What Causes Cramping During the Monthly Cycle?

Every woman has encountered pain and cramping around the abdomen before or during their periods. It might occur before your periods, as an undesirable forewarning, or throughout your periods, leaving you cranky and tired until it’s over. Young girls usually encounter cramping during the first few years after the incipience of periods. As you grow older, these pains tend to decrease in severity and may vanish entirely after the birth of your first child. The cramps can be a monthly attachment to your periods or may occur seldom, and the pain from these cramps can be severe or mild. 

From the medical point of view: 

The medical name for menstrual cramps is dysmenorrhea. Yes, dysmenorrhea is the most prevalent reason for absence from school among teenagers.

Dysmenorrhea is of two kinds – one where the discomfort is only due to cyclical fluctuations in your uterus as a part of your period cycle, or it may be due to pelvic area complications. The pelvis is found around lower abdomen that holds your ovaries, uterus, vagina, and cervix.

Why do they happen?

Every month, your uterus mounts up a new lining of tissue, ready for the fertilized egg’s removal. If the egg isn’t fertilized, the wall is shed along with the unfertilized egg. When this occurs, specific molecules are released, causing severe, painful rhythmic contractions of the uterine muscles.

Current research suggests that menstrual cramps result from an increase in some prostaglandins during your monthly cycles.

Prostaglandins are small compounds that may decrease or increase blood vessels’ size and stimulate muscles to contract. In this scenario, these molecules let blood vessels in the uterus to contract, reducing blood flow to the uterus while causing continued muscular contractions in the uterus. To supplement this, hormones generated by the pituitary gland causes the uterus to become more susceptible to prostaglandins around your periods.

Thus, some girls whose reproductive organs are more susceptible to prostaglandins experience much more painful cramps than women whose organs are comparatively insensitive to prostaglandins.

Certain factors may raise your risk of having painful cramps during periods

  1. Long menstrual cycles
  2. Early age at first period, normally if less than 13 years
  3. Smoking
  4. Heavy flow

In some cases, obesity, family history, and even alcohol have been connected to an increased likelihood of suffering from menstrual cramps.

The diagnosis of dysmenorrhea usually relies on account of symptoms by the girl herself. There are no tests conducted to measure pain or contractions. Dysmenorrhea caused by other issues and diseases of your reproductive organs may be due to differnet conditions, including:

  • Intra-uterine devices
  • Fibroids
  • Endometriosis
  • Ovarian cysts and tumors
  • Polyps
  • Anatomical abnormalities of the uterus 
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease 

It is necessary to consult your doctor if the pain is not cured by over the counter medications, progressively worsens or leaves you powerless to get around with your everyday activities. Initially, the clinician may perform ultrasonography if a pelvic disease is suspected.

How to manage dysmenorrhea?

  1. Over the counter drugs such as ibuprofen, aspirin, or other painkillers can reduce mild dysmenorrhea.
  2. Keeping a hot water bag or bottle can also help in reducing the intensity of the pain.
  3. Regular exercise and Hatha Yoga releases endorphins and may help in reducing painful menstrual cramps in the long run.

Also, you can do the following to reduce the severity of the cramps:

  • Massage you lower back and abdomen
  • Avoid caffeine, smoking, or alcohol

*Dedicated to my daughter who will get her first period 10 years from now.

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