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Period cramps are medically known as dysmenorrhea. They are mainly caused due to the contraction and relaxation of the uterine muscles that occur during the menstrual cycle. This causes extreme discomfort around the abdomen, lower back, and thighs. The pain can be anywhere from mild to debilitating for some, and can even go on for a week.
In fact, there are some women who experience some amount of cramping even a week or more, before their monthly cycle. To understand why it happens, we got in touch with Dr Surabhi Siddhartha, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, Motherhood Hospital, Mumbai.
Before we move on to other details, let’s understand what a normal period means.
The menstrual cycle is a sequence of events that occurs each month within a female’s body for the possibility of pregnancy. The 28 day-long period is considered to be the average cycle of the period. However, it can last from 21 to 35 days. “Moodiness, difficulty in sleeping, food cravings, cramps in the lower abdomen and back, bloating, tenderness in the breasts, and acne are some of the common symptoms of normal periods,” says Dr Siddhartha.
Dr Siddhartha says, “Experiencing menstrual cramps before your period is absolutely normal, but in some cases, these same signs could highlight other ailments. Hence, knowing the exact reasons behind getting cramps before periods will help you find ways of prevention and cure. However, it’s normal to experience cramps a few days before your period, which happens due to premenstrual syndrome (PMS). This occurs due to hormonal changes in your body before your period.”
Hence, a majority of women endure symptoms like mood swings, tender breasts, and fatigue.
If you are wondering whether these are period cramps or something else, you need to first keep a track of your menstrual cycle. Although cramping is usually an indicator of the menstrual cycle, Dr Siddhartha says it does not always mean a symptom of PMS, “but yes there are possibilities of the same.”
If you are unsure, make sure to immediately approach your gynaecologist. Dr Siddhartha shares that sudden cramps in those who do not generally experience them, could indicate these:
PMS cramps are not so painful in nature, and primarily target the back area. Normally, PMS cramping is experienced three to five days before your period. Therefore, in certain instances, such cramping is normal.