Menstrual cramps are painful sensations that affect many women before and during a menstrual period. The pain, also known as dysmenorrhea or period pains, ranges from dull and annoying to severe and extreme. Menstrual cramps tend to begin after ovulation when an egg is released from the ovaries and travels down the fallopian tube. Pain occurs in the lower abdomen and lower back. It usually begins 1 to 2 days before menstruation and lasts from 2 to 4 days.
Pain that is only associated with the process of menstruation is known as primary dysmenorrhea.
If the cramping pain is due to an identifiable medical problem such as endometriosis, uterine fibroids, or pelvic inflammatory disease, it is called secondary dysmenorrhea.
Fast facts on menstrual cramps
Here are some key points about menstrual cramps.
- Menstrual cramps are pains felt in the lower abdomen, before and during menstruation.
- The pain can range from slight to severe.
- Emotional stress can increase the chance of experiencing menstrual cramps.
- Other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, sweating, dizziness, headaches, and diarrhea.
Measures that may reduce the risk of menstrual cramps include:
- eating fruits and vegetables and limiting intake of fat, alcohol, caffeine, salt, and sweets
- exercising regularly
- reducing stress
- do not smoke
Book for a consultation with Dr Yanke for to discuss types of therapy that may be available, or further investigations that may be needed.
- pain in the lower back and thighs
- nausea and vomiting
- faintness and dizziness
- diarrhea or loose stools
Approximately once every 28 days, if there is no sperm to fertilize the egg, the uterus contracts to expel its lining.
Hormone-like substances called prostaglandins trigger this process.
Prostaglandins are chemicals that form in the lining of the uterus during menstruation. They cause muscle contractions and cramps that are similar to labor pains. They can also contribute to nausea and diarrhea.
The contractions inhibit the blood flow to the lining of the uterus, or endometrium. It may also happen because there are high levels of leukotrienes during menstruation.
Conditions that can worsen menstrual cramps
Several underlying medical conditions are also linked to menstrual cramps.
- Endometriosis: The tissue that lines the uterus develops outside the uterus.
- Uterine fibroids: Noncancerous tumors and growths in the wall of the uterus.
- Adenomyosis: The tissue that lines the uterus grows into the muscular walls of the uterus.
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- Cervical stenosis: The opening of the cervix is small and limits menstrual flow.