All women experience periods, and everyone fares with their period differently. But there is one particular symptom that almost every woman can relate to—menstrual cramps and ask are severe menstrual cramps normal? Menstrual cramps are a common symptom associated with having a period and may range from being a mild bother to unbearable pelvic pain. These cramps are caused by the uterus contracting in order to shed its lining. In most cases, menstrual cramps start a day or two before your period starts and will last through the second day of your period.
For some women, the severity of their cramps can vary from month to month; a woman may go three months with light cramps and in the fourth month have cramps so painful that they keep her up at night. In instances like these, you may wonder: are severe menstrual cramps normal? And if they are, when should you worry? Keep reading to find out more about what is considered “normal” for period pain.
Why Are My Period Cramps Worse than Usual?
Cramps tend to be painful and, although you can come to expect some discomfort when your period comes, it is important to know that extremely severe cramps are not normal and may indicate an underlying medical condition or fertility issue. If you are experiencing consistently more painful periods, it is probably best to see a doctor for a pelvic exam. Common underlying causes of extreme cramps are Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, Endometriosis, Uterine Fibroids, Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, Cervical Stenosis, and Adenomyosis. You may also experience worsening cramps if you have recently had an Intrauterine device (IUD) for birth control put in.
Once your doctor has ruled out dangerous causes of your period cramps, it may be time to evaluate your lifestyle. Period cravings oftentimes include unhealthy foods like processed sweets, caffeine, and carbs that can potentially make periods worse. Your body may also produce more of the hormone called prostaglandins that cause the uterus lining to shed for that particular month, causing the abnormally painful cramps.
How do you Treat Severe Menstrual Cramps?
Severe cramps may be difficult to treat at home but there are lots of things that you can do to minimize pain from period cramping:
Get regular exercise
- Studies have shown that women that participate in regular exercise and maintain a healthy weight tend to have pain-free or very light cramping. If you have gone through extreme weight loss or gain, that could be a contributing factor to your newly painful periods. Making a point to go on a walk or jog a few times a week has the potential to work wonders. Your legs might be sore, but most women would take that any day over severe cramps.
Use a heating pad or take a warm bath
- For some women, heat is a better source of relief than over-the-counter medication. Take a heating pad and place it over your lower abdomen, or treat yourself to a nice, warm soak in the bathtub. You can make it fun by adding bubbles or a bath bomb. It may not help with the pain, but maybe the bubbles and bright colors can help distract you from your pain!
Use foods against menstrual pain
- Eating an anti-inflammatory diet is a more natural way to fight cramps from the inside. If you find yourself eating lots of junk food, especially leading up to your period, you may want to reach for healthier choices. Stay away from processed and fatty foods like sweets, pasta, cheese, and white bread; instead, go for items like whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables.
Take OTC or prescribed medication
- If you have severe menstrual cramps, then OTC medication isn’t likely to completely quell your symptoms, but they may be able to take the edge off and help you to get through your day. If your period cramps stop you from being able to go on with your day-to-day routine, you may want to talk to your doctor about some stronger prescribed pain medications.
- For the treatment of severe period cramps, many doctors will first try to prescribe birth control. This works to balance hormones and can offer lessened pain or in some cases, complete relief from cramps. Birth control could be the simple answer to all your period problems and serves a dual-purpose. But because this is such a sensitive topic, it is best to get all the information from your physician and then reach out to your partner, parents, or spiritual leader (if applicable) about it if you have qualms. The most important thing is doing what is best for your body while keeping your beliefs in mind.
When Should You Go to the Hospital for Severe Period Cramps?
If your cramps are so severe that you are incapable of going 24 hours without doubling over in pain, vomiting, or fainting, then you need to go to the emergency room. You should also seek help if your menstrual cycle is alarmingly irregular, has stopped completely without cause, or if you have extremely heavy bleeding that won’t stop. If you are experiencing the latter and are sexually active, you may be having a miscarriage.
Village Emergency Centers Can Help
At Village Emergency Centers, we are prepared to handle all types of emergencies. Get 24/7 care with no surprise billing and little to no wait. You don’t have to learn to live with painful periods. Seek help and contact us today!