Painful menstrual periods, also called dysmenorrhea, may include pain in the pelvis, abdomen, back, or legs, abdominal cramps, headache, and fatigue. Most women have painful periods at some time in their lives. In some women, the pain is severe enough to interfere with normal activities.

There are two types of dysmenorrhea:

  • Primary—painful regular menstrual cycles caused by uterine muscle contractions
  • Secondary—painful periods due to an underlying condition, such as endometriosis

Menstrual Flow
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Primary dysmenorrhea is caused by high levels of prostaglandins in the uterus. Prostaglandins are hormone-like substances normally found throughout the body.

Secondary dysmenorrhea can be caused by: