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Menstrual cramps: what it is, symptoms, causes and treatment


Menstrual cramps are pelvic pain during menstruation or up to a few days before menstruation, which can be intense and accompanied by other symptoms, such as tiredness, nausea, diarrhea or back pain.

Menstrual cramps can be caused by the release of inflammatory substances by the uterus for menstruation to come down, but it can also be related to endometriosis, fibroids or uterine polyps, for example.

Read too: Uterine polyp: what it is, symptoms, causes and treatment

The treatment of menstrual cramps, also called dysmenorrhea, is carried out by a gynecologist and varies according to the intensity of the symptoms and their causes, and may include applying warm compresses to the belly or taking medication.

Menstrual cramps symptoms

The main symptoms of menstrual cramps are:

  • Pain in the lower part of the belly, which can be intense;
  • Nausea or vomiting;
  • Pain that radiates to the back or legs;
  • Headache;
  • Diarrhea.

Symptoms of menstrual cramps can begin on the first day of menstruation or shortly before and, generally, the pain is most intense around 23 to 48 hours after the start of menstruation.

Depending on its cause, menstrual cramps can also appear outside the menstrual period and be accompanied by other symptoms such as pain during intimate contact or bleeding outside the menstrual period, for example.

Read too: Breakthrough bleeding: what it could be and when to see a doctor

Warning sign to go to the gynecologist

It is important to consult a gynecologist when menstrual cramps are intense or frequent, or are accompanied by other symptoms, so that tests can be carried out, the cause identified and the most appropriate treatment indicated.

Make an appointment with a gynecologist in the nearest region:

Where is the pain from menstrual cramps?

The place where menstrual cramps pain occurs is in the lower part of the abdomen, at the foot of the belly or lower abdomen.

However, this pain can radiate to the back or even the inner thighs.

Read too: Stomach pain: 15 main causes (and what to do)

How to confirm the diagnosis

The diagnosis of menstrual cramps is made by the gynecologist through the health history and evaluation of symptoms, as well as their onset, location of pain, duration and other associated symptoms.

In addition, the doctor must perform a pelvic examination and order other tests, such as pelvic or transvaginal ultrasound, MRI, Doppler ultrasound or even laparoscopy.

These tests help identify the cause of menstrual cramps and rule out conditions with similar symptoms, such as ectopic pregnancy or irritable bowel syndrome, for example.

Possible causes

Menstrual cramps are caused by the release of inflammatory substances, called prostaglandins, by the uterus, promoting uterine contraction and the onset of menstruation.

However, it can also be caused by health conditions, the main ones being:

  • Endometriosis;
  • Cesarean section scar;
  • Uterine polyps or ovarian cyst;
  • Fibroids or adenomyosis;
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease;
  • IUD use

Furthermore, menstrual cramps can also arise due to sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), for example.

Read too: Dysmenorrhea: what it is, symptoms, causes and treatment

How the treatment is carried out

The treatment of menstrual cramps must be carried out under the guidance of a gynecologist and aims to alleviate pain and improve quality of life.

Therefore, the treatments that may be recommended by the doctor are:

1. Application of warm compresses

Applying warm compresses to the belly helps relax the pelvic muscles and relieve the pain of menstrual cramps.

This type of treatment is usually the initial option to relieve menstrual cramps, being as effective as the use of anti-inflammatory medications and has no side effects.

Read too: 10 tricks to get rid of menstrual cramps quickly

2. Use of medicines

The use of medication may be recommended by the gynecologist to reduce the production of inflammatory substances and relieve pain or to treat the health condition that is causing menstrual cramps.

The main remedies that may be recommended by the gynecologist are:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as mefenamic acid, ibuprofen or naproxen;
  • Analgesics, such as paracetamol or dipyrone;
  • antispasmodics, such as scopolamine butylbromide;
  • hormonal contraceptives, containing estrogen and/or progesterone.

Furthermore, if menstrual cramps are caused by endometriosis, the doctor may recommend medications such as leuprolide, goserelin, nafarelin, letrozole or anastrozole, for example. Find out how endometriosis is treated.

Other medications that are also indicated are antibiotics to treat sexually transmitted infections or pelvic inflammatory disease.

Read too: Remedies for menstrual cramps (and natural options)

3. Surgery

Surgery may be recommended by your doctor when other treatment options have not been effective in relieving menstrual cramps caused by endometriosis, fibroids, uterine polyps or adenomyosis.

This surgery can be performed using different techniques, such as laparoscopy, endometrial ablation or hysterectomy, for example.

Home Treatment Options

Home treatment for menstrual cramps can be done with the use of teas, such as chamomile, ginger or valerian, as they have anti-inflammatory and calming properties. See how to prepare home remedies for menstrual cramps.

In addition, you can also massage your belly to help relieve menstrual cramps quickly, as it helps relax your pelvic muscles.

Read too: How to massage to relieve menstrual cramps

These home remedies can be used to complement the treatment recommended by your gynecologist to relieve menstrual cramps.