Between muscle aches, fatigue, a weird appetite, mood swings, and bloating, things are just fan-freakin-tastic before your period arrives. And don't even get me started on the inevitable cramps. Although some women seem to avoid the experience of cramps, others are cursed with more than just minor discomfort. And, in some cases, that pain could be a sign of a larger issue. There are a number of red flags that your cramps mean something more serious, and not just annoying reminders that it's that time of the month.
Many people know what their definition of normal is when it comes to PMS symptoms and period characteristics. That being said. there are a lot of variables that could interfere with your normal for any given month. Stress, diet, and more can all affect your cycle, making it just a little bit less predictable. According to PubMed Health, 10 out of every 100 women experience debilitating pain related to cramps that interfere with their life for several days each month. If your cramps seem off somehow, it may be worth talking about it with your healthcare provider. Because issues with cramps, like those below, can signal that there could be something more serious than normal menstrual cramps at play.
1. You're In Constant Pain
For most women, pain isn't present throughout your entire menstrual cycle. It shows up and sticks around for a bit, but you're not in constant pain or pain for the entirety of your period. According to Women's Health, however, a consistent, dull throbbing could be a sign of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which is often caused by an untreated STD like gonorrhea or chlamydia. PID is an infection, so if you have it, you'll need antibiotics to treat it.
2. You're In Extreme Pain
I'm talking, "I think I need to go to the hospital" kind of pain. Period cramping can be more or less intense than normal for a number of reasons, but really serious cramps could be a sign of gynecological cancers, according to Verily. Additionally, Redbook noted that endometriosis and uterine fibroids could cause the pain.
3. Your Cramps Last For Months
Yes, this really can happen. If you've experienced period-style abdominal pain for more than six months, it's considered chronic pelvic pain, according to PubMed Health. This kind of pain can be dull, in the form of cramps, or sharp and stabbing and can, in some cases, be related to endometriosis or inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS).
4. You Only Have Pain On One Side
Pain that's exclusively felt only on one side is often alarming. For instance Web MD noted that sharp abdominal pain on the right side can be due to appendicitis, which is (usually) an emergency situation. According to the aforementioned article from Women's Health, this could also be due to an ovarian torsion, which is when your ovary gets twisted and cuts off its own blood flow. Like appendicitis, ovarian torsions require an ER visit because it is an emergency situation — if blood flow is restricted for too long, it could cause you to lose the ovary.
5. Your Immune To Normal Pain Meds
Many women typically treat pain associated with period cramping with over-the-counter pain meds, like ibuprofen. If your typical pain medications don't work in managing the pain, that could be a sign that something else is going on, according to Shape.
6. Your Pain Lasts As Long As The Period
For most women, cramps go away after just a couple of days. If you're experiencing period cramps for the entirety of your period, XOJane suggested talking to your healthcare provider.
7. Your Pain Keeps You At Home
This could fall under the category of "extreme pain" for some. If you're unable to live your normal life due to period pain, Self suggested you talk to your doctor, because it could be a sign that something's not right. Staying in bed because of period-related symptoms for days each month can also leave you feeling isolated, which can lead to other issues.
8. You Get Cramps At Odd Times Of The Month
OB-GYN Dr. Sherri Ross told Glamour that experiencing cramps or other PMS-related symptoms when you shouldn't be could be a sign of another condition. Talk to your doctor for your health, peace of mind, and (hopefully) a more peaceful period.