Dysmenorrhea commonly known as Menstrual cramps are painful discomfort around the regions of the lower abdomen and pelvic area.

Most women experience menstrual cramps before and during their menstrual periods, which usually last between two to three days.

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Cramps in menstruation is one of the widely neglected gynecological diseases by both parents and government because it is widely believed that cramps are part of the menstrual period, and so nothing can be done about it.

Capital NO!

Many women are left dying silently in pain and loss of productivity every month because of period cramps, which result in women's poor academic performance, low quality of sleep and productivity.

Because of this, we decided to gather this ultimate guide to menstrual cramps.

    Causes Of Menstrual Cramps 

    Cramps in menstruation can be classified into two main categories: primary dysmenorrhea and secondary dysmenorrhea.

    The primary dysmenorrhea is associated with a hormone-like chemical substance called prostaglandins, which are the chemical substances responsible for the contraction and relaxation of the uterine wall.

    While the secondary dysmenorrhea is linked to other root causes such as cervix stenosis (narrow cervix), atopic pregnancy (abnormal pregnancy), adenomyosis, endometriosis, fibroids, and pelvic inflammatory disease.

    Primary Causes Of Menstrual Cramps

    Painful discomfort due to primary dysmenorrhea is one of the most common and leading devastating gynecological diseases, which affects 45% to 95% of menstruating women (1)

    The primary dysmenorrhea is associated with biological and chemical substances called prostaglandins.

    In the uterus of a woman, there is a tissue that lined the inner wall of the uterus. This tissue is called endometrium. The tissue (endometrium) produces and secretes a chemical substance, which is medically known as prostaglandins. Prostaglandin is also a hormone.

    The prostaglandins produced by this lining tissue stimulate the uterine muscles to contract, and this prevents and causes blood to move against friction in the blood vessels around the uterine muscles, thereby preventing proper blood flow and oxygen supply to uterine muscles.

    This movement of blood against friction couple with poor oxygen supply to the uterine tissues is responsible for the inflammation and painful discomfort associated with menstrual cramps.

    It is found that women who are blessed with prostaglandins in abundance are at high risk of experiencing menstrual cramps and abdominal discomfort during period.

    Secondary Causes Of Menstrual Cramps

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    The most common causes of secondary dysmenorrhea are pelvic inflammatory disease, uterine fibroids, endometriosis, atopic pregnancy, adenomyosis, and cervical stenosis.

    Uterine Fibroids

    These are noncancerous growth inside the wall of the uterus, which pushes and causes the lining tissue of uterus to secretes prostaglandins that suppress oxygen supply and blood flow to the uterus.

    This causes inflammation and painful discomfort in the lower abdomen and pelvic region.

    Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

    This is a gynecological disease that affects the reproductive organs of women. It is caused by a bacterial infection through sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea.

    Cervical Stenosis

    Cervical stenosis commonly known as a narrow cervix is a gynecological condition that occurs when the opening of the cervix is too narrow or closed. This type of condition may be prenatal or postnatal.

    Cervical stenosis can suppress the flow of menstrual blood from moving out through the cervix, and this causes painful discomfort and inflammation.

    Intrauterine Device

    This is a small birth control device that is inserted into a uterus.

    Sometimes, these birth control devices may perforate the uterus of women or get inserted into the uterus with an infectious bacteria.

    The bacteria can cause disease like pelvic inflammatory disease.

    All these can cause secondary painful period cramps and inflammation.


    Endometriosis is the appearance of endometrial tissue outside the uterus. Endometrial tissue can develop on ovaries and other parts of pelvic regions.

    It is an estrogen-dependent inflammatory disease that is affecting 5% to 10% of women of reproductive age in the US (2).

    Endometriosis causes viginal obstruction of outflow due to large quantities of backwashed menstrual tissue that has become implanted on pelvic organs (3).

    This prevents proper menstrual blood exit and thereby causing painful discomfort associated with the menstrual periods.


    Adenomyosis is the presence of endometrial tissue within the myometrium.

    Adenomyosis is responsible for most abnormal uterine bleeding and cramps outside priod (4).

    Atomic Pregnancy

    Atopic pregnancy is the formation of abnormal pregnancy whereby the fetus is implanted or developed inside a fallopian tube instead of inside the uterus.

    Symptoms associated with menstrual cramps may be mild to severe, which totally depends on the root cause of the painful discomfort.

    Symptoms from primary dysmenorrhea are usually less threatening when compared with secondary dysmenorrhea. However, sometimes the symptoms can be severe.

    The common symptoms associated with primary dysmenorrhea are dizziness, severe headache, itching, depression, nausea, vomiting, bleeding and severe painful discomfort around the pelvic and abdominal areas.

    While the symptoms associated with secondary dysmenorrhea are severe period cramps, irregular periods, heavy menstrual bleeding, burning sensation when urinating, foul-smelling, viginal discharge, pressure, lower back pain, leg pain, difficulty emptying bladder, constipation and frequent urination.

    Menstrual Cramps Outside Period

    Women do complain about painful discomfort in the lower abdomen and pelvic regions during the period.

    However, the menstrual period is not always the condition that causes cramping or painful discomfort.

    Other disease conditions like abnormal pregnancy, adenomyosis, intrauterine device, pelvic inflammatory disease, and endometriosis can also cause pelvic and abdominal pain just like a menstrual period.

    The following are the most common disease conditions that cause cramping outside menstrual period:

    Ruptured Ovarian Cyst

    Ruptured ovarian cyst is s fluid-filled sac that grows on ovaries. The cyst sometimes can grow large enough to cause pressure and pain on either side of the lower stomach just below the belly button, thighs, and lower back.

    Related: How to stop menstrual cramps fast

    Inflammatory Bowel Disease

    Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) which also known as Crohn's Disease or Ulcerative Colitis is a long-term swelling and irritation in various parts of the digestive tract.

    Cramps associated with IBD are pain in the right lower or middle parts of your belly. But, if it is ulcerative colitis, the cramps will be on the lower left side of your stomach.

    Other symptoms of IBD include blood in your poop, fatigue, weight loss, fever, ought to pass bowel movement, diarrhea, constipation, and feeling that your bowels are not completely empty after you go.


    Ovulation is also responsible for your painful discomfort outside period. This type of pain comes usually mid-month about 10-14 days before your period.

    You feel pain when your ovaries release an egg to keep your body in touch about possible pregnancy.

    The painful discomfort associated with ovulation is harmless and normally comes with pain outside the belly. This painful discomfort also lasts typically from few minutes to hours.

    The side of the cramps depends on which ovary released the eggs. The cramps may switch from one of the ovaries to another ovary every month or come from the same ovary every month.


    Miscarriage happens when you lose an unborn baby before the 20th week of pregnancy.

    The cramps associated with miscarriage may be like that of the menstrual periods, but with time it can become severe. Severe pain and viginal bleeding are the commonest symptoms. Always refer to a nearby professional medical center for proper medical checkups.

    Pregnancy Pain

    Pregnancy pain also looks like that of menstrual period cramps. This comes in place when the growing fetus (unborn baby) is attaching to the lining of uterus.

    Painful discomfort associated with pregnancy pain is a few slight cramps about 4 weeks into your pregnancy, which is equivalent to the time of your period.

    Interstitial Cystitis

    Interstitial cystitis is a long-term painful disease condition that affects the bladder. It usually comes with cramps and tenderness in the lower stomach, genital areas. Common symptoms are painful sexual intercourse, and ought to pee.


    Appendicitis is an outgrowth of a small pouch or stone-like structure on the extreme end of a large intestine. It causes painful discomfort like that of the menstrual period.

    The cramps can become severe and travel to the right lower side of your stomach. Symptoms include sickness in the stomach, fever, and it hurts when you cough, sneeze or move.

    Irritable Bowel Syndrome

    Irritable bowel syndrome IBS can also cause stomach cramps like that of period cramps. The painful discomfort associated with IBS are sudden pain in the stomach. Common symptom is difficulty in emptying your bowels.

    Ovarian Cancer

    Ovarian cancer pain is a painful discomfort associated with the outgrowth of cancerous cells in the ovaries. The painful discomfort that comes with ovarian cancer is hurting and pressure in your lower belly. Your belly may be inflamed so much that you find it difficult to button your pants.

    Effects Of Menstrual Cramps

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    The effects of menstrual cramps are quite distressing and annoying, affecting women's daily life activities and social interaction.

    According to one study, while accessing the effects of menstrual-related pain on attentional interference, it was found that when the participants completed different tasks during their menstrual pain, the performance was less accurate and slow when compared with the performance during nonphase pain.

    In this study, 52 women were tested by giving them different tasks to complete during their menstrual periods. Two different tests were made.

    One is made during the nonphase pain, and the other is made during a painful period.

    Results analyzed from this study showed less accuracy and low performance of tasks completed during a painful period.

    Following are the most common effects of period cramps:

    • causes poor academic performance

    • Restrictions of daily activities

    • causes low-quality sleep

    • affect mode and general behavior negatively

    • causes anxiety and depression

    Risk Factors Associated With Menstrual Pain

    • smoking of cigarette

    • alcohol drinking

    • obesity

    • women who never experience pregnancy

    • women who menstruation at an early age such as 11 years old

    •Secondary dysmenorrhea

    How to Stop Menstrual Cramps

    Because menstrual cramps could lead to serious long-term effects and may increase women's susceptibility to other chronic pain conditions later in her life, it is very important to find solid solutions that can help treat period cramps, so as to limit the possible effects that can lead to other serious conditions (1).

    Natural Home Remedies For Menstrual Cramps

    This method of treating painful discomfort associated with menstruation involves the use of natural herbs and supplements that are researched and found to be effective for the remedy of the menstrual period.

    It can also include any method that is locally made and nonsynthetic such as local heat application, dietary and lifestyle changes.

    The secret is that most natural or organic products are powerful agents with the highest moisturizing, soothing, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidants benefits.

    Several studies have found that natural home remedies such as aromatherapy can successfully remedy pain when used together with conventional treatments.

    According to one study made on 80 students while finding the effect of chamomile tea for relief of pain associated with primary dysmenorrhea, it was found that drinking 2 cups of chamomile tea was effective for reducing pain associated with menstrual cramps.

    Changes in diets are also effective to relieve painful discomfort, inflammation, fever, and excessive bleeding that is associated with menstrual pain.

    Adding dietary foods and supplements rich in vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and soluble fibers can be effective for treating menstrual pain.

    According to a recent systematic review by Karger, which focused on nutritional factors affecting primary menstrual cramps.

    In this review, it was found that increased consumption of fruits and vegetables for vitamins and minerals, as well as fish and milk and dairy products have a positive correlation with fewer period cramps, whereas different results were obtained from the consumption of other nutritional groups.

    Local heat application in the lower abdomen was found to work great in reducing pain associated with menstrual cramps.

    Topical heat application reduces inflammation, kill bacteria and improves blood and oxygen supply to the tissues.

    According to one study, while accessing the effect of local heat application on area affected by acne-related diseases, it was found that topical application of heat reduces significantly the microbial growth and inflammation.

    Menstrual Cramps Medicines

    Treatments of menstrual cramps with over-the-counter medications involve using prostaglandins inhibitors like Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs ( NSAIDs) and corticosteroids.

    NSAIDs are by far the most important inhibitors of prostaglandins and other inflammatory mediators.

    NSAIDs prevent the action of prostaglandins by inhibiting cyclooxygenase enzymes and therefore block the production of prostaglandins.

    This prevents the painful discomfort, headache, nausea, inflammation, and fever associated with menstrual cramps.

    Examples include Ibuprofen and paracetamol.

    Another class of prostaglandins inhibitors are corticosteroids. And these types of drugs suppress the action of prostaglandins by inhibiting phospholipase A2 production.

    Examples include prednisone and hydrocortisone.

    Site Effects Of Using Synthetic Medications For the Treatment Of Menstrual Cramps

    As we all know, menstruation does not only occur one or two times in a person's life cycle. Menstruation is a continuous process that can take up to two-third of a person's life.

    And therefore, when a person continues to take these drugs for a very long time in order to get quick relief, there is a high probability that the patient may experience adverse drug effects.

    According to one study, it was found that prolonged treatment with NSAIDS  causes renal failure by shutting down prostaglandin production.

    Moreover, in a separate study, while accessing the role of prostacyclin in the cardiovascular response to thromboxane A2, it was found that Coxibs, another prostaglandins inhibitors, increase the risk of myocardial infarction ( a heart disease caused by the aggregation of platelets ) when consuming on a chronic basis for at least 18 months.


    We hope this guide gives you excellent help in understanding the causes, home remedies, effects, preventions and treatments of menstrual cramps.

    We would love listening to your words about this ultimate guide to menstrual cramps.

    So, do write to us in the comment section below.

    Written by Idris Ya'u


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