Women often feel cramps before their period begins. You may have cramps a week or two weeks before your period, or just a few days in advance. Some women may even have cramping when they’re already on their period, but not all women experience this.
When you have cramping, it can be completely natural or a sign of something else, such as pregnancy.
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What Do Menstrual (Period) Cramps Feel Like?
The answer will be different for different women. Some women are lucky and feel mild cramping, while other women equate period cramps to sharp grinding pains that are internal.
These cramps are not fun, and some women even need medication to ease their pain.
Your uterus is tightening and relaxing at this time. These contractions are what cause the pain. The uterus lining is releasing chemicals at this time called “prostaglandins.” What these chemicals do is increase the intensity of the contractions. Suffering severe cramps is a sign that prostaglandin levels have risen too high, causing very painful contractions to occur.
Many women will have cramps a few days before their period begins, and some women will experience cramps 2 weeks before their period in rare cases. This is normally an occurrence caused by dysmenorrhea. Dysmenorrhea is when periods are painful or difficult, and it is divided into two main categories:
- Primary: The most common form. Pain is felt in the lower stomach and back. These pains often occur 1 – 2 days before a period begins.
- Secondary: Cramps or lower back pain is experienced in the secondary category. This occurs a few days before your period.
The night before your period begins, you may feel more severe cramping.
If your period should not be here yet and you do feel slight cramping, this may be caused by implantation. This occurs when the egg and sperm fertilize. The now fertilized egg will make its way into the uterus where it will eventually attach to the uterine lining. During this process, you may bleed, or you may have sudden cramping that goes away in just a few minutes.
Some women can tell the immediate difference in cramping sensation, but not all woman will be able to tell the difference between the two.
Other Symptoms of Menstrual Cramps
When women have menstrual cramps, they do not only have a throbbing pain in their lower abdomen. They may also feel nausea, dizziness, headaches or bloat. Not only that, some people have also reported that they feel pain in their thighs and lower back.
Pregnancy cramps can and do occur, normally when the pregnancy has first taken place. Many women are alarmed when they feel cramping because they fear that the baby may be in danger. Before you get too worried, know that mild cramping is fine at this time and many women experience cramps when they’re pregnant.
A pregnancy cramp feels similar to a period cramp. Some health care professionals describe it as a growing pain of the uterus, so you should have a dragging feeling in the pelvis.
This happens because there is a significant change of blood supply and hormone in your pelvic organs. The cramps might intensify when the pressure of your abdomen increases, such as when you laugh, cough, or sneeze.
There will be a slight difference in the sensation and affected area.
When you have pregnancy cramps, they may be:
- Milder than normal cramps.
- Lower down than normal.
- Cramps on both sides.
The sensation will be different, but most women state that the cramping is not unlike their normal menstrual cramps.
A select few women will feel sharp twinges or pain in their lower abdomen that can last months after pregnancy occurs. Under normal circumstances, this is a normal occurrence and is happening because the uterus and muscles inside of your body are stretching to accommodate the baby.
Women that are more sensitive will feel more pain at this time.
If you have severe pain or any bleeding is seen, it’s important that you contact a medical professional immediately to ensure that the baby is healthy. Miscarriages are very painful and can cause harm to the mother and obvious death to the infant.
Women that are concerned about their cramps should consult with their OBGYN to ensure that the baby is healthy.
Should You Have Period Cramps During Pregnancy?
Cramps during pregnancy are normal. They’re caused by the body adapting and changing to prepare for birth and to accommodate the baby growing inside of you. It’s important to monitor these cramps as most pregnancy cramps are mild, and they’re on and off instead of consistent cramps.
If you do have cramps that are mild, it’s not a cause for concern.
Cramps before a period may be felt, and at this point, you wouldn’t know with any level of certainty that you’re pregnant. Cramping before pregnancy is confirmed is also perfectly normal and is no cause for concern.
The only time when cramping is a concern during pregnancy is when:
- Cramping is very severe and painful.
- Cramping is consistent and doesn’t go away.
- Blood is present.
You should not have any cramping and bleeding seen together when you’re pregnant. Any vaginal bleeding at this time should result in an immediate visit to your doctor.
If you’re trying to predict your pregnancy by the cramps felt before your period should begin, it is a very difficult process. Implantation is the normal cause for cramping, and less than 66% of women will have implantation pains or bleeding – so it’s highly unreliable. If you believe cramping is a sign of pregnancy, taking a pregnancy test is the best course of action.
Treating Menstrual Cramps
If your pain is moderate, some over-the-counter drugs could be helpful in relieving the cramps. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAID) are found to be effective in reducing the production of prostaglandin, making cramps less painful as a result.
NSAID that does not require prescription includes Ibuprofen such as Advil and Motrin, Naproxen sodium and Ketoprofen. For the best result, it is recommended to take the medication 1 to 2 days before your period starts until the first one or two days of your period.
If you have health concerns, be careful with the use of NSAID because it can trigger or worsen gastrointestinal ulcers.
Treat with Heat
Applying heat to your abdomen can loosen your cramps. A study showed that warming your belly at around 104°F is equally effective in treating cramps when comparing to the use of Ibuprofen.
There are many ways to use the heat treatment – you can get a hot water bottle, take a warm bath, or use a heating pad.
There are many benefits of drinking tea and easing period cramps is one. Many people use cramp bark as a herbal tea for alleviating menstrual discomfort. Making this tea is simple: just boil 2 teaspoons of bark in water and let it simmer for 15 minutes.
Some people find it helpful to drink it three times a day. If you have your doubts, make sure you check with your doctor first before using this tea.
Massaging your abdomen for 5 minutes a day may help with your cramps. For one thing, it is a great way to promote blood flow. Adding some essential oils to the massage can create a better effect.
These essential oils include lavender essential oil, marjoram essential oil and clary sage essential oil.
Many women found it helpful to dilute these three oils in a 2-1-1 ratio with unscented cream. Then, they use the product to massage their lower abdomen every day, ideally from the end of the period to the start of the next period.
Acupuncture and Acupressure
Acupuncture is beneficial to those who suffer from period cramps. It can help increase your blood flow to your organs and produce an anti-inflammatory effect. There are trigger points on your hands that are associated with your back and abdomen.
By adding pressure to the flesh between your thumb and index finger, it can reduce the pain of your cramp. When you get your acupuncture next time, ask him or her to show you how to do this acupressure properly.
Get Some Endorphins
Endorphins are known to have a pain-relieving and mood-boosting effect. Although laying on the bed might be the only thing that you want to do when you have cramps, getting some exercise or even having an orgasm can get your body to release endorphins and make you feel better.
Change Your Diet
Having a low-fat diet can lower the level of inflammation and reduce the pain of cramps. Eating healthy doesn’t necessarily mean going vegetarian though.
When getting your dairy, get a low-fat or fat-free product. You can also try to replace saturated fats in your diet with unsaturated fats such as olive oil.
Take Birth Control Pills
Both low and medium dose estrogen birth control pills are found to have a pain-relieving effect. This medication can help ailments near the uterus like endometriosis, which is a disorder that causes secondary dysmenorrhea.
Talk to your doctors and see what the most appropriate treatment for you is.
Relieving Pregnancy Cramps
Muscle fatigue could lead to a more severe pregnancy cramp, so getting some stretching done and having a peaceful mind through prenatal yoga can ease your pain.
Some helpful yoga poses are the pigeon pose, toe squat, paschimottanasana, parsvottanasana and ardha hanumanasana.
Worrying about the pain only makes you more stressed and eventually lead to more tension in your body. What you need to do is to relax and sit up straight in your favorite chair, then elevate your feet on a stool.
You can also try to do some relaxation exercises such as deep breathing and meditation.
A lot of nutrition is needed during pregnancy. If you eat a balanced diet and get enough vitamins and minerals, your cramps should get better. Make sure you have a good source of calcium because that helps heal the contractions in your muscles.
Your body needs more fluids during pregnancy, as dehydration could lead to pain. Start your habit of drinking 8 glasses of water a day and maybe even more during your period. It is also a good idea to avoid alcohol because it promotes dehydration.
For those of you who don’t enjoy drinking plain water, you can add cucumber or lemon to your water and enhance the flavor.
Know More about Cramps Before Period
Having cramps is not fun, but it is a useful sign that allows us to learn more about our bodies. Instead of complaining about the pain, you should try paying close attention to the duration, the intensity and the symptoms that come with your cramps.
The good news is that there are many remedies that can alleviate your pain. Whether you are pregnant or not, you can pick a remedy of choice and continue to enjoy life.