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All women know what period pain is like. But we may not often think about what causes it and to which extent having cramps is normal.
Period cramps happen due to a hormone-like substance, prostaglandins, which cause the uterus walls to contract and then shed its lining, resulting in your period. If the levels of prostaglandins are higher, more pain is often associated with the cramps. Your doctor calls it dysmenorrhea.
The severity of the cramps varies from woman to woman. They are likely to become less painful as you get older or after childbirth.
There are other conditions which can cause cramps. It may be called secondary dysmenorrhea, meaning that your period cramps are caused by a problem in your reproductive organs. Several conditions can cause it:
Endometriosis (the uterus lining grows outside of the uterus) can cause a more chronic pain than regular period cramps
Fibroids (non-cancerous growths on the uterus wall) can sometimes cause pain in the affected area
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection caused by sexually transmitted bacteria that spreads from your vagina to your uterus, fallopian tubes or ovaries.
Adenomyosis (the tissue lining the uterus begins to grow into the uterine walls)
Cervical stenosis, when the opening of the cervix is smaller and restricts the flow of menstrual blood – this can cause a painful increase of pressure in the uterus
Signs that may tell you that your period cramps are not OK
You’ve started to have more severe cramping after the age of 25
Your pain is severe
Unusual menstrual cramps
Cramping that lasts for more than 2 or 3 days
In most cases, period cramps are a sign of a healthy body reacting to the natural shedding of the uterus wall. However, if menstrual cramps are disrupting your life every cycle, see your doctor.