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Period pains are AS painful as a heart attack or migraine, doctor reveals

WOMEN the world over endure the sheer agony of period pains, month in, month out.

But now doctors have put those cramps into clear perspective – and for any doubters out there, listen up!

Period pain differs from women to women, but for some it can be crippling

For some, period pains can be AS painful as a heart attack or migraine.

Though it’s a part of life women just have to accept, the monthly visit from the “painters and decoraters” can leave some feeling sick, tired and bed-bound for up to a week.

Starting in the tummy muscles, the pain can spread to a woman’s back and thighs.

Doctors refer to this as dysmenorrhea, and it can differ from woman to woman, leaving some in crippling pain.

Dr Jarvis said periods can be ‘as disabling’ as a migraine

Dr Sarah Jarvis, GP and clinical director of Patient.info, told The Sun Online period pains can be “as disabling as a migraine”, or heart attack.

“It’s about feeling generally unwell, really weary and sick and not being able to concentrate.

“It affects your mood, leaving you feeling irritable.

“I have some women that say it’s the worst pain they’ve ever experienced.

Doctors believe period pain is caused by a chemical called prostaglandin, which helps the uterus contract

“We see women who throw up and who are just unable to leave their homes.”

She said doctors aren’t absolutely certain why period pain happens but think it’s to do with a chemical called prostaglandin.

It helps the lining of the womb build up, and also helps the womb contract to help shed the lining when a woman has her period.

Dr Jarvis explained: “We think some women are particularly sensitive to prostaglandin, and others have too much of the chemical.

“Both things can lead to severe pain.”

While for many women period pain is just something to endure, in other cases it can be a sign of something more serious…

1. Endometriosis

Endometriosis causes tissue that behaves like the lining of the womb to grow outside the womb

Endometriosis is a chronic condition which occurs when tissue which behaves like the lining of the womb is found outside of the womb – in areas of the body including the ovaries, Fallopian tubes, the abdomen and the bladder.

“Endometriosis is one of the more common reasons for really severe period pains – it can be really, really unpleasant,” Dr Jarvis said.

“And it often extends to other times when you don’t have your period and the pain can extend to your low back, your thighs.”

The exact cause of endometriosis isn’t known, but it’s thought it could be hereditary or due to environmental factors – namely the presence of dioxins in the environment.

Other complications can include painful ovarian cysts and adhesions – areas of tissue which can fuse organs together.

Symptoms of endometriosis can vary, but the most common include painful or heavy periods, pain during and following sex, bleeding between periods, pain in the lower abdomen and difficulty conceiving.

“Do be conscious that endometriosis is a commonly misdiagnosed condition,” Dr Jarvis urged.

“If a woman is suffering from pain on average it takes about seven-and-a-half years to be diagnosed.

“Do stop and think and if you are talking to your doctor as ‘could this be endometriosis?’.”


According to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Women’s Health many women are often dismissed by GPs as imagining their symptoms.

It found about 40 per cent of those with endometriosis visit their doctor ten times before they are referred to a specialist.

Their report, tabled in March 2017, noted for 10 per cent of women it takes 15 years of seeking help to become diagnosed.

The group interviewed 2,600 women who had suffered with the chronic condition and produced a 51-page report.

Paula Sherriff, the MP for Dewsbury, who chaired the all-party group, said: “The fact that almost 50 per cent of women did not feel that they were treated with dignity and respect is appalling.”

2. Pelvic inflammatory disease

Pelvic inflammatory disease is an infection of a woman’s reproductive organs.

Pelvic inflammatory disease is a pelvic infection usually caused by a sexually transmitted disease, the most common being chlamydia,” Dr Jarvis said.

“70 per cent of women don’t develop any symptoms in the short-term when they have chlamydia and the first they know about it is when they have pelvic inflammatory disease.

“But while it can cause bad period pain that isn’t the main symptoms as on the whole they may feel generally unwell, possibly feeling feverish, having vaginal discharge and pain during sex.”

A diagnosis is usually based on a combination of medical history, a physical exam, and other test results.

Symptoms can include pain in the lower abdomen, fever, unusual discharge, pain or bleed while having sex, pain urinating and bleeding between periods.

If it is diagnosed early it can be treated, however the damage already caused to the reproductive tract by the disease cannot be reversed.

Pelvic inflammatory disease, caused by an infection in the pelvis, can also cause painful periods

3. Fibroids

Fibroids are non-cancerous growths that can develop in or around the uterus.

They are made from muscle and fibrous tissue and can vary in size.

Most women are unaware that they have them because they don’t often cause symptoms.

But when they do cause symptoms many women experience heavy or painful periods, tummy pain, lower back pain, a frequent need to wee and pain during sex.

“On the whole a classic symptom of fibroids is heavy bleeding rather than pain, but they can cause more painful periods,” Dr Jarvis added.

The exact cause of fibroids is not known but it is thought they are linked to an overproduction of oestrogen.

Fibroids don’t need to be treated if they are not causing symptoms as often they shrink on their own.

Dr Jarvis said a hot water bottle can help ease the inflammation caused by your period

How can you treat your period pain?

If you are experiencing period pain you can help manage the symptoms with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory tablets like ibuprofen or mefenamic acid or other pain killers like aspirin.

Dr Jarvis also recommends using a hot water bottle to help ease the pain.

“Another thing you can think about if you have heavy or painful periods is the combined oral contraceptive pill.


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“It is extremely effective because it tends to stop you ovulating and that tends to stop the amount of contractions.

“It will also help with heavy periods too.”

But if you period pain is becoming too much to handle, or you notice it change, you should speak to your GP as soon as possible.

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