Cramps and stomach pain while a woman are on her period is common, particularly at the beginning of their cycle. However, these cramps also might happen a few days before their period begins. Since this pain is normal and happens to so many women, it’s usually not a reason to go to the doctor, but sometimes there may be a more serious issue behind this condition.
What Causes Abdominal Cramps Before Period?
Normal Menstrual Discomfort
More than half of women on their periods experience cramps and other pain, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. As a woman ages, cramps typically become less severe. Around the time a woman is menstruating, the levels of a hormone-containing compound called prostaglandins increase in the bloodstream. Prostaglandins cause the muscles in the uterus to contract and cramp. This kind of pain is normal and not cause for concern. These menstrual cramps usually start about three to five days before your actual period starts. There are two kinds of cramps:
Primary: This is the kind of abdominal cramps before period that happen most often. They are usually concentrated in the lower stomach area and lower back and start right before a woman’s period begins, a day or two beforehand.
Secondary: These cramps occur a few more days before a woman’s period starts, maybe even a week before.
But not all abdominal cramping is caused by a woman’s period. Heavy, constant cramping could be caused by endometriosis, when the lining of the uterus grows outside the uterus into the ovaries and fallopian tubes, and sometimes even the bladder. This causes serious pain in the days leading up to a woman’s period. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, about 10 percent of women will develop endometriosis.
Tumors and Cysts
Another potential cause for cramping are tumors and cysts that can grow in the uterus or ovaries. Typically they are non-cancerous. Fibroid tumors can grow in the wall of the uterus, and depending on how big they are and where they are, they can cause pain and discomfort. Some women can have these fibroid tumors and never know it, but if they are causing severe abdominal cramps before period, a woman needs to have surgery to remove them. Ovarian cysts are also relatively common and can cause cramping, and though most cause no discomfort and can go away without any surgery or treatment.
If you’re not on your period and you do feel some cramping, this could be implantation pain. This is when the sperm meets the egg and migrates to the uterus to attach to the wall of the uterus. During implantation, you may have some spotting or sudden cramping that goes away quickly. Pregnancy cramps are typically not as painful as period cramps, are lower in the abdomen and happen on both sides.
Some women also have some pain in their lower abdomen throughout their pregnancy, as your uterus and muscles are stretching to make room for the baby.
Abdominal cramps before your period could potentially have nothing to do with your period. Being bloated or constipated could be a cause, along with food poisoning. If your period is late, intense cramping could be signs of a miscarriage. Many kind of abdominal pain before your period is potentially unusual and probably not typical period cramps.
What to Do Next
If you have abdominal cramps before period, you can:
Rest and lay down until they go away. This doesn’t make the cramps go away faster, but it may feel good to just rest and relax.
Use heat, such as a heating pad or warm bath to soothe muscles.
A light massage of the lower abdomen may also help relieve muscle tension.
Use an over-the-counter pain medication like ibuprofen or acetaminophen as a quick solution.
Eating a healthy diet and cutting back on fat, alcohol, salty foods and caffeine can help stop symptoms from getting worse.
Limit stressful situations and instead exercise or do yoga or meditation
However, if the pain lasts longer, and is along with other problems like bleeding, fever, constipation, etc., call or pay a visit to your doctor.