Many women experience cramping before or during their periods with pain ranging from mild to moderate. If your periods come and go uneventfully you are one of the lucky few! Some women experience cramps before, during, and in between their periods. If you are among the latter, you should understand these cramps may not be normal and could be resulting from an issue unrelated to your period.
How do you know what is causing your cramps? Understanding the symptoms of normal menstrual cramps, cramps caused by uterine fibroids, or other causes of cramps will help you determine how best to address them.
What Are Menstrual Cramps?
Cramps that are caused as part of the menstrual cycle are normal but do you know why you get cramps during your period? Every month the endometrium, which is the lining of the uterus, builds up to prepare for a fertilized egg and to support an embryo that may attach to it during pregnancy. If no fertilized egg shows up needing a soft place to land and grow, then this lining is shed resulting in your period. The uterus, fueled by hormones, starts going through a series of contractions pushing out the unneeded endometrium causing cramps. Once the uterine lining is shed, the process repeats each month unless pregnancy occurs.
During the contractions and shedding phase, many women experience cramping but it is nothing to be concerned about and is considered normal. The normal cramping experienced during menstruation is called dysmenorrhea and normally this pain can be alleviated with over-the-counter medications.
What Is Dysmenorrhea?
There are two types of dysmenorrhea:
- Primary dysmenorrhea and
- Secondary dysmenorrhea.
Primary dysmenorrhea is the medical term to describe common menstrual cramps that are recurring, i.e. come back month after month, and can not be attributed to another issue.
The pain or cramps normally start a few days before your menstrual bleeding actually begins. The pain experienced can be mild to severe in the lower back, thighs, or abdomen and can last anywhere from 1-3 days. Some women also experience nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and/or diarrhea.
Pain caused by primary dysmenorrhea can usually be managed with over-the-counter pain relievers or birth control. In many cases, symptoms of primary dysmenorrhea gradually lessen as you get older or if you have a baby.
Secondary dysmenorrhea is pain caused by some type of female reproductive disorder or infection involving the female reproductive organs. Pain that is caused due to secondary dysmenorrhea normally begins even before you get your period, often happens between periods, and lasts much longer than the common pain and cramping of primary dysmenorrhea.
The pain caused by secondary dysmenorrhea is often much more severe and unrelenting as well as non-respondent to typical pain medication. The most common cause of secondary dysmenorrhea is endometriosis, but a lesser-known cause of uterine cramping is the presence of uterine fibroids.
How Do Uterine Fibroids And Cramps Relate?
Uterine fibroids are benign tumors made up of smooth muscle and fibrous tissue. A woman can have single or multiple fibroids. They vary in weight and size and can be as small as a pea or as big as a large melon.
Uterine fibroids can grow in various places within the uterus and are classified by their location. Intramural fibroids grow inside the muscular uterine wall, submucosal fibroids grow into the uterine cavity, and are the rarest, subserosal fibroids grow toward the outside of the uterus and pedunculated fibroids are those that are not directly attached to the uterus and grow from a stem-like stalk.
The symptoms uterine fibroids cause are normally related to their location. As intramural fibroids grow, they can cause excessive menstrual bleeding, and also prolong the menstrual cycle. They can cause pelvic pain, clot passing, and cramping. Heavy bleeding left untreated, can result in anemia which is a serious and chronic condition. Submucosal fibroids are also associated with heavy bleeding, the passing of blood clots., anemia and cramping.
Fibroid cramps are typically caused by the uterus trying to force out a submucosal fibroid. This can happen anytime during a menstrual cycle.
How Do I Know I Have Fibroids?
Although some women with fibroids are asymptomatic, many experience fibroid symptoms that include but are not limited to:
- heavy painful and unusually long periods;
- pain or pressure in the pelvic area, which can radiate to the lower back, buttocks, and legs;
- an enlarged abdomen resembling pregnancy
- frequent urination or in some cases incontinence;
- pain during intercourse;
Video: Fibroid Pain And Other Symptoms
How Are Fibroids Diagnosed?
Fibroids are often diagnosed during a routine pelvic exam but in order to determine the size, location, and type of fibroid an MRI is the best way to diagnose. The Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exam provides high-resolution 3D images of the pelvic area and can reflect a more accurate picture of the number and placement of fibroids.
Often an ultrasound is used as the first point of diagnosis for fibroids but its lesser quality 2D images do not provide enough detail to determine how many fibroids are present or exactly where they are.
If diagnosed with fibroids, your best course of action would be to thoroughly research all the available treatments. With the advancements in women’s health, there are now both surgical and non-surgical treatments for fibroids. In order for you to make an informed decision, you need to understand each procedure and the associated benefits and risks.
Eliminating Uterine Cramps From Fibroids Without Surgery
If you are suffering from heavy bleeding or prolonged periods and other debilitating symptoms from fibroids you may be interested in learning about a non-surgical approach to the elimination of fibroids.
For the past 25 years, Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) has been available, but most women suffering from fibroids have never heard about it. Uterine Fibroid Embolization is an outpatient procedure that treats all types of fibroids and their associated symptoms very effectively.
Often surgeries that are performed to eliminate fibroids are unable to access and remove all of them. UFE is able to access and remove every fibroid no matter the size or location without affecting fertility or the uterus. Because it is performed without any surgical cuts there is no risk of post-surgery scarring that can affect the ability of a woman to conceive.
Video: Patient Got Relieved From Fibroid Cramping After UFE
The UFE procedure takes about 30-45 minutes to perform and requires no hospital stay. After the procedure, some women experience cramps (like heavy menstrual cramps), but this normally lasts for just a short time and can be managed with medication. The recovery time for UFE is only 5 to 7 days compared to surgery which is typically around 4 to 6 weeks. Patients are normally back to their normal routines after about a week.
Check out the Atlanta Fibroid Center YouTube channel, we have dozens of patients’ UFE stories. Dr. John Lipman is the Founder & Medical Director of the Center and is one of the world’s leading experts in uterine fibroid embolization. He has over 25 years of experience in UFE with over 8000 procedures to his credit. His patients often describe the UFE procedure as “life-changing” and they wondered why they had waited so long to do it. They all report that UFE has helped them get their lives back with severe uterine cramps from fibroids and other debilitating symptoms left behind forever.
If you are suffering from severe period pain and suspect you may have fibroids, learn more about fibroids and UFE from one of the top experts in the country Dr. John Lipman. Please call Atlanta Fibroid Center® at (770) 953-2600 or make an appointment online.