The medical name for period cramps is Dysmenorrhea. They happen due to a hormone-like substance, prostaglandins, which causes the uterus walls to contract and then shed its lining, resulting in your period. If prostaglandins levels are higher, more pain is often associated with the cramps. This varies from woman to woman, but cramps are likely to become less painful as you get older or after childbirth.
There are a few other conditions which can cause cramps. Treating these conditions will help stop the symptoms. These conditions include:
In most cases, period cramps are a sign of a healthy body reacting to the natural shedding of the uterus wall. However, if menstrual cramps are disrupting your life every cycle, if your symptoms get worse, or if you begin to get severe cramps after you’re 25 years old, you should speak to your doctor.
Since every woman is different, she’ll experience symptoms in different ways. Typically the cramping pain starts in the lower abdomen one to two days before menstrual bleeding begins. It then peaks after 24 hours and may last for a further two to three days after that. Some women can also experience nausea, an upset stomach or dizziness, as well as pain in their lower back and thighs. For other women, period cramps may feel like a mild yet constant pain. Those with irregular cycles or heavy bleeding are more likely to experience severe period cramps.
If you have mild period pain, aspirin or ibuprofen can provide pain relief. Heat treatment like taking a warm bath or placing a hot water bottle on the back or stomach can also help soothe symptoms. Preventative measures such as avoiding alcohol, caffeine and tobacco in the days leading up to your period may also reduce the symptoms of menstrual cramps, while regular exercise is proven to reduce period pain.
We hope you now understand what causes period cramps and why they are a healthy part of your menstrual cycle. Here at Natural Cycles, we’re on hand to help you learn about your cycle so you can predict and prepare for symptoms such as PMS, menstrual cramps and more. With our birth control app, it’s easy to document symptoms and keep track of your unique cycle.