It shouldn’t surprise you to hear that menstrual cramps can be painful. You might be stunned to know just how painful they can be.
Menstrual cramps — technically called dysmenorrhea — can cause pain that’s “almost as bad as having a heart attack,” according to Dr. John Guillebaud, a professor of reproductive health at University College London, who made the comparison to Quartz.
The pain is severe enough that it is the leading reason women younger than 30 miss work or school, according to WebMD.com. The pain can interfere with daily activities for up to 20% of women, according to a study by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
According to WebMD, the following factors could make it more likely for a woman to experience painful menstrual cramps:
- Started period before age 11
- Periods are heavy
- Overweight or obese
- Smokes cigarettes or drinks alcohol
- Has never been pregnant
That said, the reasons why some women are impacted more than others remains unclear, Dr. Richard Legro of Penn State College of Medicine said in an interview with Quartz. Legro is studying possible treatments, but getting funding to study the issue has been a concern, Quartz reported.
In 2019, Legro told Everyday Health the stigmas surrounding women’s reproductive health are still as prevalent as ever.
“That we still have to educate the male public and public health providers and funding agencies in 2019 that menstrual pain is real, that it is debilitating, and that it disrupts women’s lives is astounding to me,” he told the website. “It was as if someone just figured out that childbirth is painful.”