Many women report pelvic pain or abdominal cramps at the beginning of and during menstrual periods. It may last for a part or all of your periods. For a few, females’ menstrual cramp is just a mild discomfort lasting for a day or two and is merely annoying. Still, some suffer from debilitating and painful cramps that may last for 1-2 days or more and may interfere with their everyday activities.
What is Menstrual Cramp
Menstrual cramp is defined as pelvic pain with menstruation. It is also known as dysmenorrhea.
Dysmenorrhea means painful or difficult periods. It is of two types.
Primary dysmenorrhea – It is the most common type of dysmenorrhea. There is pain in the lower abdomen that starts 1-2 days before the menstrual flow begins and may last for two to four days. It happens due to uterine contractions. Uterus contracts and relaxes to allow the blood to leave your uterus. The lining of the uterus releases prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are chemical substances that increase the intensity of contraction. High level of prostaglandins results in not only menstrual cramps but also nausea and lightheadedness.
Secondary dysmenorrhea – It happens when the menstrual cramps are the result of underlying medical problems such as pelvic inflammatory disease or endometriosis.
Symptoms Associated with Menstrual Cramp
Menstrual cramp is a continuous and dull ache in the lower abdomen. The pain is cramping or throbbing in character that ranges from mild to severe in intensity. It may radiate to lower back and thigh
In most cases, the pain starts 1 to 3 days before the beginning of periods. The pain is at the peak for 24 hours after the onset of periods and then subsides in 1-3 days.
Few females also complain of following symptoms along with cramps such as:
- A headache
- Loose stools
*Please note that menstrual cramps and PMS or premenstrual syndrome are two different things. The symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, such as weight gain, bloating, moodiness, happens before the start of periods and gets better with the start of periods. However, the menstrual cramps are usually worse during the first two days of periods.
*It is common for a young female to have irregular periods or mild menstrual cramps for the first few years after menarche as ovulation may not happen for a few months or years. However, after 2 to 3 years, the hormonal system improves and menstrual cramps may become more painful.
Causes of Menstrual Cramp
Mild menstrual cramp is common due to normal periods, heavy flow, passing a clot, constipation or wind. However, in some cases, there may be underlying diseases such as:
Endometriosis – If the tissue that lines the uterus get implanted outside the uterus and involves structures such as ovaries, fallopian tubes or the tissues lining the pelvis, the condition is known as endometriosis.
Adenomyosis – In this condition, the tissue that lines the uterus starts growing into the muscular wall of the uterus.
Pelvic inflammatory disease – It is the infection of female reproductive organs caused due to sexually transmitted bacteria.
Uterine fibroids – In some cases, the non-cancerous growth in the uterus wall may cause pain.
Cervical stenosis – In a few females, the opening of the cervix is small. The menstrual blood flow causes pressure within the uterus and results in pain.
Is it normal to have menstrual cramps during periods?
Yes, mild cramp during periods is common due to uterine contraction.
Menstrual cramps do not cause any medical complications but may interfere with social activities, work, and school. However, they may be certain associated conditions such as endometriosis and pelvic inflammatory disease that may cause a fertility problem.
If menstrual cramp disturbs your life every month or your symptoms progressively worsens, better see a doctor.
What can be done to relieve menstrual cramp?
We advise you not to take over the counter medicines without the recommendation of your healthcare provider. Natural home remedies are simple and effective in relieving menstrual cramp and are safe.
Home Remedies to Relieve Menstrual Cramp
- Chamomile tea – Chamomile tea is anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic. It inhibits pain-causing prostaglandins, enhances the menstrual flow, and relieves the symptoms.
Steep chamomile tea bag or add a teaspoon of dry chamomile leaves in a cup of steaming water for 15 minutes. Strain and drink it warm. You may add a teaspoon of honey to taste.
- Cinnamon – Not only cinnamon alleviates menstrual cramps but also reduces menstrual bleeding and relieves nausea and vomiting. It is rich in polyphenols that is an antioxidant and reduces inflammation. It has anti-clotting properties. Cinnamon is believed to relax the cramping uterine muscles as well as block the production of prostaglandins. The mechanism of action is quite similar to ibuprofen. It gives a warming effect to the body and helps regularize periods as well as balance hormones.
Add a half teaspoon of cinnamon powder to a cup of boiling water. Let it steep for 15 minutes. Add honey to the tea and drink it two to three times on the first day of the periods.
- Heat therapy – Heat therapy increases the flow of blood. It relaxes the muscles of the uterus and eases pain.
Place a water bottle filled with hot water or heating pad on your lower abdomen as well as lower back for 10 minutes. Make sure the temperature is tolerable so that you do not burn skin. You may soak a washcloth in hot water. Wring out excess of water and place on the abdomen and back for 10 minutes. Repeat this a few times in a day.
- Carom seeds – Carom seeds are a natural painkiller. It not only relief menstrual cramps but also controls the excessive bleeding and treats irregular periods
Chew tablespoon of carom seed and then drink a cup of warm water. Alternatively, add teaspoon carom seeds to a cup boiling water. Keep it 15 minutes. Strain and drink the concoction.
- Ginger – Ginger is well known for its anti-inflammatory. Fit effectively reduces pain by reducing the production of prostaglandins. Ginger also effectively come upset stomach and cure nausea.
Boil a few slices of ginger in 2 cups of water until the water reduces to half. Train and drink ginger tea warm. You may also add honey e and Pinch of salt to the Tea. Drink it two times in a day to soothe cramps, lower the pain and calm your stomach.
- Fennel seed – The antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory property muscles of uterus and relief discomfort and cramps. Fennel seeds contain emmenagogue; a compound that help in boosting and regulating menstruation.
To add a teaspoon of fennel seeds to a cup of boiling and steep for 5 minutes. Strain the solution and add a teaspoon honey to it. Mix well and drink few times in a day.
Besides, home remedies to relieve menstrual cramps, eat healthily, drink lots of water, and take plenty of rest to relieve pain and discomfort. Increasing physical activity also may help some females.
If natural home remedies to relieve menstrual cramps do not work for you, consult your help care provider to check the underlying cause and discuss different treatments that work best for you.