What Are Menstrual Cramps?

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Women who are between the ages of adolescence and menopause experience a monthly menstrual cycle. This cycle occurs over an average of 28 days, and it makes pregnancy possible. When a woman menstruates, her body is shedding the lining of the uterus and menstrual blood flows from the uterus through the cervix and then passes out of the body through the vagina. During the time that the uterus is shedding its lining, many women experience menstrual cramps. For some women, these cramps are nothing more than a slight bother, but for others they can be severe and debilitating.

Menstrual cramps are caused by the contractions of the uterus. While the uterus (also known as the womb) is the home of a growing baby during pregnancy, it is also a muscle. The muscle is used when women are in labor, known as contractions; the muscle is also used each month a woman is not pregnant to rid the body of the uterine lining. Menstrual cramps occur when the uterus contracts too strongly during the menstrual cycle and it presses against nearby blood vessels. This pressure cuts off the supply of oxygen to the uterus, and it is this lack of oxygen that causes pain and cramping.

As stated above, some women experience mild cramps that ibuprofen can easily treat. However, some women experience severe cramping that leaves them miserable and unable to function for a couple of days out of the month. Tips for making it through the worst days of your period:

  • Take Midol® or another pain reliever as soon as your bleeding or cramping starts.
  • Use a heating pad, warm wash cloth, or hot water bottle on your lower abdomen or lower back. (While most menstrual cramping affects the lower abdomen, some women experience back pains.)
  • Rest.
  • Avoid foods and beverages with high contents of salt, caffeine, all alcohol, and all tobacco.

If none of these provide you with relief and you experience severe menstrual pain on a regular basis, please contact Marietta OB-GYN Affiliates, P.A. today. Our physicians will help you find answers and the relief that you need.