You’re getting dressed for work and try to ignore the aching pain in your abdomen slowly building from an annoyance to a stabbing sensation. You attempt to pull your pants on, but can hardly even stand up straight from this awful feeling. You grasp for the bottle of Ibruprofen hoping that it’ll dull your cramps before you have to leave for the office. However once they hit full force, they come in waves and are forced to lay down to wait for the medicine to kick in. If you can relate, you’ve experienced aunt flo’s wrath of terror. But what actually causes cramps during your period and how are you supposed to know when it’s normal or something more serious?
Why do periods cause cramps?
The medical name for period cramps is dysmenorrhea. They happen due to a hormone-like substance known as prostaglandin, which causes the uterine walls to contract. This contraction causes the uterus to shed its lining, resulting in your period. If your levels of prostaglandins increase, period pain and pelvic pressure may increase the severity of your cramps.
How do I know if my period cramps are normal or not?
For some women, period cramps can be dull and limited to just the first day; however, for others it can become debilitating, lasting for days on end. According to a recent study, 80% of women experience period pain such as cramps or pelvic pressure sometime during their lifetime. Almost all women with periods experience some kind of pelvic pain; but, if your period pain seems to be running your life, it’s important to know if it could be caused by an underlying condition.
The severity of period pain is hard to compare and define, simply because everyone’s pain tolerance is different. That’s why we’ve compiled a short list of ways to know if your period pain may be caused by something more.
Normal period cramps
- Are fairly easy to manage with over-the-counter medication or heating pads
- Typically last between one to three days at the start of your period
- Should not disturb your sleep or cause you multiple sleepless nights
- Do not last long after your period stops
Severe period cramps
- Over-the-counter medication or heating pads don’t seem to help
- Last the entirety of your period or last even after your period is over
- Cost you valuable sleep, making you feel exhausted throughout the day
- Nausea, dizziness, or headaches become difficult to manage
- Interferes with everyday activities like work or school
- Accompanied by heavy periods that last more than 10 days
- Severe bowel issues that cause you to plan your day around a restroom
- Constantly using your sick days due to pelvic pain or cramps
What could severe period cramps mean?
If you’re experiencing severe menstrual cramps, there could be a variety of causes. It’s important to track your period, so you are able to talk to your doctor if you notice any changes in your cycle or symptoms. Some common causes of severe cramps include:
- Uterine fibroids – Are benign tumors that develop within the uterus or uterine lining. Uterine fibroids often cause heavy, irregular periods, pain during sex, frequent urination, or pelvic pain.
- Adenomyosis – Happens when your uterine tissue grows into the muscular walls of the uterus. Adenomyosis can cause severe pelvic pain, cramps, bloating, or heavy periods.
- Endometriosis – If the tissue that lines your uterus becomes implanted outside of your uterus, in cause extremely painful symptoms. This displaced tissue is most commonly on your fallopian tubes, ovaries or the tissue lining your pelvis.
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) – This infection of the female reproductive organs is usually caused by sexually transmitted bacteria. PID can cause pelvic pain, fever, or discharge.
- Cervical stenosis – If the opening of your cervix is too small and consequently, impedes menstrual flow. This can cause painful pressure within the uterus and pelvic area.
Treatment for severe periods caused by fibroids
If your cramps or pelvic pain is negatively impacting your daily life, it only takes two minutes to fill out our quiz and learn more about your symptoms. At our outpatient fibroid treatment centers, we offer Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) that can effectively treat pelvic pain or cramping by shrinking the size of your fibroids. If you think uterine fibroids could be the cause of your pelvic or abdominal pain or just want to learn more about what we do, give us a call at 855.615.2555 or click the button below to schedule your appointment online.