How Painful Should a Period Be?

This is a question that doesn’t have an easy answer, as technically all period pain is ‘abnormal’ in the sense that it is caused by high levels of the hormone prostaglandin (or problems in other hormone levels). Prostaglandins and other factors that cause period pain are explained in ‘What causes period pain’ section.

However, some mild discomfort below your belly button during the first two days that you have your period is probably ‘normal’ if it:

  • Can be managed either with self-care (like heat) or with taking over the counter pain medication (like Ibuprofen); and
  • Has minimal impact on your life (does not stop you concentrating in class, missing work or having to stop seeing your friends).

If you are under 18, it is very likely that this pain or discomfort will get less and less as you get older.

Watch this short clip to hear Ella talk about her experience with period pain.  

While some mild discomfort is probably normal, if you have the following symptoms you should speak to your doctor:

  • If you have pain that lasts more than the first two days of your period; or
  • If you have period pain that happens when you are not having your period; or
  • The pain affects your work, school or social life significantly even after taking painkillers (analgesic medication), especially if this happens on a regular basis.

Even though having pain with your period is common, if you have more severe symptoms like these you might have some other underlying condition that can be causing this (such as endometriosis) that needs to be investigated. Another alternative is your doctor may try you on different pain reducing or anti-inflammatory medication, as these work differently for different people. It’s important not to ignore the pain and hope it will get better, especially if you have had your period for more than a couple of years and it’s not improving or it’s getting worse.

For some, period pain will disappear completely, while for others it becomes much milder and more manageable. The important thing to remember is that period pain isn’t ‘untreatable’ or something you have to put up with! See our self-care section for suggestions on how you might better manage your period pain and minimise its impact on you. However, if you are worried try taking the PIPPA tool or make an appointment to discuss your concerns with your doctor. If in doubt, always speak to your healthcare professional!