When to See a Doctor for a Painful Period

Tue, Jul 19, 2022

When to See a Doctor for a Painful Period

It’s perfectly normal for your monthly period to cause some discomfort, but it should never be extremely painful. Abnormal period cramps can be a sign of a more serious medical issue, like endometriosis. Talk to a gynecologist if your period has become unbearable and prevents you from doing ordinary activities.

Normal Period Pain

Everyone is different, but there are healthy ranges for flow, pain, and other symptoms. An average menstrual flow is just 30 mL, or two tablespoons, for an entire cycle. The average duration is four to six days. A heavier, longer flow isn’t necessarily a health problem, but if yours changes significantly over just a few months, you should get it checked out.

A technician performs an ultrasound on a young woman’s abdomen.

Experiencing symptoms along with your monthly flow is also normal. Most women have some degree of cramping as the uterus contracts to shed its lining. Bloating is another common symptom. If over-the-counter pain medications don’t relieve the pain, there could be something more serious going on.


Dysmenorrhea is the medical term for a painful period. Primary dysmenorrhea is caused by nothing other than normal menstruation, and many women experience it. Secondary dysmenorrhea usually begins later in life, causes significant pain that worsens over time, and can cause cramps after your period as well as before and during bleeding.

If you have secondary dysmenorrhea, there is an underlying cause. It is not simply normal pain caused by menstruation. There could be one or more causes, and they should be treated so that you can get relief.

Causes of Extreme Period Pain

Severe pain before, during, or after your period is not normal. If your period pain limits your activities or keeps you from going to work, it’s important to find and treat the underlying cause. There are several possibilities:

  • Endometriosis. Endometriosis can be very painful. It occurs when the same tissue that makes up the lining of the interior of the uterus grows outside of it. It may grow on the uterus, bladder, ovaries, or fallopian tubes. It sheds like menstrual blood and causes pain during your period. It can also lead to scar tissue and adhesion between organs, both of which cause even more pain.
  • Fibroids. A fibroid is a growth inside or outside of the uterus. Larger fibroids growing in the uterine wall can cause a lot of pain, but you might not notice smaller growths.
  • Cervical Stenosis. Although rare, this narrowing in the cervix can cause significant period pain. A narrow cervix slows menstrual flow, which puts painful pressure on the uterus.
  • Adenomyosis. This is also rare. Adenomyosis is the growth of the uterine lining into the muscle of the uterine wall. It causes inflammation and pain and is more common in women who have had children.

Other potential causes of dysmenorrhea are congenital defects in the reproductive organs and medical conditions that increase inflammation during your period. This might include Crohn’s disease, a urinary tract infection, or pelvic inflammatory disease, which is a sexually-transmitted bacterial infection.

When to See a Gynecologist

You shouldn’t have to live with overwhelmingly painful periods. If they disrupt your life and prevent you from fully engaging in activities or being able to take care of normal responsibilities, see a doctor.

A specialist will diagnose the underlying condition by taking your medical history and symptoms, performing a pelvic exam, and ordering imaging tests. You might also need to undergo a laparoscopy so your doctor can better see what’s going on inside your body. They will make a small incision and insert a scope with a camera. This is minimally invasive and an outpatient procedure.

Treatment options vary depending on the underlying condition. Your doctor might suggest changing or introducing birth control or other medications. If those don’t help, surgery might be an option to remove extra tissue or fibroids.

If your periods are unacceptably uncomfortable, reach out to a specialist today. Request an appointment with a North Carolina Specialty Hospital gynecologist for a consultation.

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