If you’ve found that your period pain is getting worse with age, you’re not imagining the symptoms. While some studies show that period pain is more intense in younger women or those who menstruate, there are certain factors that can contribute to period pain getting worse with age. Here’s everything you need to know about these factors—and the next steps you need to take to make sure that your pain is well managed.
Symptoms of Painful Periods
Before looking at the reasons behind why period paid might get worse with age, we must understand the full extent of painful periods. Period pain, also known as dysmenorrhea, is something that impacts approximately 80 percent of people who menstruate. The pain is usually associated with abdominal cramping, but there can be other symptoms as well, including:
These symptoms range in severity—some people are able to do activities as normal while other people who experience dysmenorrhea have too much pain to work, socialize, or complete other tasks. The pain is usually caused by the muscle wall of the uterus contracting. However, sometimes there are other medical conditions that can cause intense pain.
Occasional discomfort with menstrual periods is normal. But an increase in discomfort, intense pain, and heavy bleeding are all red flags and all symptoms of period pain getting worse with age.
Why Period Pain Gets Worse with Age
It’s a common misconception that period pain symptoms stay the same during the entire duration that somebody menstruates. In reality, the period symptoms (and the intensity of them) you might have experienced when you were a teenager can vary drastically even as you enter your 20s and 30s.
There are a few different factors that can contribute to period pain getting worse with age.
The first factor would be life circumstances. On average, most people who have children give birth to their first child sometime in their mid-twenties. Having a child introduces a huge shift in the body because of elements such as:
- Vaginal delivery
- Peri- and postnatal hormones
All of these things can greatly influence the birthing parent’s period symptoms for the future. The way that the reproductive organs change during and after pregnancy usually have a permanent effect on the person’s menstrual cycle. Some people report getting lighter, more regular periods after giving birth but others state the opposite. If you’ve recently had a baby, be sure to always keep track of any abnormal bleeding, large clots, or an increase in period pain symptoms.
Period pain getting worse with age might also be due to health changes. Specifically, many women and people who menstruate develop secondary dysmenorrhea. Secondary dysmenorrhea is often triggered by medical conditions that impact the reproductive organs. Examples of conditions that would impact the reproductive system would be:
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
Chronic health conditions like Crohn’s disease, which brings gastrointestinal symptoms, can change how somebody’s period pain feels, especially in times of a flare up.
Often, these medical conditions don’t develop until a person is 20 years or older. Additionally, getting older can put more strain on the body, which adds onto to these possible changes.
Lastly, a big contributing factor to period pain getting worse with age would be entering menopause. Menopause occurs with age, usually starting in a person’s 40s or 50s. This is when usual hormones that trigger the menstrual cycle begin to decrease in production. This can bring on new symptoms, including:
- Irregular periods
- Mood changes
- Hot flashes
- Difficulties sleeping
The end result of menopause is no longer having a mentrual cycle. But in the midst of it, menopause is one of the reasons why people feel that their period pain is getting worse with age.
Regardless of the reason behind why you are having intense pain with your periods, dealing with the symptoms can be challenging. This is where having them right pain management plan in place can help.
What to Do for Painful Periods
There are many different tactics to relieve pain that comes with periods. Some people who live with intense period pain utilize heat and relaxation to ease the discomfort of menstrual cramps. Using a hot water bottle or heating pad on the lower abdomen and back can sometimes ease the cramping. Additionally, taking warm baths can help with muscle relaxation in general. This is a great go-to pain management technique for people whose periods are getting worse with age and causing whole-body discomfort.
In some cases, further medical intervention is needed to help relieve pain. This includes medication. Being on the right birth control pill, for example, can help to regulate the hormones that are causing irregular, painful periods. Furthermore, some people choose to get an intrauterine device (IUD) which works as a birth control method. Hormonal IUDs can make periods lighter, more regular, and less painful overall, just as being on the birth control pill would.
Of course, not everybody wants to go this route. When heat isn’t cutting it and medication isn’t an option, there are other ways to address period pain getting worse with age. Try:
- Gentle exercise
- Avoiding foods that cause inflammation
Ultimately, when “that time of the month” comes with severe pain, discomfort, and other health symptoms that impact your ability to function, it’s time to dig a little deeper into what exactly is going on. It’s important to speak with a trusted health care provider about your symptoms because there could be something going on under the surface. Furthermore, an essential step in women’s health and care for people who menstruate would be getting screened annually for cervical cancer. While pap smears are certainly nobody’s idea of fun, they are necessary to maintaining good health.
To find support for painful periods and all of the challenges that come with aging, you can speak with others who are going through similar experiences. Our Pain Resource Community consists of people just like you looking for ways to relieve and cope with chronic pain. Don’t suffer through this pain alone—share your experiences and continue to learn more about what you can do when period pain tries to take over.
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