For women

What causes period pain?

When an egg is unfertilised, the womb’s lining isn’t needed any more. So, the body releases hormones called prostaglandins. They signal the muscles in the womb to contract. And these contractions push the lining out of the body, through the vagina.

Some of us have bodies that don’t make many prostaglandins, so the contractions won’t be very strong. And some women don’t really have period bleeding, because their wombs absorb the lining. (In some ways, it’s the ultimate in recycling.)

If we produce higher levels of prostaglandins, it’s a bit like yelling at someone through a megaphone - telling them to really get going. It makes our wombs contract harder and faster, causing aches and cramps. Because the muscles in the womb are strong enough to push out a baby, some women can experience severe pain - although most of us don’t have pain that’s this bad.

We can even experience different levels of pain because of different amounts of oxygen reaching our wombs as the lining breaks down. Or simply because we all have different sensitivity to pain. What really matters is that periods are a natural part of being a woman, and we all experience them our own way.

If your period pain is bad, it needn’t mean there’s something ‘wrong’ with you - but you can treat the pain without stopping your period from ‘doing its thing’. In fact, treating severe period pain actually helps your body to work better, because it reduces stress levels, helps you sleep, and lets you enjoy exercise.

You're not alone

You're not alone

The next time you’re lying in bed, clutching a hot water bottle and grinding your teeth, don’t curse your period pain too much.
For one thing, you can wrestle it into submission...

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