Should I Be Concerned About My Period?

Written by: Jada Vanderpool

Published on: 18 January 2021

One of a woman’s greatest disrupters is her menstrual cycle – and no matter how much our bodies prepare for it, monthly cramps can still take us over the edge.

While it’s normal for menstrual cramps to vary in frequency and in severity, sometimes our bodies are signaling that we’re experiencing more than monthly woes.

Here are a few signs that your cramps may be abnormal.

Your unable to carry out your life activities

Cramps may lead us to a full day snuggled on the couch, but if you’re regularly skipping work due to it’s intensity this can be a sign of something more serious. While 80% of women have reported experiencing pain, a mere 5% – 10% find the pain to be severe enough to disrupt their life.

Your cramps last for more than three or four days

An average menstrual cycle can last two to seven days, but our cramps shouldn’t last through the entire cycle period –  or even after. We can anticipate cramps the day before or day when bleeding starts, but anything before that window isn’t considered normal. Also, anti-inflammatory medicine should ease the discomfort. If you find you’re not experiencing relief with consistent use of it, then there may be more to your pain.

You’re experiencing pelvic pain

This is normal the first few days of your period and during your ovulation, but if you’re experiencing pain after this isn’t. Another red flag of an abnormal cycle is painful sex.

The pain has worsened over the years

Secondary dysmenorrhea is caused by a disorder in the reproductive organs. A significant shift in period pain can be a sign of another underlying condition that can affect your fertility.

So what can be the cause of severe menstrual cramps? Here are a few common reasons.

Fibroids

Fibroids are muscular tumors that grow in the wall of the uterus. Though they are tumors, they are often benign (noncancerous) and can go unnoticed without symptoms for many women. Studies show that Black women are three times more likely to develop fibroids than white women, and that between 80 to 90 percent of Black women will develop fibroids by age 50 compared to 70 percent of white women.

 Some menstrual symptoms that are associated with fibroids include heavy bleeding during menstruation; long lasting periods; pelvic cramping or pain with periods; and bleeding between periods.

Endometriosis

This painful disorder occurs when tissue that normally outlines the uterus grows outside of the uterine cavity. If a woman with endometriosis gets her period, she had bleeding from the cells and tissue inside of the uterus, and from the cells and tissue outside of the uterus. When the blood touches other organs inside of the uterus, it leads to inflammation and pain. These constant pain symptoms may worsen before and during your period.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) is an infection of the women’s reproductive organs. This disease can be caused by various types of sexually transmitted bacteria, including those that cause gonorrhea and chlamydia.

The most common symptom of PID is pain in the lower abdomen, however other symptoms include pain in the upper abdomen; painful sex; painful urination; irregular bleeding – especially during or after intercourse or between menstrual cycles; increased or foul-smelling vaginal discharge; fever or tiredness.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Our menstrual cycle and digestive tract are undoubtedly intertwined. Many people with IBS experience heightened symptoms before or during their period. There are receptor cells for female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone throughout our gastrointestinal tract. A 2015 review determined that hormone fluctuations – particularly estrogen and progesterone – in women who are of reproductive age influence the GI tract.

If you’re concerned that your having an abnormal menstrual cycle, contact your gynecologist to find a solution or treatment most suitable for you.