Dysmenorrhoea

Menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea) are throbbing or cramping pains in the lower abdomen. Many women have menstrual cramps just before and during their menstrual periods. For some women, the discomfort is merely annoying. For others, menstrual cramps can be severe enough to interfere with everyday activities for a few days every month. Conditions such as endometriosis or uterine fibroids can cause menstrual cramps. Treating the cause is key to reducing the pain. Menstrual cramps that aren’t caused by another condition tend to lessen with age and often improve after giving birth. 

Types

Symptoms

Symptoms of menstrual cramps include:

  • Throbbing or cramping pain in your lower abdomen that can be intense
  • Pain that starts 1 to 3 days before your period, peaks 24 hours after the onset of your period and subsides in 2 to 3 days
  • Dull, continuous ache
  • Pain that radiates to your lower back and thighs

Some women also have:

  • Nausea
  • Loose stools
  • Headache
  • Dizziness

Causes

A hormone called prostaglandin triggers muscle contractions in your uterus that expel the lining. These contractions can cause pain and inflammation. The level of prostaglandin rises right before menstruation begins.

Painful menstrual periods can also be the result of an underlying medical condition, such as:

  • premenstrual syndrome (PMS): a group of symptoms caused by hormonal changes in the body that occur 1 to 2 weeks before menstruation begins and go away after a woman begins to bleed
  • endometriosis: a painful medical condition in which cells from the lining of the uterus grow in other parts of the body, usually on the fallopian tubes, ovaries, or tissue lining the pelvis
  • fibroids in the uterus: noncancerous tumors that can put pressure on the uterus or cause abnormal menstruation and pain
  • pelvic inflammatory disease (PID): an infection of the uterus, fallopian tubes, or ovaries often caused by sexually transmitted bacteria that causes inflammation of the reproductive organs and pain
  • adenomyosis: a rare condition in which the uterine lining grows into the muscular wall of the uterus and can be painful because it causes inflammation and pressure
  • cervical stenosis: a rare condition in which the cervix is so small it slows menstrual flow, causing an increase of pressure inside the uterus that causes pain

Risk Factors

You might be at risk of menstrual cramps if:

  • You’re younger than age 30
  • You started puberty early, at age 11 or younger
  • You bleed heavily during periods (menorrhagia)
  • You have irregular menstrual bleeding (metrorrhagia)
  • You have a family history of menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea)
  • You smoke