We all have those ladies in our lives who just “don’t really get cramps” and we applaud them and their happy pelves. That said, for many of us having menstrual cramps is a common (though not pleasant) part of the period experience.
Let’s get technical:
Dysmenorrhea is the medical term for the painful cramps that may occur immediately before or during the menstrual period.
Menstrual cramps are caused by contractions in the uterus. During menstruation, the uterus contracts more strongly and when it contracts too strongly, it can press against nearby blood vessels, cutting off the supply of oxygen to the muscle tissue of the uterus. Pain results when part of the muscle briefly loses its supply of oxygen.
There are two types of dysmenorrhea:
Primary dysmenorrhea is common menstrual cramps, mild to severe. These cramps typically first appear two years after a woman starts getting her period and often start shortly before or at the onset of each period and continue one to three days.
Secondary dysmenorrhea is pain caused by a disorder in a woman’s reproductive organs. These cramps usually begin earlier in the menstrual cycle and last longer than common menstrual cramps. Conditions that can cause secondary dysmenorrhea include:
- Endometriosis – Condition in which the tissue lining the uterus (endometrium) is found outside of the uterus.
- Adenomyosis – Condition where the lining of the uterus grows into the muscle of the uterus.
- Pelvic inflammatory disease – Infection caused by bacteria that starts in the uterus and can spread to other reproductive organs.
- Cervical stenosis – Narrowing of the opening to the uterus
- Fibroids (benign tumors) – Growths on the inner wall of the uterus
Understanding your cramps:
If you have severe or unusual menstrual cramps or you have cramps that last for more than two or three days, contact your doctor. Both primary and secondary dysmenorrhea can be treated, so it’s important to get checked.
Good reads and cramp help: