If you experience menstrual cramps so severe you are unable to manage everyday activities, you are not alone. Nearly 30 percent of American women experience menstrual cramps severe enough to merit medical attention.
Is my menstrual cycle normal?
Here are the main bleeding patterns to look for during your cycle, and how to tell if what you’re experiencing is normal:
- Your period blood is bright red
This is no cause for alarm. Bright red blood during your period means you are at the beginning of your cycle and releasing fresh blood.
- Your period blood is brownish
In a normal cycle bright red blood typically turns to a darker, brownish hue after a few days. This is older blood that’s been in your uterus longer and has had a chance to oxidize.
- Your period blood has clots
Occasional blood clots, or thick globules of blood, during your period are generally not a concern. However, if you have large clots on a regular basis, they could be indicative of a larger problem.
- Your menstrual cycle is irregular
There are many reasons for having an irregular menstrual cycle including stress, hormone disorders, scarring or intense physical activity. Talk to your OB/GYN to determine the best action plan to regulate your cycle.
- Your flow is very heavy
If your period is longer than seven days, or you are changing tampons or pads every two hours or so, you are probably bleeding more heavily than most women. While this may be normal for you, it could signal other health concerns, so it is best to talk to your OB/GYN to find out why it’s happening.
- Your menstrual cramps are severe
Cramps occur when hormone-like substances, called prostaglandins, are released. The more your body releases, the more painful your cramps will be.
When to see your OB/GYN for menstrual cramps
While sometimes a cramp is just a cramp, it can also tell you a lot about your overall health. If you experience painful cramps along with any of the symptoms below, it’s time to talk to your OB/GYN and find out how you can feel better each month:
- Lower back pain
- Leg pain that radiates downward
- Excessive sweating
Severe menstrual cramps could be a warning sign
If menstrual cramps disrupt your life every month, if your symptoms progressively worsen or if you’ve just started experiencing severe menstrual cramps after age 25, it’s time to tell your OB/GYN. Severe menstrual cramps could be a sign of the following conditions:
- Endometriosis. A condition that occurs when tissue (that normally lines your uterus) becomes implanted outside your uterus. It is most commonly found on the fallopian tubes, ovaries or on the tissue lining the pelvis.
- Uterine fibroids. Noncancerous growths of muscle tissue in the wall of the uterus.
- A condition that occurs when the inner lining of the uterus begins to grow into the muscular walls of the uterus.
- Pelvic inflammatory disease. An infection of the female genital tract and is usually accompanied by a fever.
- Cervical stenosis. A condition in which the opening of the cervix is small enough to impede menstrual flow, causing a painful increase of pressure within the uterus.
For skilled, compassionate care and gynecology in Mobile, Alabama, contact Bay Area Physicians for Women. Our OB/GYN’s are board-certified and highly skilled in the diagnosis and treatment of gynecologic issues. Call 251-344-5900 to schedule an appointment.