Menstrual cramps are the worst.
Almost everyone who has periods has had menstrual cramps. They’re seen as a normal part of having a female reproductive system, and from Day 1, we’ve been programmed to just ignore the discomfort and ride out the pain.
However, not all menstrual cramps are made the same. When the pain you’re feeling is too intense, it is possible that the condition you are having is no longer ordinary dysmenorrhoea but a symptom of something more serious.
Here are the 7 possible reasons for your bad menstrual cramps
Endometriosis affects as many as 1 in 10 women or 175 million women worldwide (Endometriosis Australia). Endometriosis is a condition wherein the tissue that is supposed to form the lining of your uterus becomes implanted outside the uterus, e.g. your fallopian tubes, ovaries, or the pelvic lining (Mayo Clinic).
The thing with this condition is that its primary symptom is pain, with infertility coming as a close second. Dysmenorrhoea or painful menstruation may begin even before your period starts. Aside from this, you may also feel pain during intercourse, bowel movements, or urination (Mayo Clinic).
2. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
Polycytic ovary syndrome or PCOS is mainly a hormonal condition that affects as many as 26.7% of women during their childbearing years. The main features of the syndrome are cysts in the ovaries, high levels of male hormones, and irregular periods (Healthline).
Unlike endometriosis, not all women who have PCOS experience intense menstrual pain; however, this is also considered a symptom. It can cause secondary dysmenorrhoea, which is likely to develop in adulthood and is usually connected to an underlying medical condition. For some women with PCOS, their periods tend to be painful, which is caused by the hormone imbalance (PCOS).
3. Uterine Fibroids
Fibroids or leiomyoma (or just myoma) are benign tumours or growths that develop in the wall of the uterus (Women’s Health). Doctors don’t know for sure what causes fibroids although it is said to be be related to a couple of primary factors: hormones and genetics. Secondary factors include age, ethnicity, and obesity (Women’s Health).
While these are mostly non-cancerous, one of the main symptoms of fibroids is painful periods associated with heavy bleeding. You may also feel pain in your lower back and pain during sex. Other symptoms include a feeling of fullness in the pelvic area, enlargement of your lower abdomen, and frequent urination (Women’s Health).
4. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
Pelvic inflammatory disease or PID is an infection affecting the reproductive organs in women, which is usually caused by sexually transmitted bacteria like chlamydia or gonorrhoea (Web MD). It is a serious medical condition that needs immediate treatment before the infection gets worse.
One of the most common symptoms of PID is pelvic pain, but you may also experience pain during sex and urination. There may also be bleeding between periods and a heavy, foul-smelling vaginal discharge (Web MD). More symptoms of PID include fever and chills, fainting, and vomiting, and in these cases, you are required to get medical help right away.
Adenomyosis is very similar to endometriosis, but instead of the uterus lining getting implanted outside of the uterus, the lining grows into the muscular wall of the uterus (Mayo Clinic). Because the lining continues to act as it normally would — thickening, breaking down, and bleeding every menstrual cycle — the result is an enlarged uterus coupled with very painful periods.
The disease often appears late in the childbearing years and usually disappears upon menopause. Aside from severe menstrual pain and pelvic pain, the other symptoms of adenomyosis include prolonged menstrual bleeding, blood clots that pass during your period, and pain during sex (Mayo Clinic).
6. Cervical stenosis
Cervical stenosis is a condition wherein the cervix is either narrow or completely closed. The narrowness of the cervix may impede your menstrual flow, which causes a painful increase of pressure when menstruating (Mayo Clinic). While some women are born with a narrow cervix, it may also be a result of conditions like cervical cancer and procedures like endometrial ablation (MSD Manuals).
Probably the most common symptom of cervical stenosis is spotting or reduced bleeding with painful cramping (The Bump). Sometimes, you may also have no periods (amenorrhoea) and abnormal bleeding. It may also result to an accumulation of blood in the uterus (hematometra), which can cause pain (MSD Manuals).
It is not always a gynecological condition that is affecting your menstrual cycle. Sometimes, the culprit is stress and anxiety. In no way does this invalidate your period pains. In fact, in a study conducted to observe the relation between stress and menstrual pain, it was discovered that dysmenorrhoea was twice as common among women who experienced high levels of stress before their menstrual cycle (44% of women with high stress vs. 22% of women with low stress) (Medicine Net).
Chronic lifestyle stress is already associated with several health conditions, including respiratory and cardiovascular conditions. It also leads to lifestyle diseases like diabetes. Is it actually surprising to find out that it is also connected to period abnormalities?
If you’re experiencing intense menstrual cramps or any irregularities with your periods, we highly encourage you to see a doctor.