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Secondary Dysmenorrhea: Everything You Need to Know

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Dysmenorrhea is a medical condition that causes frequent and severe menstrual cramps during your period. You will feel a throbbing and cramping pain in your lower abdomen, lower back and thighs. Some women might also experience headache, nausea and dizziness.

Dysmenorrhea can be either primary or secondary. In our previous blog, we looked at primary dysmenorrhea in detail. This blog is all about its evil twin sister: secondary dysmenorrhea.

What is Secondary Dysmenorrhea?

While Primary Dysmenorrhea is caused by perfectly natural reasons, secondary dysmenorrhea is caused by some underlying medical conditions and diseases. If you have secondary dysmenorrhea, you will experience prolonged and more severe period pains as compared to normal women. The pain might also progressively increase as you are going through your period and might not go away even after your period ends.

We spoke to a few women who suffer from this kind of pain. “I simply don’t know what to do. I’m forced to take a few days off work; I was laid off in my previous job because of this,” “It feels like my body is not my own, I want to rip out all that is inside of me causing this pain,” “My husband thought I was lying until I got the tests done.” These are just a few things Warsha, Khyati, and Zainab had to tell us.

Prevalence and Risk Factors of Secondary Dysmenorrhea

Nearly 30% of women suffer from secondary dysmenorrhea. These might be some of the reasons and risk factors:

  • Endometriosis

    Endometriosis is a chronic condition in which tissues like the uterine (womb) lining grow on other organs of the body, like on the ovaries, bladder, fallopian tubes and behind the uterus.
  • Fibroids

    Benign (harmless) tumors that develop on the outside or the inside or on the uterine walls from the muscles of the uterus are called Fibroids.
  • Adenomyosis

    Adenomyosis is a condition in which the lining of the uterus grows on the muscles of the uterus. This can cause the uterus to grow much bigger than it should be, resulting in abnormal bleeding and pain.
  • Pelvic Inflammatory disease (PID)

    PID is an infection of the female reproductive organs, usually caused by a sexually transmitted bacteria which spreads from the vagina to the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries.
  • Structural difference

    Some women are born with structural abnormalities in their uterus, fallopian tubes and other reproductive organs which can lead to pain during their menstruation.

Symptoms and Complications of Secondary Dysmenorrhea

Listed below are some of the secondary dysmenorrhea symptoms:

  • Pain that lasts longer than your periods.
  • Feeling pressure on your stomach, abdomen, lower back and thighs.
  • Experiencing pain at other times during your menstruation cycle, outside of your periods.
  • Heavy and irregular periods.
  • Unusual vaginal discharge.
  • Experiencing pain during sex and bleeding after sex.

Diagnosis of Secondary Dysmenorrhea

Your doctor will evaluate your medical history and do a thorough physical and pelvis examination. Other tests might include:

  • Ultrasound and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). Your doctor can also use other imaging tests.
  • Laparoscopy. A minor surgical procedure in which a cut is made near the belly button and a thin tube with a lens and a light is inserted which allows the doctor to view the organ in the pelvic region.
  • Hysteroscopy. A test in which a viewing instrument called a hysteroscope is inserted through the vagina to view the canal of the cervix and uterus.

Your doctor can, most of the time, successfully find the cause of your period pains and confirm if you have secondary dysmenorrhea with these tests. Your doctor might also take some swab samples during your tests to screen you for any infections.

Treatment of Secondary Dysmenorrhea

Secondary dysmenorrhea treatment will depend on its cause. Your doctor will advise you on the best course of treatments based on your symptoms, cause and the severity of the symptoms.

When to see your doctor

Go see your doctor as soon as you experience any of the symptoms mentioned in the symptoms and complications section. Leaving secondary dysmenorrhea untreated can only increase its symptoms and worsen the condition. You can visit your doctor even if you have minor little doubts about your period health, better safe than sorry. You can always reach out to us for additional help.


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