus (womb) during your period. Some women may have higher levels of prostaglandins than others (although it’s not clear why) and are more likely to get period pain. Prostaglandins cause the muscles in the wall of the uterus to contract, which can be felt as a cramping pain. The levels are highest just before your period starts, which is also when period pain is most common and severe. After a day or two, the levels of prostaglandins fall, and the pain usually subsides.

Not all period pain is the same

Actually, there are two types of period pain:

Primary dysmenorrhoea: This is the term for pain most women feel during their period. It usually starts one to two years after they begin having periods, and becomes less painful as they get older. A lot of women find that period pain becomes less of a problem after they have children or when they are on hormonal contraceptives, such as the pill, the patch or the ring.

Secondary dysmenorrhoea: This is period pain caused by a disorder in the reproductive system, such as adhesions, or fibroids. About one in ten women with period pain have secondary dysmenorrhoea. Unlike primary dysmenorrhoea, secondary dysmenorrhea tends to start at an older age and get worse over time. Also, the pain may begin before your period, last throughout your period, and persist even after the period is over. Please speak to your doctor for further advice on your period pain.


There are many things you can do to relieve period pain: 

  • Quit smoking: Smoking can increase the risk of period pain, which is another reason to quit.
  • Eat a healthy diet: Cut down on coffee and alcohol around the time of your period, and try to avoid processed or fatty foods.
  • Exercise: Regular exercise between and during your periods is a good idea.
  • Pain-relieving medication: Over the counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen and paracetamol can help relieve period pain. Ibuprofen, the active ingredient in Nurofen, belongs to a group of drugs called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These help to stop the production of prostaglandins, which are responsible for pain.
  • Relax and take care of yourself: Relaxation techniques, yoga, meditation, acupuncture, bed rest, and simple measures like using a hot water bottle can be very effective. 


For most women, having some pain during their period is just a natural part of life, and usually it goes away after a few days. However, you should check with your doctor if your period pain:

  • Isn’t relieved by pain medicines or other measures, and is interfering with your daily life and work.
  • Lasts longer than your period