Every woman goes through period cramps at some point in her life. While mild cramps a week before your period are normal, bad cramps that won’t go away and cause extreme discomfort are a sign of Dysmenorrhea.
It’s a medical term that indicates extremely painful periods.
You might get the pain a week or two before the period starts or when the bleeding begins. Most women experience pain in their lower abdomen, at the back, or in the lower thighs.
The pain might occur with bloating, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. The throbbing pain in your uterus can cause extreme discomfort.
Sometimes, the pain is so bad that it might lead to fatigue and dizziness.
The question is, what causes these cramps? As mentioned earlier, primary dysmenorrhea is often the leading cause of painful periods.
This happens when your body produces abnormal levels of prostaglandins, a hormone that leads to uterine contractions and hence pain.
Uterine contractions can stop or lower the oxygen supply to the uterus.
The oxygen-deprived uterine muscles cause cramps. In some cases, medical conditions like endometriosis or pelvic inflammatory diseases might lead to menstrual cramps.
These diseases can also cause other problems, such as ectopic pregnancy. The pelvic inflammatory disease might cause scars on your fallopian tubes, which can result in your fetus growing outside the uterus.
Let’s check out the reasons why you have painful periods.
Endometriosis is a gynecological condition in which the lining of your uterus is found outside the uterus.
This can be found on your fallopian tubes, ovaries, throughout your pelvic areas, and in rare cases, your diaphragm, liver, and brain.
Unaddressed endometriosis can cause blood-filled cysts in your body, which might eventually result in internal bleeding and excruciating pain.
Note that the tissues on the lining of your uterus bleed when your menstruation cycle begins.
So, if they grow outside your uterus, they might cause scarring and unbearable pain.
In addition to the painful symptoms, women diagnosed with endometriosis might suffer from bowel symptoms that aren’t caused by irritable bowel syndrome.
This condition is like endometriosis, except that endometrium grows deep inside the lining of your uterus instead of growing outside.
Adenomyosis doesn’t only cause painful periods, but women might experience pain after sex.
The pain might last for a day or two. Hormone therapies might ease the symptoms to some extent, but doctors recommend a hysterectomy for permanent relief.
The tissues growing inside your uterus might expand it and cause scarring. This eventually results in pain during your menstrual cycle. Women with adenomyosis are also at an increased risk of infertility.
It mostly occurs in women between 30 and 50, especially those with at least one child. However, adenomyosis cases are also found in adolescents.
In the past few years, we have seen an increasing number of women considering hysterectomy because of uterine fibroids.
This non-cancerous growth in your uterus can interfere with your menstrual cycle. These fibroids might range from microscopic to big enough to change the shape of your uterus.
There can be one or multiple fibroids and removing them doesn’t guarantee that they won’t regrow again. Fibroids may or may not cause any symptoms at all.
Some women might experience unbearable menstrual cramps with high bleeding that last for 10 days and more, while others won’t face any difficulty.
Uterine fibroids are the women’s worst nightmare, as they don’t only increase the volume of bleeding but cause excruciating pelvic pain that won’t get better until your period is over.
This happens when your uterus contracts to push those large blood clots out. Uterine fibroids are not dangerous and rarely turn cancerous. These are benign growth.
A copper IUD is a metal device that’s a non-hormonal form of birth control. This copper device comes in a T shape and is inserted into your uterus through the vaginal opening.
A professional gynaecologist or a healthcare provider can execute this operation. The device continuously releases copper, which is known for immobilizing the sperm travelling up your fallopian tubes, hence preventing pregnancy.
This device can help you prevent pregnancy for 10 years and longer without requiring any pills, surgical treatment, or any protection.
As tempting as these devices look, they come with their share of side effects. Women who have recently had this copper device inserted into their uterus might experience painful periods and increased menstrual bleeding.
The good news is these last only a couple of months, and once your body gets used to the new device, your period will be normal and less painful.
If you suddenly develop severe menstrual cramps years after the copper IUD insertion, then that indicates another gynecological problem.
Unprotected sex can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, a sexually transmitted infection that may cause pregnancy complications and painful periods.
When left unaddressed for a long time, PID can cause uterine scarring, inflammation in your pelvic area, and heavy bleeding, which might result in uterine contractions and extreme pain.
The disease doesn’t cause any serious symptoms until the infection spreads. If your gynecologist catches the disease early, they will recommend antibiotics to treat the infection.
However, even antibiotics won’t work on the structural damage caused by the PID. So, your best bet is to practice safe sex and always get checked for sexually transmitted diseases.
Although period pain doesn’t necessarily indicate PID, this disease is one of the causes of dysmenorrhea.
When the fetus is growing in the mother’s uterus, its own uterus grows too. In some cases, the uterus might not grow like normal.
If its structure doesn’t develop correctly, you will be infertile. In addition to that, an incorrectly grown uterus can lead to painful intercourse and unbearable pain during your menstrual cycle.
Structural defects in your uterus, which might lead to the two uteri leading to one cervix or two separate uteri with the separate cervix, might cause menstrual cramps.
Excruciating pain in your pelvis during your menstrual cycle is also associated with cervical stenosis—a gynecological condition that narrows your cervical opening.
The cervix is comparatively narrower than usual in women diagnosed with cervical stenosis. This might block the blood flow, causing increased pressure in your uterus and eventually menstrual cramps.
It basically refers to the accumulation of pus in the woman’s uterus because of cervical or uterine cancer. Whatever the cause is, cervical stenosis causes period pain.
Dysmenorrhea is treatable. The treatment varies from woman to woman, depending on the cause. If it’s caused by primary dysmenorrhea, pills and some remedies might help alleviate the pain.
However, if you are diagnosed with an underlying medical condition that makes pain unmanageable, you need to talk to a gynecologist to find a suitable treatment plan.
Let’s check out some common treatment options for painful periods.
Naproxen and ibuprofen are the most prescribed non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for period pain. The drugs are used to reduce prostaglandin production, thus reducing uterine contractions and muscle cramps.
Studies have found that heat bags treat menstrual pain more effectively than NSAIDs.
Using heating pads is also not associated with serious side effects, making them the most suitable option for women suffering from unbearable period cramps.
You can also take a warm bath to relieve the pain.
Foods causing water retention should be avoided during menstruation. Alcohol, caffeine, and carbonated beverages are a big no.
You should also limit your consumption of salty and fatty foods. Replace your regular tea with zero-caffeine mint and ginger tea. If you are craving sugar, eat fruits and nuts.
Exercising during your period might not seem like a good idea. You don’t have to practice high-intensity exercises or physical activities that put extreme pressure on your pelvic area.
But low-impact exercises, like walking and swimming, can be very effective. You should try this a week before your period.
Exercises release endorphins, the happy hormones that put you in a good mood.
So, exercising doesn’t only relieve period cramps, but it can be very beneficial for your mental health.
In fact, you might not need painkillers at all when you invest your time and energy in low-impact exercises before and during your period.
You could also try certain yoga poses to relieve menstrual cramps. A child’s pose is great for reducing stress, while the cat and cow pose helps stretch your abdominal and back muscles, promoting proper blood circulation to your pelvic area.
Start your yoga session with a few minutes of meditation. Deep breathing can help release your muscle tension and put you in a relaxed state.
These were the 7 common reasons for menstrual cramps. See a gynecologist if you can’t tolerate the throbbing pain during your period.
They will order a few tests to check your pelvic organs. You can also take pain-relieving medication after consulting a healthcare specialist.
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