A period is a normal part of life for menstruators. But everyone’s period is different! Some menstruators have light flows, and others experience heavier cycles. This also means that some menstruators may have painful periods, which often include menstrual cramps. Here is everything you should know about cramps, from Aunt Flow!
What Are Cramps?
Have you ever experienced throbbing discomfort in your stomach or lower back before or during your period? Well, that pain is likely menstrual cramps. The cramps, also known as dysmenorrhea or period pain, can range from mild to severe.
What Causes Menstrual Cramps?
Menstrual cramps occur when the uterus, which is a muscle, contracts to help shed its lining. If the muscle squeezes too strongly during your period, it can press against any blood vessels nearby, triggering a high prostaglandin (a hormone) level. This then briefly cuts off oxygen flow to the uterus. It’s this lack of oxygen that causes such pain and cramping. Higher levels of prostaglandins are typically associated with more severe menstrual cramps.
You can also have cramps due to:
How Common Are Cramps?
While menstrual cramps are some of the most annoying aspects of your period, they are extremely common. In fact, it’s estimated that between half and 84% of menstruators experience cramping.
Are There Any Treatments?
The good news: There are lots of remedies that might help relieve menstrual cramps. It’s important to keep in mind that these techniques won’t always work for you, especially for chronic conditions, but they may be able to offer a sense of relief for mild to moderate cramps.
Here are some things to try:
- Heat, heat, and more heat. Heating pads can be a great way to relieve menstrual cramps. Applying heat to the lower back or stomach can help relax the muscles and increase blood flow, which both help to reduce pain.
- Midol a.k.a Ol’ Reliable. Midol helps relieve period symptoms such as bloating, pain and (you guessed it) menstrual CRAMPS!
- Try out some herbal teas. Herbal teas like chamomile or ginger are said to help reduce the muscle spasms that cause cramps. Why not give it a try?
Check out a more comprehensive list of treatments from the Mayo Clinic.
For more information on all things periods, check out our blogs specifically focused on education.
Sources: Cleveland Clinic, Mayo Clinic, Forbes