Dysmenorrhea affects more than half of all menstruating women. You likely know it as menstrual cramps — that monthly aching feeling in the lower abdomen. It can sometimes be felt in the back, thighs and hips. Some women notice symptoms so severe they interfere with their normal activities for a few days.
Women more likely to get cramps are younger than 30 or have never given birth.
Menstrual cramps result from involuntary muscle contractions. The muscle that tightens is your uterus, or womb. It contracts to expel its lining each month as part of your period. If the uterine contractions are strong, the uterus can press against blood vessels and cut off its blood flow. The reduced blood flow causes the cramping and pain.
The discomfort can be compared to the pain caused by heart disease when blood flow to the heart is reduced.
Your health care clinician can diagnose if you have an underlying cause for cramps such as:
These conditions can be addressed by clinicians who specialize in women’s health and maternity services.
We have some steps you can take to prepare for your period and reduce the discomfort. If you have mild cramps:
If, after taking these steps, you still have pain that affects your routine or that lasts more than a few days, see your health care clinician. Before your visit, keep track of your symptoms. Note when they start and end. Track how severe they are. Give your clinician specifics. That will help her or him make an accurate diagnosis and recommend the best treatment plan for you.
Have you tried our tips and still have bad cramps? We can help. Find a women’s health care specialist near you.