Period pain is something almost every woman is familiar with. Considered a normal part of the menstrual cycle, period pain is usually felt as uncomfortable muscle cramps in the stomach, often spreading to the back and the thighs. This pain can be intense and sharp, or dull and constant.[1]

According to Women’s Health Concern, more than 80% of women will experience some form of period-related discomfort at some point in their lives, and this pain can be severe enough to disrupt day-to-day life in around 5-10% of women.[2]

But can your emotional state impact your period, and does feeling stressed actually make your pain worse?

Do you experience more pain when you’re stressed during your period?

A study published in the Journal of Women’s Health back in 2010 found that stress could indeed lead to worse symptoms of period pain. Participants who said they felt stressed two weeks before starting their period were between twice and four times as likely to report severe period pain symptoms compared to women who reported no signs of stress.[3]

Researchers couldn’t pinpoint an exact reason for why this might be the case, though several theories were suggested by the team. These include that stress can alter ovarian hormones, or that the stress hormone cortisol may have a direct effect on period pain.[4]

Speaking to SELF, Dr Antonio Pizarro, MD, described how a lack of sleep and an increase in stress can cause hormone imbalances which could exacerbate pain, saying:

“If you don’t sleep enough, your body will release more of the stress hormone cortisol, which affects how your pituitary gland works. Your pituitary gland regulates hormones, so this can have a major effect on your cycle, leading to periods that don’t arrive when you’re expecting them to. Thanks to the imbalanced hormones, they may even be heavier or more painful than usual.”[5]

The relationship between stress and period pain goes both ways too. Studies have shown that when women are on their period, they are generally more prone to feelings of anxiety and stress. Menstruation leads to a number of hormonal changes, potentially leading to physical and emotional effects which contribute to anxiety. Fluctuations in hormones such as oestrogen and progesterone can impact appetite, digestion and energy, all of which can impact your mood.[6]

So while there are still questions regarding the link between stress and period pain, it’s clear that relaxation is an important part of making your period more manageable.

How to effectively deal with period pain

The NHS recommends several simple lifestyle changes which can help to alleviate the severity of your period pain. These include:

Exercising, such as gentle swimming, cycling or even walking

Using a heat pad or hot water bottle to ease the pain

Having a hot bath or shower to help you relax

Stopping smoking, as smoking is thought to increase the risk of pain

Lightly massaging your lower abdomen

Relaxation techniques such as yoga or Pilates[7]

Medication is also available to help effectively ease the pain you experience while on your period. Mefenamic acid works by reducing inflammation, therefore lowering pain levels.

Discover safe and effective period pain medication like mefenamic acid right here at Express Pharmacy. If you have any queries, don’t hesitate to contact our team on 0208 123 07 03 or by using our discreet Live Chat service.

[1] NHS UK. Period pain. 2016

[2] Women’s Health Concern. Period Pain. 2017

[3] Gollenburg, A.L. et al. Perceived Stress and Severity of Perimenstrual Symptoms: The BioCycle Study. Journal of Women’s Health. 2010

[4] Nauert, R. PhD. Stress Exacerbates Menstrual Symptoms. PsychCentral. 2019

[5] Barnes, Z. 8 Habits That Are Making Your Periods Even Worse. SELF. 2016

[6] Nillni, Y.I. et al. Anxiety Sensitivity, the Menstrual Cycle and Panic Disorder: A Putative Neuroendocrine and Psychological Interaction. Clinical Psychology Review. 2011

[7] NHS UK. Period pain. 2016