Painful menstrual periods, also called dysmenorrhea, may include pain in the pelvis, abdomen, back and 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 dysmenorrhea—painful regular menstrual cycles caused by uterine muscle contractions
  • Secondary dysmenorrhea—painful periods due to an underlying condition, such as endometriosis, which is a condition involving the lining of the uterus, or infection

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: