For some of us, menstrual or period cramps can be a mildly annoying part of our menstrual cycles, which don’t interfere much with our daily routine. The luckiest of us might not experience menstrual cramps at all. However, for millions of menstruators worldwide, throbbing menstrual cramps can cause pain that is extremely intense yet often discounted by most people and institutions around them.
What causes painful periods?
Dysmenorrhea is the medical term for painful periods which is of two types primary and secondary. Each type has different causes.
Primary dysmenorrhea is the most common kind of period pain. It is period pain that is not caused by another condition. The cause is usually having too many prostaglandins, which are chemicals that your uterus makes. These chemicals make the muscles of your uterus tighten and relax, and this causes the cramps, lasting for about 12-72 hours though in some women it can last longer.
You usually first start having period pain when you are younger, just after you begin getting periods. Often, as you get older, you have less pain. The pain may also get better after you have given birth.
Secondary dysmenorrhea often starts later in life. It is caused by conditions that affect your uterus or other reproductive organs, such as endometriosis and uterine fibroids. This kind of pain often gets worse over time. It may begin before your period starts and continue after your period ends.
Lifestyle and home remedies
Besides getting enough sleep and rest, things you might want to try include:
- Exercise regularly. Physical activity, including sex, helps ease menstrual cramps for some women.
- Use heat. Soaking in a hot bath or using a heating pad, hot water bottle or heat patch on your lower abdomen might ease menstrual cramps.
- Try dietary supplements. A number of studies have indicated that vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids; vitamin B-1 (thiamine), vitamin B-6 and magnesium supplements might reduce menstrual cramps.
- Reduce stress. Psychological stress might increase your risk of menstrual cramps and their severity.