That time of the month – every woman out there knows what it means to just not feel yourself, to feel down, to have your hormones gone haywire, to feel sick, nauseous, dizzy, to feel bloated and in pain. And yet, every menstrual cycle is a sign of your physical health and of the fact that you are able to bear children – which is actually a wonderful gift from nature.
If you leave aside these symptoms and you think of the purpose of your reproductive system, you will realize just how important it is to feel the same every month.
Of course, not all women out there experience these symptoms. Some only have some of the symptoms, others have them all. Some women experience mild symptoms, while the others experience them in their full force. And some other women experience only some of these symptoms and very severe.
To understand menstrual cramps and PMS, you should first start by understanding your reproductive system and how it functions. This way, you will be able to understand why so many women experience cramps during their menstruation and you will also be able to understand when to tell the difference between the normal cramps and those that may be the signs of an underlying illness.
Menstruation – What Is It, More Exactly?
Put very shortly, menstruation is the first sign that a woman has become able to bear children. On the inside of your body though, things get more complex than that. A woman’s menstrual cycle lasts somewhere around 28 days (more or less time than that is common as well). The beginning of the menstrual cycle is marked by the first day of menstruation.
Following the menstruation, the uterus lining will begin to thicken. Then there will come the ovulation phase, when the woman is most likely to get pregnant if the released ovule(s) encounter a spermatozoid. Following this phase, the walls of the uterus will continue to thicken until the lining will be released – which is when a new menstruation cycle begins.
Why the Pain?
When your body releases the uterus lining, the uterus will contract – and this is what causes the pain. The other so-called PMS symptoms occur either as the result of this particular change or as the result of the hormonal changes that take place in the body of a woman during the menstrual cycle.
Pain is normal when menstruating. In some cases, pain will occur 1-2 days before the menstruation begins, while in other cases it will occur in the first days of the menstruation. It can last for anything between 12 and 72 hours and it can be mild or severe as well. Furthermore, it may or may not be associated with the other symptoms such as dizziness, vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, lightheadedness and so on.
What Is Normal and What Is Not Normal?
It is normal to feel pain, as it was also mentioned before. Our bodies are all different and different people may experience different symptoms at varying degrees of intensity. Furthermore, it is normal that you may feel different in one month than you usually feel. There are several risk factors, such as stress for example, that may influence whether or not you will get menstrual cramps.
Furthermore women younger than 20, women who have never had a baby or women who do not exercise are generally more prone to develop menstrual cramps than other women. Also, girls who have had their first menstruation before the age of 11 also show more risk of feeling menstrual pain.
Even more than that, whether or not you get menstrual cramps or if it will ameliorate as the years go by can also vary a lot from one person to another. Some women experience mild or even severe cramps when they are young, but they get rid of these symptoms as they grow older.
Some women experience severe cramps on a regular basis and that is quite normal. However, you should absolutely know the fact that not all cramps are normal and that sometimes they may be a sign that there is an illness you have to treat.
However, in most of the times these cramps will be extremely severe and they will last for several days in a row. Also, if you normally use tampons during your menstruation and experience fever, cramps, diarrhea, vomiting and rashes that look like sunburns, make sure that you contact the doctor immediately.
Which Are the Illnesses Connected to Menstrual Cramps?
There are some diseases out there that may manifest themselves through symptoms such as menstrual cramps, but only under the circumstances mentioned above. It is important that you know exactly which these diseases are, so that you can be fully informed on what could have gone wrong with your body in the event such an illness develops.
- Uterine fibroids – these are tumors that are non-cancerous and that grow in the wall of the uterus.
- Cervical stenosis – this disease occurs when the cervix is too tight and it cannot allow the blood to be eliminated completely.
- Adenomyosis – a disease characterized by the fact that the tissue supposed to line the walls of the uterus grows into the muscular part of the uterus itself.
- Pelvic inflammatory disease – this is a sexually transmitted infection that is caused by a particular bacterium.
- Endometriosis – a disease characterized by the wrongful growth of the lining of the uterus on its outside instead of on its inside.
- Toxic shock syndrome – this can become life-threatening and it is characterized by the symptoms described above. If you use tampons and you experience fever, rashes, diarrhea and vomiting, you should contact your doctor as soon as possible.
Other than these cases, your menstrual cramps are normal. If you feel that they are too severe, visit your doctor. He/she may be able to recommend you with a series of vitamin supplements or even with contraceptive pills that can regulate the menstruation and alleviate the symptoms related to it.