Menstrual Cramps: What's Normal?

The majority of women are well aware of how uncomfortable menstrual cramps - or to use their medical term, dysmenorrhea - are. Not only do you have to deal with the fatigue and mood instability that goes along with that time of the month, but you also have to be in pain too? Some things in life just aren’t fair.

Given that menstrual cramps are so ubiquitous and almost expected when Aunt Flo is in town, how can any woman know what she experiences is normal? And what’s more - why does it matter what ‘normal’ is?

Menstrual Cramps Are Usually Completely Normal. The cramps happen to the very physical nature of periods, as the uterus contracts in the effort to shed the endometrium (aka the womb lining. As the uterus is a muscle, the constant contracting and expansion can be painful - hence what we know of as menstrual cramps taking center stage.

So while cramps may be unpleasant, they’re usually entirely standard and are nothing to worry about.

Normal Menstrual Cramps Vary from Woman to Woman. Given that everyone has different pain thresholds, it’s difficult to say what’s truly to be considered ‘normal’. What some women might find debilitating would, for others, be relatively easy to handle - there’s no sweeping general statement that can classify normal.

Nevertheless, it’s important to try. That’s because certain illnesses - particularly conditions called endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome - have painful periods as their key signifier or symptom.

Endometriosis is the most common cause of extremely painful periods, and it’s not to be taken likely. It is often severe enough for sufferers to be classed as disabled and in need of the help of the likes of David Chermol so they have access to the funds they need to live. That’s why it’s vital to know if endometriosis might be causing your pain, as it gets progressively worse - catching it early is the best way to keep yourself on an even keel.

How To Recognize Abnormal Pain. Both endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS from hereon) have other symptoms besides pain, but pain is usually the most recognizable and the most troubling.

The majority of menstrual cramps are felt in the abdomen. However, if you feel the pain ‘wandering’ - particularly down your legs or through to your back - then this could be a sign of endometriosis. The pain is usually sharper than the average menstrual cramp and is harder to get rid of; few endometriosis sufferers make it through their period with over-the-counter medication only. You may also experience pain during urination and bowel movements, especially during menstruation.

When period pains are beyond the normal, they also tend to last longer. These are cramps that will have you canceling your evening plans on a regular basis, because you can’t face up to anything but sitting with a heat bag over your stomach and feeling sorry for yourself.

When To Get Help. While the above might sound alarming, neither PCOS or endometriosis pose any threat to life - but they do pose a threat to the quality of your life. No one should have to deal with this level of pain on a monthly basis, so if you find yourself changing your plans or taking a lot of medication to get through your period, then speak with your doctor. There’s no harm in making sure.

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  1. Thank you for sharing your wonderful story. I have endometriosis & was pregnant 2 times. I'm praying for you and miracles do happen! Tis the season for em!!! One has to be educated about their medical condition and never give up. Reading articles help us boost our confidence and be positive no matter what. I found this article really very useful and so sharing it here- . Thanks.



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