It’s time to stop normalizing extremely painful periods

A student discusses the importance of talking about painful periods and raising awareness about what they could mean.


Growing up, I thought my period was supposed to be excruciatingly painful. Since the day it started, I faced debilitating pains that sent me straight to bed and prevented me from moving for days. Everyone around me told me it was “normal,” and I needed to get used to it. 

The stigma around discussing periods prevented me from learning more about my symptoms. It wasn’t until I was 20 that I was finally diagnosed with a hormonal imbalance that made my period more severe, explaining my irregular pain.

Getting a diagnosis allowed me to treat the issue and put an end to my monthly suffering. However, a lot of people take even longer or never discover if they have undiagnosed medical issues because they don’t know when to consult a doctor.

One of the misconceptions about periods is that it’s normal for them to be incredibly painful and cause nearly unbearable discomfort. In reality, excruciating pain could mean a person has underlying health conditions that need treatment.

March is Endometriosis Awareness Month, which recognizes a uterine condition that is one of many possible reasons for abnormal period pain. Students and professionals must acknowledge extreme pain is not just a part of being a person who menstruates and people should seek medical advice when period pains are severe. 

“There are a lot of assumptions [around periods], assuming it is always going to be painful, that you are always going to be cranky or moody, which is not the case for everyone,” said Sandra Sepulveda-Kozakowski, a psychology and neuroscience professor. 

Up to 15 percent of people report severe period pain that keeps them away from daily activities, Cleveland Clinic reported.  Having excruciating cramps that disrupt everyday activities can indicate an undiagnosed condition and should not be normalized, according to the United Nations. 

While some discomfort during menstruation is a natural part of the cycle, periods shouldn’t impact daily functioning, and if that’s the case, students should seek medical counseling to check their condition and determine what might be going on.  

Normalizing period pain can be extremely dangerous and cause damage to people’s health, said Allanah Nelligan, a junior secondary education and history major, and co-president of PERIOD at Temple.  

To avoid normalizing painful periods, people need to be more comfortable with menstruation by talking more openly about it and accompanying symptoms with honesty and clarity.

“Normal varies from person to person when talking about your menstrual cycle, but normalizing painful periods can be purlieus and can often mask underlying health issues, conditions like endometriosis, fibroids or pelvic inflammatory disease,” Nelligan said.

Some conditions, including uterine fibroids, PCOS, hormonal imbalances and pelvic disease, can cause severe period pains and other uncomfortable symptoms, like irregular periods, nausea and fatigue. Untreated conditions can make people more susceptible to other medical risks like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart problems, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

However, even when people do seek medical help, some factors prevent people from getting treatment, like medical gaslighting.

Sometimes physicians dismiss patients’ symptoms instead of investigating further so it’s harder for people to get an accurate diagnosis. It takes longer to get treatment if menstruators constantly have to advocate for themselves and fight to get a doctor to listen to them.  

Factors like race, gender and ethnicity influence medical gaslighting, and marginalized groups are more likely to experience it. Nearly 50 percent of LGBTQ+ people experience medical gaslighting, according to a 2023 joint study between Healthgrades and OutCare Health. 

It’s important for people to learn about period pain so they can learn to advocate for themselves in case they encounter a doctor who dismisses their symptoms, said Bella Bentivogli, a senior biology major and co-president of PERIOD.

“I think everyone who’s experiencing painful periods or anything they think is wrong, they should learn to advocate for themselves,” Bentivogli said.

Raising awareness about period symptoms can’t solve all the problems menstruators encounter while getting an official diagnosis, however knowing periods aren’t supposed to be debilitating will help encourage self-advocacy.  

“Not only does [medical gaslighting] run the risk that you can miss a serious health concern, but also can lead, from an emotional standpoint, a person feeling really isolated and alone, feeling marginalized and possibly ashamed about their body and ashamed about their experience,” Sepulveda-Kozakowski said.

Spreading awareness might not solve everything wrong in the healthcare system, but it’s moving in the right direction. 

Being more open about periods and talking about the symptoms is a necessary first step to encourage people to seek medical advice and experience periods without having to put their lives on pause every month.

Openly discussing periods and the pain they can cause, will help students take care of their health. However, it will also help people who menstruate feel less alone and more understood.

People shouldn’t have their period getting in the way of their daily activities. Knowing extreme pain is not just a part of being a menstruator will encourage people to seek medical help instead of accepting it as a part of life.

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