The medical term for women’s menstrual cramps is Dysmenorrhea. This painful ailment is common in women after reaching puberty. So much so that multiple natural and medicative remedies are available to help with it: from using hot water bags to taking ibuprofen. But it can be hard to pick one when not knowing the root of the problem. Therefore, knowing the causes of menstrual cramps will help in choosing remedies to try out. Here are some facts about what causes menstrual cramps in women.

Origin of menstrual cramps

A common understanding of menstrual cramps is that it is due to uterine contractions. A woman’s uterus will contract and relax in irregular rhythms during periods to shed the blood that has accumulated inside it. These contractions are the reason behind pain in the lower abdomen, back or thighs during periods. 

The menstrual cramps, at times, are accompanied by nausea, vomiting, fatigue and diarrhoea in some women. While these are gruesome physical ordeals, the medical community considers them common and repetitive and labels them as ‘primary dysmenorrhea’. Most of the primary dysmenorrhea/menstrual cramps in women: last between 12-72 hours, become less painful with age and, in some cases, completely disappear after having a baby. 

If menstrual cramps occur due to a defect in the female reproductive organ aka the uterus, it is called ‘secondary dysmenorrhea’. Pain from this condition is more intense and lasts longer than primary dysmenorrhea. Multiple conditions trigger secondary dysmenorrhea in women. Some of them are Endometriosis, Adenomyosis, Pelvic inflammatory disease, Cervical stenosis and Fibroids.

Menstrual cramps – Symptoms

How to diagnose whether one has primary or secondary dysmenorrhea? 

Common and repetitive symptoms of menstruation cramps like pressure in the abdomen, and pain in the lower abdomen, back and thighs accompanied by nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and diarrhoea signify primary dysmenorrhea.

If the symptoms of menstruation cramps persist for more than two to three days, it could be secondary dysmenorrhea. Fever, abnormal bleeding, pain in the stomach or pain during sex are also indicators of secondary dysmenorrhea. If you are facing any of these symptoms, consult a gynaecologist or healthcare provider as soon as possible.

Causes of menstrual cramps

Menstrual cramps can be due to:

  • Birth/developmental defects: Some women are born with a smaller cervical opening (cervical stenosis) or develop extra growth in the uterus walls (fibroids) that cause menstrual cramps.
  • Family history: Some women have a family history of painful or irregular periods, leading them to have it too.
  • Lifestyle choices: Smoking or never having a baby can also be the causes of menstrual cramps in women.

Menstrual cramps – Treatment and remedies 

If you are a biological woman, then you have at least once thought, how do you get rid of period cramps fast? 

  • Heat compress: A tried, tested and trusted way to soothe lower abdomen pain during periods is the heat compress. Place a heating pad or hot water bottle on the back or abdomen.
  • Yoga and deep breathing exercises: Help relieve pressure in the abdomen. 
  • Medicines: Ibuprofen, anti-inflammatory medication or oral contraceptives, when taken in advance, may also prevent menstrual cramps.

Most often, the simplest of remedies would help alleviate menstrual cramps. Sometimes it might be far beyond that. If you or anyone you know has severe menstrual cramps, kindly consult a healthcare provider immediately.