Frequently Asked Questions Expand All
Feeling pain before or during your menstrual period is very common. More than half of women and girls with periods have some pain for 1 to 2 days each month.
Symptoms related to painful periods can include:
Muscle cramps in your lower belly or back
If pain during your period is severe, you also may have trouble sleeping.
During your period, your uterus contracts. Your uterus also releases natural chemicals called prostaglandins. These chemicals can cause cramps.
Period pain also can be caused by medical conditions, including
Period pain that is caused by a medical condition may get worse over time.
No matter if your period pain is mild or severe, you can ask your obstetrician–gynecologist (ob-gyn) or other health care professional for help. Period pain can cause you to miss school or work, or it can disrupt your everyday activities. It is especially important to get help if your pain is severe, feels worse than usual, or is making your life hard every month.
There are several ways to treat period pain. Most period pain in teens is treated with medication:
Pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, may ease your cramps. It may work best if you start taking a pain reliever 1 to 2 days before your period and continue through the first 2 to 3 days of bleeding.
Hormone treatment, such as birth control pills or a hormonal intrauterine device (IUD), also may lessen period pain.
If medication does not relieve the pain, your doctor may suggest tests to find the cause. A different treatment may be needed if you have a medical condition such as endometriosis or fibroids.
Your doctor should review your medical history, including your symptoms and menstrual cycle. They may recommend a pelvic exam or an ultrasound exam.
If it seems that your period pain may be caused by a medical condition, your doctor also may discuss a laparoscopy. This is surgery to look inside the pelvic region.
You may find it helpful to try:
Exercising regularly throughout each month
Taking a warm bath or putting a heating pad or hot water bottle on your abdomen or lower back
Getting more sleep, especially right before and during your period
Endometriosis is the most common medical condition that causes period pain. In this condition, tissue from the lining of the uterus is found outside the uterus. The tissue breaks down and bleeds in response to changes in hormones. This happens in the same way the lining of the uterus breaks down and bleeds each month during your period.
Ob-gyns may use laparoscopy to diagnose and treat endometriosis. Medications that suppress hormones also may be used to manage endometriosis.
Endometriosis is a long-lasting condition that may be challenging to treat. Ongoing education and support may be helpful. See Endometriosis to learn more. Other resources include the Endometriosis Foundation of America and the Endometriosis Association.
Adenomyosis: A condition in which the tissue that normally lines the uterus begins to grow in the muscle wall of the uterus.
Birth Control: Devices or medications used to prevent pregnancy.
Cyst: A sac or pouch filled with fluid.
Endometriosis: A condition in which tissue that lines the uterus is found outside the uterus, usually on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and other pelvic structures.
Fibroids: Growths that form in the muscle of the uterus. Fibroids usually are noncancerous.
Hormones: Substances made in the body that control the function of cells of organs.
Intrauterine Device (IUD): A small device that is inserted and left inside the uterus to prevent pregnancy.
Laparoscopy: A surgical procedure in which a thin, lighted telescope called a laparoscope is inserted through a small incision (cut) in the abdomen. The laparoscope is used to view the pelvic organs. Other instruments can be used with it to perform surgery.
Menstrual Cycle: The monthly process of changes that occur to prepare a woman’s body for possible pregnancy. A menstrual cycle is defined as the first day of menstrual bleeding of one cycle to the first day of menstrual bleeding of the next cycle.
Menstrual Period: The monthly shedding of blood and tissue from the uterus.
Obstetrician–Gynecologist (Ob-Gyn): A doctor with special training and education in women’s health.
Ovaries: Organs in women that contain the eggs necessary to get pregnant and make important hormones, such as estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.
Pelvic Exam: A physical examination of a woman’s pelvic organs.
Prostaglandins: Chemicals that are made by the body that have many effects, including causing the muscles of the uterus to contract, usually causing cramps.
Ultrasound Exam: A test in which sound waves are used to examine inner parts of the body. During pregnancy, ultrasound can be used to check the fetus.
Uterus: A muscular organ in the female pelvis. During pregnancy, this organ holds and nourishes the fetus. Also called the womb.
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If you have further questions, contact your ob-gyn.
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Published: October 2020
Last reviewed: August 2022
Copyright 2023 by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. All rights reserved. Read copyright and permissions information.
This information is designed as an educational aid for the public. It offers current information and opinions related to women's health. It is not intended as a statement of the standard of care. It does not explain all of the proper treatments or methods of care. It is not a substitute for the advice of a physician. Read ACOG’s complete disclaimer.
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