Complaining about menstrual cramps is so commonplace and all associated pain so normalized so much so that women can assume all period pain is just par for the course. While discomfort is the norm, some cramps can signal a problem. Here are some signs your cramps are not regular and you may need to speak to a medical professional.
Your life is disrupted
The key to determining what’s normal is the degree to which it affects your life. If your cramps are so bad that you need to call off work on a regular basis or cannot carry on with your daily activities, something may be wrong. While the condition is not rare, it’s not normal either.
The severity of the pain and how long it lasts
Ordinarily, period cramps are at their worst on the first day or two of your menstrual cycle and then significantly drop off after that. Cramps may start the day of or the day just before the bleeding starts but should not continue all the way until the end of your period. They certainly should not be there after your period ends. Severe pain or discomfort that lasts for several days may be an indication of something more going on.
Normal period cramps are described as aching or pressure rather than stabbing pain. Stabbing pain could be something called an ovarian cyst rupture. It can be confused with menstrual cramps if the cyst bursts while a person is menstruating. Ovarian cysts are bad enough to send you to the ER.
Pain alleviation techniques don’t work
Most of the women who experience physical pain and discomfort can get relief from over-the-counter pain medications. Heat pads also offer some relief. If none of the usual techniques works to alleviate the pain which then goes on for a number of days even with medication, something more serious could be going on.
You experience pelvic pain
Pelvic sensitivity and discomfort before or during the first days of your period are normal. Sensitivity during ovulation is also common. However, if you have pelvic pain at other times during your cycle, that may signal a problem.
Another sign of severe menstrual cramps is heavy bleeding and clotting. If you find yourself changing pads too frequently, such as more than once every hour, there may be a problem. Heavy bleeding that lasts for several days may be a symptom of endometriosis or a related condition called adenomyosis where uterine tissue grows outside or into the uterine wall.
Other period signs you should not ignore include:
- Skipped or missed periods
- Abnormally short or long periods
- Bleeding between periods
- Breast pain
Trust your instinct and seek medical advice if you feel there may be more going on than just period cramps.