Painful and persistent, cramps are pretty universally hated. But as it turns out, these muscle contractions can shed a lot of insight into your health. In fact, if you get cramps, it may mean several different things about your fertility. Basically, these intense pains in your gut can say a lot about your reproductive future, even if they leave you cursing in pain and reaching for the extra-strength aspirin.
Before going further, it's helpful to understand the different types of cramps that most often affect females. First up are period cramps. Also known as primary dysmenorrhea, period cramps are related to menstruation and tend to get less painful over the years, as explained in the Cleveland Clinic. The pain associated with these cramps can be terrible, but they don't have any particular affect on fertility. On the other hand, secondary dysmenorrhea, or pain caused by a disorder in the female reproductive organs, may signal a more serious health concern, according to the Cleveland Clinic. The pain may be more long-lasting than regular period cramps.
OK, so how are you supposed to tell the normal cramps from the problematic ones, especially when the so-called normal cramps can cause such debilitating pain? As with any other health concern, don't hesitate to take it up with your doctor for more in-depth advice. In the meantime, check out the weird ways cramps can tell you about your fertility.
If you're trying to conceive, then this particular cramp is potentially a good sign. Known as mittelschmerz, this mild cramping occurs around the time of ovulation, according to Healthline. Although not all women experience this sensation, some do get cramps that correspond to ovulation.
2. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Cramps may also point toward hormone imbalances. "In women, especially those with PCOS, lots of ovary cramping and bloating mid cycle could mean that the body is producing too much estrogen," says Amy Beckley, fertility expert and founder of Proov. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal disorder, is also associated with increased infertility rates due to lack of ovulation, as Beckley tells Romper. These types of cramps are definitely worth discussing with your doctor.
3. Endometriosis Symptoms
Cramping may also point toward more serious health conditions. For people with the severe inflammatory condition endometriosis, sometimes cramps are the only symptom, as Dr. Aumatma, holistic fertility specialist and Naturopathic Doctor, tells Romper. Endometriosis can also cause fertility complications, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Experiencing menstrual or abdominal cramps is sometimes related to the presence of fibroids, according to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Uterine fibroids are benign growths that occur on the uterus, and they can lead to issues with infertility, as further explained in ACOG.
This is a benign but potentially painful issue. Adenomyosis, a condition in which the inner lining of the uterus breaks through its muscular wall, can also result in symptoms such as severe cramping, according to WebMD. Particularly heavy bleeding is another common symptom.
A particular type of cramping may mean a baby is on the way. Known as implantation cramps, these are a minor, brief period of cramping associated with a fertilized egg burrowing into the wall of the uterus, according to The Bump. Some light spotting may also occur.
7. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
Extreme cramps can also be a symptom of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), according to Very Well Family. An infection of the female reproductive organs, PID can damage these organs and cause infertility, according to the Mayo Clinic. If this or any other symptoms sound familiar, then don't hesitate to visit your doctor for advice.