Cramps After Periods

Wondering What Causes Cramps After Periods? You Need to Read This

Although dysmenorrhea or painful menstruation is a normal and commonly experienced condition, painful cramps even after the period ends should not be ignored. It may be the result of certain gynecological disorders. The article gives a brief description of this condition with respect to its causes, diagnosis, and treatment.
Dysmenorrhea, or pain associated with menstruation, is a commonly experienced condition by women of reproductive age. Along with painful cramps in the lower abdomen, pain in thighs and lower back, nausea, dizziness, and fatigue are also experienced. Mild pain and cramping during periods is natural and is considered normal.

However, persistent pain that lasts even after the period ends, and gets severe with age is a sign of an underlying reproductive system disorder. Given below are the causes of such menstrual cramps as well as some remedies and treatment options for the same.
Causes
More than half of the menstruating women experience pain and cramping that begins one or two days before the period starts and subsides by the end of the period. Such a condition is termed as primary dysmenorrhea. This condition is considered normal and is the result of fluctuating levels of a hormone called prostaglandin.

The uterine muscles contract and relax routinely. However, during menstruation, such contractions and relaxations increase due to the action of prostaglandin, leading to cramps. Once the uterine lining is shed, the levels of prostaglandin decrease and the cramping subsides.
Secondary dysmenorrhea is characterized by painful cramps that begin before the period starts, and last even after the period ends. It is one of the most under-diagnosed conditions, and is associated with the following disorders:
Endometriosis
This disorder occurs when the endometrial cells (cells lining the inside of the uterus), begin to grow outside the uterus. Such growth can occur on the outer side of the uterus, on ovaries, and even on the bladder and bowels. This abnormal growth leads to inflammation, mild to severe cramping, pelvic pain, and pain during bowel movements.
Adenomyosis
It results due to the abnormal growth of endometrial glandular tissue within the muscular wall (myometrium) of the uterus. It is common between 35 to 50 years of age. The associated symptoms include abnormal uterine bleeding, heavy menstruation, and discharge of blood clots.
Uterine Fibroids
These are non-cancerous tumors that develop from the smooth muscle tissue of the uterus. Along with dysmenorrhea, other symptoms resulting due to such tumorous growth are frequent urination, irregular bleeding, and increase in waist size.
Ovarian Cysts
The formation of fluid-filled sacs called cysts in ovaries is one of the leading causes of secondary dysmenorrhea. These cysts cause dysmenorrhea when they enlarge, bleed or interrupt the normal ovarian functions. They may even lead to infertility. Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is another condition that may involve the formation of ovarian cysts.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
This disease is the result of bacterial infection in the uterus, fallopian tubes, or ovaries. Neisseria gonorrhoeae and Chlamydia trachomatis are the common causative agents followed by the vaginal microflora. Irregular menstrual bleeding, fever, and abnormal vaginal discharge are the associated symptoms. It may even lead to tissue scarring and infertility.
Diagnosis
Pelvic exam followed by diagnostic techniques like ultrasound and laparoscopy may be used to identify the exact cause for secondary dysmenorrhea. Blood tests, pap smears, and other pathological investigations are done depending on the precise set of symptoms. Vaginal and cervical cultures are used to identify the presence of infectious agents.
Treatment
The treatments include hormonal therapies and hormonal birth control pills, antibiotics and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID). Severe cases may demand surgery for the removal of fibroids or cysts. The precise treatment will depend on the symptoms, and the exact reason for cramps, as revealed by the diagnostic investigations.
Remedies
Although such cramping is unavoidable, there are different ways to subside the uneasiness and discomfort. Some of these are:
  • Taking a warm shower
  • Applying a heating pad and lightly massaging the lower abdomen
  • Drinking warm beverages
  • Taking over-the-counter analgesics or painkillers
  • Relaxation techniques and mild exercise
Persistent and severe cramping, also known as secondary dysmenorrhea, may occur due to certain reproductive system disorders. A healthy lifestyle, balanced diet, and appropriate measures to deal with the increasing amount of stress are some of the ways to prevent or deal with these disorders.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.