Period pain – Information for girls

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Some women and girls don't have any period problems, and others have period pain or abdominal cramps. Find out what causes the pain and what you can do about it.

If you have period pain, you're not alone: About 3 out of every 4 girls and women sometimes have period pain, and 1 out of 10 have very severe pain. Moderate to severe period pain is especially common in younger women under the age of 20.

But there’s a good chance that your period pain will get better over time: most young women find that their period pain gets better, or even goes away completely, within a few years of their first period.

What happens during your period?

The inside of the womb is lined with tissue that gets thicker during each menstrual cycle. This supplies the embryo with nutrients if the woman gets pregnant. If she doesn’t get pregnant, she will get her period.

When you have a period, the upper layer of the lining of your womb is shed and leaves your body. To shed the lining, the muscles of the womb tighten (contract) and relax at irregular intervals. Some women don't notice their muscles contracting at all, and others feel them pulling in their tummy. But they can also cause pain and cramps. Period pain may be felt in the back or legs. Some girls and women also feel nauseous, vomit or have diarrhea.

Why do some women and girls have period pain and others don’t?

It is not known why some women and girls have painful periods. Certain chemical messengers in the body, known as prostaglandins, play a role. Women who have period pain probably make too many prostaglandins or might be particularly sensitive to them. Most young women’s bodies get used to these substances over time, though, so the pain often gets better or goes away completely.

What can I do about the pain?

Girls and women try out different things to reduce their period pain. It is best to find out for yourself what helps. The options include the following:

  • Warmth, such as heating pads, patches and belts, or hot water bottles
  • Exercises and relaxation techniques, such as pilates or yoga
  • Anti-inflammatory painkillers like diclofenac, ibuprofen or naproxen. These have been proven to relieve the pain. They sometimes have side effects such as stomach problems and headaches. But most girls and women tolerate them well.
  • Hormonal contraceptives such as the pill or contraceptive coils: They are particularly considered as a treatment option in girls who would like to use a birth control method anyway. Hormonal contraceptives stop the lining of the womb from thickening as it usually would. Bleeding is usually less heavy and shorter than natural menstruation, or there is no bleeding at all. Possible side effects include headaches and nausea. Hormonal contraceptives also increase the risk of blood clotting (thrombosis).

It is not known whether other treatments such as or dietary supplements help.

If your period pain is so bad that you have to stay at home, or if you would like to take medication for the pain, it's best to talk to your doctor. He or she can help you find out what is causing the pain and discuss the treatment options with you.

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IQWiG health information is written with the aim of helping people understand the advantages and disadvantages of the main treatment options and health care services.

Because IQWiG is a German institute, some of the information provided here is specific to the German health care system. The suitability of any of the described options in an individual case can be determined by talking to a doctor. can provide support for talks with doctors and other medical professionals, but cannot replace them. We do not offer individual consultations.

Our information is based on the results of good-quality studies. It is written by a team of health care professionals, scientists and editors, and reviewed by external experts. You can find a detailed description of how our health information is produced and updated in our methods.

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Updated on May 12, 2023

Next planned update: 2026


Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG, Germany)

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