I’m 21 years old, and my cramps have always been very bad to the point that I throw up and miss school or practice. Is something wrong with me, because in the past my doctor would say it’s normal, but nobody else in my family gets it this bad either.

Menstrual periods can be light and easy for some young and adult women, but for others, they can be heavy and/or accompanied by painful cramps. It’s normal to have mild menstrual cramps because the uterus contracts during a woman’s period but it’s not normal if your pain is not relieved with over-the-counter medicines or if the pain is so intense that it causes you to miss school, work, sports practices or other activities.

Dysmenorrhea (pronounced- dis-men-o-ree-ah) is the medical term for “difficult or painful periods.” Primary dysmenorrhea is the most common kind of dysmenorrhea. Cramps or pain in the lower belly area and/or lower back can start 1-2 days before your period comes and can last 2-4 days. Secondary dysmenorrhea is when cramps and, for some lower back pain, is the result of a medical problem such as endometriosis or pelvic inflammatory disease.

Since it is not normal to have severe menstrual cramps or to vomit because of our period, you should make an appointment with your health care provider. It’s also a good idea to keep track of your menstrual cycle and symptoms and bring the information with you when you see your provider.

Learn more about menstrual cramps: