Categories: Gynaecology

Dysmenorrhea (Menstrual Cramps): Causes and Symptoms and more

Dysmenorrhea is the medical term for painful periods or menstrual cramps. This condition has primarily two types: Primary and Secondary Dysmenorrhea. Primary dysmenorrhea refers to recurrent pain before and during menstruation. It occurs when you first start your period and is usually lifelong. This pain is caused by natural chemicals called prostaglandins that are made in the lining of the uterus. Prostaglandins cause the muscles and blood vessels of the uterus to contract. On the first day of a period, the level of prostaglandins is high. As bleeding continues and the lining of the uterus is shed, the level goes down. This is why pain tends to lessen after the first few days of a period. Secondary Dysmenorrhea usually starts later in life and is caused by a disorder in reproductive organs. The pain tends to get worse over time and it often lasts longer than normal menstrual cramps. It may be caused by reasons such as Endometriosis, Fibroids, etc.

If you are having painful periods, you may have:-

  1. Aching pain in the stomach
  2. Pain in hips, lower back, and inner thighs
  3. Feeling of pressure in the abdomen

If the cramps are server then symptoms may include:-

  1. Upset stomach
  2. Vomiting
  3. Loose stools

Women are advised to consult a gynaecologist if these problems persist. Whatever the cause may be, cramps can be treated, so it is important to get checked by the doctor.

Your doctor will ask about the symptoms and menstrual cycle. You might get a pelvic examination where the doctor will use a tool called a speculum to check your vagina and cervix. They may take a small sample of vaginal fluid.

Certain things put you at a higher risk of menstrual cramps such as if you:-

  1. Are under 30
  2. Started puberty early, at or before 11
  3. Bleed heavily during periods
  4. Have irregular menstrual bleeding
  5. Have a family history of menstrual cramps
  6. Smoke

Treatment and lifestyle tips:-

If you have mild menstrual cramps, take mefenamic acid or another pain reliever as per consultation with your doctor. For best relief, it is better to take the medication as soon as bleeding or cramping starts.

Heat can also help. Place a heating pad or hot water bottle on your lower back or tummy. A warm bath may also provide some relief.

Other lifestyle changes can be:-

  • Rest when you need it.
  • Avoid foods with caffeine and salt.
  • Avoid tobacco and alcohol.
  • Massage your lower back and abdomen.
  • Take dietary supplements.
  • Try to manage your stress.
  • Try acupuncture or acupressure.
  • Ask your doctor about herbal medicines.

Women who exercise regularly often have less menstrual pain. To help prevent cramps, make exercise a part of your weekly routine.

Dr. Usha Agarwal | Senior Consultant – Gynaecology | Narayana Multispeciality Hospital, Jaipur

Narayana Health

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