Painful Periods : Diagnosis
Most women who have period pain find it is mild enough to treat at home. However, if your periods are causing you severe pain, contact your doctor for advice.
Also contact your doctor if you have:
- a fever
- sudden and severe pain in your abdomen
- a large amount of blood clots in your period
- thick or foul-smelling
When you visit your doctor they will look at your medical history and ask you to describe your symptoms. They may also ask about your menstrual cycle and sexual activity.
Try not to feel embarrassed or awkward when talking to your doctor about this. They need to know this information to help them determine the cause of your period pain. It will allow them to provide the most appropriate treatment for your pain.
Although most cases of period pain are not caused by an underlying condition, your doctor may feel it necessary to carry out a physical examination so that any other conditions can be detected or ruled out. Usually, the physical examination will involve your doctor examining your pelvic area.
During a pelvic examination, your doctor will examine your vulva and labia (external genitals) for signs of bleeding or infection. They may also need to examine you internally. This will involve your doctor inserting gloved, lubricated fingers into your vagina to feel for any abnormalities in your womb or ovaries.
A pelvic examination will only be carried out by a health professional who is qualified to perform the procedure, such as a doctor or a gynaecologist (a specialist in the female reproductive system). This type of examination will not be carried out without your consent, and you will have the option of having someone with you during the procedure.
If your period pain does not respond to treatment, or your doctor suspects an underlying condition, you may be referred to a specialist. In most cases, you will be referred to a gynaecologist.
To determine what might be causing your period pain, your gynaecologist may have to carry out a series of tests and procedures.
Some of these are included below.
Pelvic ultrasound: an ultrasound scan uses high-frequency sound waves to produce an image of the inside of your body. It is a painless procedure, and will allow your specialist to detect any abnormalities in your reproductive organs.
Laparoscopy: during this procedure, a small cut is made in your abdomen through which a fibro-optic telescope (laparoscope) is inserted. It can be used to look at your internal organs, as well as take samples of tissue. This procedure is normally carried out under general anaesthetic.
Hysteroscopy: this test allows your specialist to look inside your womb using a fibro-optic telescope, which is carefully passed through your vagina and into the womb to look for any abnormalities.