What Is Menstrual Pain
Menstrual pain or cramps are pains in your lower abdomen that happen when your menstrual period begins . This pain may continue for 2 to 3 days. Cramps may be throbbing or aching, and they can be dull or sharp. Symptoms can range from a mild discomfort to serious pain that interferes with your normal activities.
Menstrual cramps are the leading cause of absenteeism in women younger than 30. Although over half of people who have menstrual periods feel some discomfort, 10% are temporarily disabled by symptoms.
What Are The Signs The Pain Could Be Something More Serious
If you are struggling with painful periods, it’s important not to suffer in silence. Painful menstrual cramps dont always indicate an underlying problem, but Pisal says there are a few signs that the pain could be something more serious.
The first is intensity. “If you need to take constant painkillers or cannot do your day-to-day activities, you need to seek medical attention,” he says. “Associated symptoms, such as fainting, loose motions, painful motions, and vomiting, also indicate that you need to see a doctor.”
Needing to take time off work or school can also be a sign. “If your periods are affecting the quality of life in a major way, it is important to take steps to alleviate the symptoms,” Pisal adds.
You should also take note of the heaviness of your periods. “If the pain is associated with heavier periods with clots and flooding, that can indicate a physical problem such as uterine fibroids,” he says.
Likewise, pain during sex shouldnt be ignored, as it could be an indication of a condition such as endometriosis.
Your Diet Is Not Good
We just talked about prostaglandins, leukotrienes, and their role in menstrual cramps. But what causes your body to produce them in large amounts? Much of it has to do with your diet.
A diet full of vegetable oils, refined grains, sugar, and alcohol is almost guaranteed to make your periods miserable. Because of the ways these foods damage your cells, disrupt your hormones, and interfere with cell communication, these foods will send your immune system into a firestorm. And that means prostaglandins and pain.
When I talk about vegetable oils, Im mainly referring to canola , safflower, corn, sunflower, peanut, cottonseed and soybean oils.
These are the most common oils used in things like salad dressings, sauces, mayonnaise, and any fried or processed foods.
Because these oils are extracted from the seeds using high heat and chemical solvents, they are oxidized by the time they make it into our food. And those resulting oxidized fats and solvents are powerful drivers of cell damage and inflammation. Also, these oils are high in omega-6 fats that promote the production of inflammatory prostaglandins.
Unfortunately, 99% or more of restaurants use canola oil in their cooking because its cheap and has a neutral taste and a stable shelf-life. And most people dont think about vegetable oils as a source of inflammation as they slather their healthy salads with any ol store-bought salad dressing.
- Sweetened yogurt
- Sweet cereals and granola
Don’t Miss: First Signs Of Pregnancy Before Missed Period
How Long Period Pain Lasts
Period pain usually starts when your bleeding begins, although some women have pain several days before the start of their period.
The pain usually lasts 48 to 72 hours, although it can last longer. It’s usually at its worst when your bleeding is heaviest.
Young girls often have period pain when they begin getting periods. Read more about starting periods.
Period pain that does not have an underlying cause tends to improve as a woman gets older. Many women also notice an improvement after they’ve had children.
If You Have Cramps That Meds Dont Help
It might be: endometriosis. This condition causes uterine tissue to grow on other organs such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes. It affects up to 10 percent of women, according to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists , though women often dismiss their excruciating pain as a normal part of their periods.
What to do: If you can, keep a log of your menstrual cyclesnoting degrees of pain as well as the dates of your periods and other symptoms like bleedingand bring it to your doctor. The more information you can bring about your normal cycles, the better, Masterson explains, but if youre really uncomfortable, dont waitjust come in and let us figure it out. Hormone treatments may be effective, she adds, because they can decrease the length of your period and shorten the amount of pain you experience each month.
Recommended Reading: Why Is My Period Two Weeks Early
What Is Are Menstrual Cramps
Dysmenorrhea is the medical term for pain with your period or menstrual cramps. There are two types of dysmenorrhea: primary and secondary.
Primary dysmenorrhea is the name for common menstrual cramps that come back over and over again and arent due to other diseases. Pain usually begins one or two days before you get your period or when bleeding actual starts. You may feel pain ranging from mild to severe in the lower abdomen, back or thighs.
Pain can typically last 12 to 72 hours, and you might have other symptoms, such as nausea and vomiting, fatigue, and even diarrhea. Common menstrual cramps may become less painful as you get older and may stop entirely if you have a baby.
If you have painful periods because of a disorder or an infection in your female reproductive organs, it is called secondary dysmenorrhea. Pain from secondary dysmenorrhea usually begins earlier in the menstrual cycle and lasts longer than common menstrual cramps. You usually dont have nausea, vomiting, fatigue or diarrhea.
How Can You Treat Cramping Caused By Implantation
Implantation cramps should not be so severe that they disable you or interfere with your daily activities. That being said, they can still be annoying and painful! If implantation cramps bother you, there are a few options for dealing with them.
Generally speaking, you can treat cramping caused by implantation in the same way you tend to period cramps: try using a heating pad or, if that does not provide enough relief, taking an over-the-counter pain reliever like Tylenol . There is also some evidence that exercise can help: the endorphins from exercise may work as a natural pain-reliever.
Recommended Reading: Is There A Pill To Stop Your Period
Why Do I Have Cramps But No Period
Cramping without having a period can come from a number of things, some more concerning than others. Simple things like constipation or ovulation can cause cramping, but more serious issues can include IBS, endometriosis, or an issue with a pregnancy . “Some causes may be natural or normal,” said Alessandra M. Taylor, MD, an ob-gyn based in Austin, TX. “Other causes may be more serious and should be discussed with a doctor.” Cramping can also be linked to ovarian cysts or appendicitis, both of which need to be treated quite quickly. Urinary-tract infections can also cause cramping.
Period Pain: Why Do So Many Women Suffer From Menstrual Cramps In Silence
Up to 20% of women suffer from cramping severe enough to interfere with daily activities and many grimace through it without ever speaking up
Id never been squeamish about talking about bodily functions. At university, I was a peer contraceptive counselor and Ive gone so far as to solicit drawing of vulvas from people, so I was surprised that when I started experiencing menstrual cramps so bad that I could hardly get out of bed in the morning, I kept quiet. Despite the fact that the pain made it so hard for me to go to work, it took me a year to tell my boss. And I hardly mentioned it to my closest friends and family.
Dysmenorrhea, the technical term for extreme period pain, is a common problem. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, up to 20% of women suffer from menstrual cramping severe enough to interfere with daily activities. But unlike the skiing-aficionado in your office who excitedly explains how he broke his arm on the slopes, many menstruating women grimace through their pain in silence.
When I finally had surgery to have fibroids removed from my uterus this year, friends remarked how theyd had no idea I was ever suffering. Now that Im recovered, I have the energy back to think through what happened. Why didnt I speak up about my menstrual pain? Why dont others?
Read Also: What Is The Incubation Period For A Cold
What Else Could It Be
When youre TTC, its natural to hope for news worth celebrating but experiencing cramps around 6-12 DPO does not necessarily mean you are pregnant. Sometimes, these cramps could be a sign of something else.
Most commonly, implantation cramps are confused with PMS cramps. These cramps occur around the same point in your menstrual cycle and feel similarly, though implantation cramps might be less intense. You might also confuse implantation cramps for period cramps and if your period arrives early, you might mistake it for implantation bleeding and assume your cramps are also due to implantation.
Implantation cramps can be uncomfortable, but implantation should not cause severely painful cramping. If you are experiencing intense cramps at 6-12 DPO, you should contact your OB/GYN. It may be a sign of a health condition such as endometriosis, which can cause chronic pelvic pain. It could also be a sign of an early miscarriage, especially if you experience bleeding alongside intense cramping.
The best way to differentiate between implantation cramps and cramps due to other causes is, unfortunately, to wait. The two-week wait is famous for being challenging, but there is no way around it: you cannot take a pregnancy test before 14 DPO if you are looking for the most accurate results.
When Should I Talk To My Ob
Since each womans body is unique, it can be difficult to tell whether the cramps youve grown used to are actually chronic. Use these common symptoms of chronic, severe menstrual cramps as a guideline to decide if its time to talk to an OB-GYN about your cramps.
- Your cramps interfere with your daily life
- The cramps last longer than two days
- No or minimal relief from over-the-counter pain medication
- You have cramps outside of your period
- You notice a change in how your cramps feel over time
Read Also: How To Talk About Periods With Your Daughter
What Can I Do For Cramps
If cramps bother you, you can:
- Take a pain reliever. Talk to your mom or dad or your doctor about which medicine is best for you. They can help you figure out how much to take and how often.
- Exercise! Being physically active can ease cramps, probably because exercise releases endorphins, which are chemicals in the body that make you feel good.
- Get warm. Try placing a warm water bottle, warm heating pad, or warm compress on your belly or take a warm bath.
If these tips dont help, talk to your parent or your doctor about other treatments.
How Are Severe Menstrual Cramps Treated
When the usual home remedies to relieve period cramps are no match for your cramps, an OB-GYN can help you find relief from the pain. The most common treatments for severe menstrual cramps are:
- Hormonal birth control methods If your menstrual cramps are caused by a hormone imbalance, your doctor might recommend using a hormonal birth control. In addition to preventing pregnancy, taking hormonal birth control can help correct the levels of estrogen and progesterone in your body, which effects the thickness of the uterine lining. Thinning the uterine lining can reduce prostaglandin and bring pain relief. Some birth control methods can cause women to skip their periods, eliminating cramps altogether.
- Prescription medication When over-the-counter medicines dont work, your doctor might prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs . These medicines are much stronger than similar ones youll find over-the-counter. They can significantly reduce prostaglandins in your uterus, which might thin the uterine lining and alleviate cramps. Prescription medication is used when a woman experiences severe, chronic cramps.
Don’t Miss: What Can Make Your Period Stop
How Does Secondary Dysmenorrhea Cause Menstrual Cramps
Menstrual pain from secondary dysmenorrhea is a result of problems with the reproductive organs. Conditions that can cause cramping include:
- Endometriosis: A condition in which the tissue lining the uterus is found outside of the uterus. Because these pieces of tissue bleed during your period, they can cause swelling, scarring and pain.
- Adenomyosis: A condition where the lining of the uterus grows into the muscle of the uterus. This condition can cause the uterus to get much bigger than it should be, along with abnormal bleeding and pain.
- Pelvic inflammatory disease : An infection caused by bacteria that starts in the uterus and can spread to other reproductive organs. PID can cause pain in the stomach or pain during sex.
- Cervical stenosis: Narrowing of the cervix, or the opening to the uterus.
- Fibroids : Growths on the inside, outside or in the walls of the uterus
How Can You Relieve Mild Menstrual Cramps
To relieve mild menstrual cramps:
- For the best relief, take ibuprofen as soon as bleeding or cramping starts. Ibuprofen belongs to a class of drugs called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs . They reduce the output of prostaglandins. If you cant take NSAIDs, you can take another pain reliever like acetaminophen.
- Place a heating pad or hot water bottle on your lower back or abdomen.
- Rest when needed.
- Avoid foods that contain caffeine.
- Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol.
- Massage your lower back and abdomen.
Women who exercise regularly often have less menstrual pain. To help prevent cramps, make exercise a part of your weekly routine.
If these steps dont relieve pain, your healthcare provider can order medications for you, including ibuprofen or another anti-inflammatory medication in a higher dose that is available over the counter. Your healthcare provider might also suggest oral contraceptives since women who take oral contraceptives tend to have less menstrual pain.
If testing shows that you have secondary dysmenorrhea, your provider will discuss treatments of the condition causing the pain. This might mean oral contraceptives, other types of medications, or surgery.
Recommended Reading: Having Chlamydia While On Your Period
Why Do Period Cramps Hurt
Prostaglandins act like hormones by getting your uterus contracting and shedding its lining which, you guessed it, causes cramping.
These guys also participate in the pain responses and inflammation of it all. They hang out in the uterine lining and get released when the lining is released.
After they free-fall with the lining, they kick the contractions up a few notches, usually during the first couple days of your period.
Un-fun math equation: The higher level of prostaglandins = even sh*ttier cramping.