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Gynaecological Health

How to Talk to Your Doctor about Period Pain

Years of conditioning have normalised period pain, and it’s difficult to find the right words and questions to figure out how to tackle it. Here’s how you start.

Jan 11, 2024

3 min read

Written by Jyoti Kumari
Medically Reviewed by 

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A woman is seated uncomfortably on a couch while she hugs her abdomen in pain.

Period pain is a common experience for many women, but knowing how to talk to a doctor about menstrual cramps can be challenging. With constant reminders that "it's a part of being a woman" or "it's just a period, nothing special, get over it", we often ignore the excruciating pain accompanying it.

Let’s find out why paying attention to the levels of pain we experience is essential. And, more importantly, how to have a productive conversation about it with your doctor.

What to ask your doctor?

As advised by Dr Kaishreen Khan, Senior Consultant at Apollo Clinic, “If your period pain interferes with your everyday activities and traditional home treatments don't work, you should consider seeing a gynaecologist.”

According to Dr Kiran Coelho, there are two crucial things to ask the doctor regarding period pain: What tests are required and what can cause this pain?

1. What kind of tests are needed?

Different tests may be required to diagnose period pain, depending on the potential diagnoses your doctor may be considering. These evaluations may involve a thorough medical history that covers your menstrual cycle, the exact location of your cramps, any related symptoms, and how they affect your day-to-day activities. Accurate diagnosis and efficient treatment depend on this information.

Some of the tests that may be required include:

  • Pelvic exam
  • Vaginal ultrasound for detecting fibroids
  • Laparoscopic surgery or biopsy is the standard approach for diagnosing endometriosis
  • Blood tests for diagnosing PCOS
  • Imaging tests
Blog quote

If your period pain interferes with your everyday activities and traditional home treatments don't work, you should consider seeing a gynaecologist.

Dr Kaishreen Khan, Apollo Clinic

2. What can cause this pain? From the most common to the worst-case scenario

Period pain can vary from mild discomfort to severe agony, and understanding what's causing it is vital. The most common culprit is usually dysmenorrhea, which involves cramping and pain in the lower abdomen. Dr. Sunil Kaushal, a senior gynaecologist and author, says, “Gathering a thorough medical history on the location, timing, and aggravating/relieving factors of the pain is usually the first step in an evaluation for primary dysmenorrhea.” He adds, “However, secondary dysmenorrhea, usually in a woman's 30s or 40s, is associated with underlying disorders such as fibroids, endometriosis, and others. It can cause changes in the timing and intensity of pain and other symptoms.”

Dysmenorrhea is often due to excess prostaglandins, a hormone that causes the uterus to contract. Other potential causes of period pain include:

  • Endometriosis
  • Uterine fibroids
  • Pelvic inflammatory diseases
  • Different forms of birth control, like intrauterine devices

Period pain can also be caused by underlying problems with the reproductive organs, such as adenomyosis and ovarian cysts, according to Dr Kaishreen Khan. Knowing the possible causes is essential for effective management.

Choosing the right specialist

Depending on the possible diagnosis, you might need to see a gynaecologist, reproductive endocrinologist, or gastroenterologist. It is advisable to bring notes and a list of questions before your doctor's appointment to get the most out of it. Choosing a doctor who listens to you and takes your worries seriously is essential for treating period discomfort. Start your trip with a gynaecologist if you are unsure which specialist is right for you.

Seeking medical help is the first step

Discussing period pain with your doctor doesn't have to be challenging. With the simple cues in this article, you can better understand how to consult a doctor about menstrual cramps that might be concerning or debilitating. Remember that your doctor is there to assist you, so don't be afraid to ask for advice.

Medically reviewed by:

Dr Suma Shet, Obstetrician and Gynaecologist

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