The real truth about menstrual cramps is that they can range from mild and slightly uncomfortable to debilitating. We’ve all heard jokes about PMS and/or cramps and might not realize that these cramps are the result of a true medical occurrence.
Why are menstrual cramps an issue?
During a women’s menstrual cycle, which is often referred to as her period, hormones like substances are released if there is no sperm to fertilize egg. The uterus then contracts to expel its lining and thus causing pain at times and sometimes inflammation. For about 50% of all women, menstrual cramps are mild and do interfere with daily routines. Unfortunately, 15% of women experience monthly pain that is quite severe. Women under the age of 20, having started puberty at 11 years of age or younger or never have a delivered a baby have a higher risk of painful menstrual cramps.
What are the symptoms associated?
Women will often feel pain or aches in their lower abdomen, pelvic area and lower back in addition to headaches, weakness, chills and dizziness. Others have reported gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea or nausea. If symptoms are serve, then other underlying gynecological issues or a medical condition may exist and a visit to your physician to discuss your symptoms is prudent.
You can minimize the discomfort of cramping by participating in mild exercise, applying heat via heating pad or hot water bottle placed over the painful area to reduce pain temporarily. Don’t skimp on sleep or regular exercise and eat complex carbohydrates, which are whole grains. Include fiber and protein in your diet while reducing sugar and fat. Many have reported that taking calcium reduces symptoms of water retention, cramps and back pain. Put down that cup of coffee, alcohol and salt shaker in the days prior to your period–these things can exacerbate your symptoms.
When to contact your physician
If your symptoms are severe and begin to effect your quality of life, then it’s time to speak to your doctor to rule out a medical condition. If you have pelvic pain and fever or sudden severe pain, especially if your period is more than one week late, call your doctor right away. If your home treatments of diet, exercise and heating pads do not relieve your pain or if you have had an IUD placed more than three months ago, then keep track of your symptoms and home treatments to reduce pain and head to your physician.
As with any medical condition, symptoms or concerns, seek the advice of a medical professional.