Period problems can come in physical or mental forms and WUKA experts are here to discuss them all so you can be sure to identify when you need help.
Period pain- officially known as dysmenorrhea. 90% of women experience it each month, so if you have a menstrual cycle there’s a really good chance you know what we’re talking about. Period pain can be felt in and around the lower abdomen and lower back. It can be a dull ache or a throbbing pain, and it can vary in intensity- with the most painful cramps usually occurring at the start of your cycle.
But why do we get period pain, and what can we do to ease it?
Causes of period pain
There are two forms of period pain: primary dysmenorrhea and secondary dysmenorrhea. Primary refers to the pains that are most common, the cramps we get at the start of our period, or in the day or so leading up to our period. Secondary dysmenorrhea refers to the period pain that some women experience due to other medical conditions.
Primary dysmenorrhea is caused by uterine contractions. During your cycle, the uterus lining thickens in preparation for a pregnancy. If no pregnancy occurs, the lining is broken down and shed along with the unfertilised egg as your period. In order to shed the lining, the uterus contacts, and this constricts the blood vessels lining the uterus wall. The constriction leads to the production of prostaglandins, which trigger a pain response in the body. The aim of the contractions is to aid the shedding of the lining so, along with painful cramps, this is usually when your period is most heavy too.
Secondary dysmenorrhea can be caused by a few different conditions:
- Endometriosis- a condition where endometrial tissues grows in places other than the uterus. We discuss this more later in the article.
- Uterine fibroids- non-cancerous growths that appear in and around the uterus. This is a common condition which affects around one in three women in the UK. Most women with fibroids won’t have any symptoms at all, but some will experience heavier and more painful periods.
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)- a common infection which affects the female reproductive organs. Infection occurs when bacteria travels from the vagina and cervix to the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries. Most cases of PID are caused by leaving an STI untreated and can cause further complications if not treated. A common symptom of PID is heavy and painful periods.
- Adenomyosis- a condition where the tissue normally found in the uterus lining grows into the muscular wall of the uterus instead. Again, this can cause heavy and painful periods.
- PCOS- caused by hormonal imbalances that disrupt the menstrual cycle. Heavy and painful periods can be a symptom of this condition.
Natural remedies for period pain
You can easily treat period pains at home with a variety of natural remedies:
- Hot water bottle/ warm bath: the sensation of heat can help to relax the muscles and ease cramps. We recommend our WUKA wearable hot water bottle- it even has a pocket for your phone. Handy!
- Gentle exercise: you might not feel like it, but moving your body and taking part in some form exercise that you enjoy will release endorphins, which are known as nature’s natural painkillers. Swimming, walking and yoga are great.
- Lifestyle changes: try maintaining a healthy, balanced diet and steer clear of processed foods, excess salt and sugar, alcohol and smoking.
- Herbal remedies: there are some herbs that are beneficial for period pain; ginger is known to ease digestive issues and cramps, while evening primrose oil is great for easing inflammation. Check out our post on natural remedies for period pain for more.
Medical treatments for period pain
Paracetamol can be taken to ease period pain, and NSAIDs (Non steroidal anti-Inflammatory Drugs) such as Ibuprofen can also be effective. Your doctor might also prescribe hormonal birth control to ease period pains.
During your period, you lose around 30-60 ml of blood- although it might seem like a lot more. Some women experience a heavier flow and may lose more. Often heavy periods are accompanied by more painful cramps too, and there can be underlying causes as to why your flow is so heavy.
Your period is classed as heavy if:
- You can’t keep up with your normal activities due to your heavy flow
- You soak through a pad or tampon envy one to two hours
- You need to double up on period protection
- Your period lasts for longer than a week
- You leak through to clothing
Speak to your doctor if you’re concerned about your heavy period or if your flow has suddenly increased.
Heavy period and anaemia
Some women experience anaemia as a result of their heavy period. Iron deficiency anaemia occurs when the body loses too many red blood cells and is forced to tap into iron stores to make more haemoglobin.
Symptoms of anaemia include:
- Tiredness/ lethargy
- Feeling short of breath
- Feeling light headed and dizzy
- Cold hands and feet
- Sore tongue and sore patches at the corners of your mouth
- ‘Spoon’ shaped nails
- Difficult swallowing
If you experience these symptoms and your period is heavy, speak to your doctor about treatments available.
Not knowing when your period is due to turn up, or how long your cycle is going to be each month can be frustrating and upsetting. Your period is classed as irregular if the time between periods keeps changing; most women experience a cycle lasting around 28 days on average, although some can be shorter and some can be longer.
Irregular periods can be down to a number different reasons. When you first start your period, it can take some time for your cycle to regulate- likewise, when you reach perimenopause, hormone imbalances can also cause irregular periods.
Some medical conditions can also cause irregular periods- such as endometrisosis, uterine fibroids, PCOS and PID. Speak to your doctor if your period is irregular and you’re also experiencing other symptoms such as intense pain or heavy bleeding.
Some contraceptive methods can also cause irregular periods, and stress is also known to play a role too. Try to eliminate stress as much as you can, and maintain a balanced diet with gentle exercise to keep your hormones balanced.
Tracking your period is an excellent way to gain a better understanding of your cycle and will help you to spot potential issues quickly. You can use an app or notes on on your phone/ calendar to record the start and finish date of your period and any symptoms you experience.
Track for at least three cycles, and if it appears irregular and erratic, make an appointment to discuss this with your doctor.
Stopped or Missed Period
If your period stops or you miss a period, your doctor will ask you to take a test to rule out pregnancy.
Other potential causes of a skipped period can include:
- Weight loss or weight gain
- Being overweight
- Over exercising
The NHS advises to speak to your GP to determine why your period has been missed.
Premenstrual syndrome affects around 30% of women each month, according to the National Association for Premenstrual Syndromes.
Its thought that PMS is caused by fluctuating hormones, specifically the sharp drop of oestrogen and rise of progesterone towards the end of the luteal phase (the last few days before your period starts). Lots of women who suffer tend to notice symptoms at this time, including:
- Mood swings
- Feeling tired
- Feeling anxious
- Experiencing food cravings
- Sore breasts
- Weight gain
Some will experience all, some only a few of these symptoms, and severity can vary from person to person.
Natural remedies for PMS
Most PMS symptoms can be treated easily at home with rest, relaxation and gentle self care. Remember its ok to take time out now and then, so if you don’t feel up to socialising then know its ok to have duvet day now and then.
Other natural remedies for PMS include: eating a healthy diet, avoiding processed foods and alcohol, taking gentle exercise and drinking plenty of water. Some herbal remedies can also be used for PMS treatment; speak to your doctor about the best supplements to take.
Medical treatments for PMS
Some people may find that their PMS symptoms are so severe that they require medical treatment. Thats ok. Antidepressants might be recommended if your emotional symptoms are severe, or hormonal birth control could be an option too.
Speak to your doctor about the best course of action for you.
Endometrisosis affects around one in ten women in the UK and is a condition that can cause very heavy and painful periods. With this condition, endometrial tissue usually found in the uterus is found growing in other places, such as the pelvic area or ovaries.
This leads to pain and scarring, as the endometrial tissue still behaves as if it is located in the uterus. This means that each month, the tissues break down and bleeds, but the blood cannot escape as it normally would during your period.
Endometriosis is hard to diagnose, and lots of women experience painful symptoms for a number of years before they’re treated.
- Intense pain in the abdomen and lower back, especially during your period
- Pelvic pain
- Pain when going to the loo
- Bleeding between periods
- Pain during sex
- Difficult getting pregnant
If you suspect you may have endometriosis, make an appointment with your GP to discuss your symptoms.
Ovulation takes place around 14 days after the start of your period, and lasts for just one day. Its the stage of your menstrual cycle where the mature egg is released from the ovaries to travel down the fallopian tubes for fertilisation. If no pregnancy occurs, the egg is then reabsorbed into the body.
Some women experience pain during this part of their cycle and this is usually very mild. Some women, however, experience more intense pains, also known as mittelschmerz.
Ovulation pain can be felt either as a dull ache or a sudden, sharp twinge, usually on one side of the abdomen. Some women experience this pain for up to two days during ovulation, and others for just a few hours or less. Some women don’t feel anything at all.
Ovulation pain is thought to be caused by the egg breaking through the ovary wall, but doctors can’t know for sure. Certain conditions such as endometriosis can make ovulation pain worse, as can scarring from an STI or previous caesarean section.
Paracetamol or Ibuprofen can be taken safely to treat ovulation pain, but if the pains are very intense and interfering with your normal activities, make an appointment to speak to your GP who can rule out any other issues.
Shop Period Pants
The last thing you need is period products that aren’t up to the job, even if your cycle is predictable and fairly uneventful. The fact of the matter is, most of us will be having a period for around 40 years in total, so we need period protection we can rely on and that makes us feel good.
Period pants are designed to cope with any period problem. Shop by flow so you know we’ve got you covered against leaks on your heavy days, or shop by style if you want a fit that's just right for you.
We know how important it is to have one less thing to worry about when you’re feeling bloated, full of cramps and emotional too- so leave it to us to keep you dry, fresh and comfy no matter where you are in your cycle.
What are 3 health problems related to menstruation?
The three main health problems associated with your menstrual cycle are Endometriosis, period pains and PMS.
When should I be worried about my period?
If you notice sudden changes to your cycle and you’re under the age of 40, you should speak to your GP about what could be happening. Bleeding between periods or after sex shouldn’t be ignored, and severe pain should also be investigated.
How do you fix your period problem?
Depending on the issues, there are medical treatments and home remedies that you can try to fix your period problem. Ultimately, you need to know what the issue is before you take anything, so make an appointment with your GP to discuss your symptoms. Maintaining a heathy, balanced diet and taking gentle exercise regularly will also always help.