Period Pains and Their Possible Causes

Worried about unbearable abdominal pains during menstruation?

Not in all cases are they considered serious. In fact, some may be managed at home.

 Cramps are very common during menstruation, especially at the start of the cycle.

Usually, these follow an episode of discomfort felt just before menstruation (premenstrual syndrome), although both (premenstrual and menstrual cramps) are not related to each other. When a menstrual cycle starts, the womb starts to contract. This is a normal reaction which tends to shed the inner walls of the womb and produce menstrual bleeding.

Cramps are normally felt on the first and second days of each menstruation, which occurs on and off, usually lasting for 15 to 30 seconds per cramp with a resting interval of about 10 minutes. Normally, it decreases in intensity. In some others, for instance in those who are more sensitive to pain or those who produce higher amount of hormones called “prostoglandins”, pains tend to be felt more intensely and sometimes can be accompanied by shivers, sweating and weakness. This stage of severe pain can interfere in one’s daily chores. Usually, women who experience such pain tend to lie in bed most of the time in a fetal position (bent at the hips and knees resembling a fetus). Increased prostoglandins are one of the causes of contractions of certain muscular organs in the body, including the uterus and the rectum. Thus, women often feel the urge to defecate during menstruation.

Common period pains can be managed with mild anelgesics, over-the-counter non-inflammatory agents, warm compression and, of course, a lot of rest. Heavy activities tend to contract the womb even more, thus intensifying the pain.

Fifty percent of all women have menstrual pains, 15% of them complaining them to be “unbearable”. These cramps are most often felt in girls who have just started their periods. They usually subside when menstruation stabilizes, normally after 6 to 12 months.

More severe and serious cramps include those which are constant, worsen by the day, accompanied with heavy bleeding, prolong throughout the menstruation and has no effect whatsoever when remedies are taken. Underlying causes of such pains are more severe. At this stage, it is best to consult a doctor.
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  1. Hi Doctor,

    is it normal to have cramps & vomit on every first day of my menstruation. I have seen a few doctors but they said it is normal but when i ask some of my friends, they said i should consult a specialist on this.

    May i have your advice please?

  2. is it normal to have severe lower abdominal cramps a couple of days before you actually start your period? my cycles have been getting more and more painful over the last year and this last one was even worse. there seems to be one spot on the lower left side that is very painful. anti-inflammatory drugs seems to lessen the pain slightly, and movement seems to help a little too, but the pain is starting to keep me up at night.

    • Dr Elaine Loh

      This is very common and is medical parlance is called ‘dysmenorrhea’. However, it sounds to me like you may be suffering from endometriosis or even have an endometriotic cyst on your ovary. I think you should see your ObGyn and get checked out.

      • Thank you for the reply.
        I do have an appointment scheduled to see my ObGyn, but it isn’t until the end of January. Should I call and see if I can get in sooner, or is this urgent?

  3. Hi Doctor,

    Other than period cramps, sometimes during the middle of my period I will have the cramping feeling on my lower abdomen, sometimes at the sides but sometimes in the middle. Is this normal?


  4. vicky estrella

    I would like to know if a girl that does artificial tanning can worsen her period cramps and why she gets her period back after tanning.
    Please explain

    • I do not think there is any link between artificial tanning and period pains.

  5. Gloriousrose

    Thanks for this informative article Dr.

    • Hello, Gloriousrose.

      You are most welcome. I hope this helps a lot. Don’t hesitate to ask should you have any doubts.

      Dr De Souza

  6. Great job,my girl!

    • Hello, Ulviyya.

      Thank you for your interest! I hope you find this article a beneficial one. More topics will be up soon.

      Dr De Souza.


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