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Painful Periods / Menstrual Cramps

Why do I get painful periods? Painful cramps which occur during your menstrual cycle are known as Dysmenorrhea. This pain is due to the release of hormones called “prostaglandins”. These hormones cause your uterus to contract or tighten. For some women, these contractions can be painful. This pain usually occurs across your lower abdomen but can also be in your back. Pain typically starts when you start your menses and decrease over the next few days.

How does my doctor diagnosis dysmenorrhea? A doctor will usually diagnose dysmenorrhea based on your history and a physical examination. It is helpful to track how often your menstrual cycles are, how long they last and what days you have pain. Occasionally a doctor will recommend an ultrasound to evaluate for other causes of pain.

What can I do to make the pain better? Try taking over the counter medications like ibuprofen (brand names: Motrin or Advil) or naproxen (brand name: Aleve). These medications help with menstrual cramping and can also decrease bleeding with menstrual cycles. Use of a heating pad can also improve your pain. A doctor may recommend hormonal birth control (such as pills, the patch, vaginal ring, injection, implant or an intrauterine device).

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