Menstrual Cramps: Symptoms & Causes

Medically Reviewed by Dr Sravya, MBBS, MS 


“The disappointed womb cries in menstrual cramps and blood when the egg is not fertilized and menses appear,” a mythology quote says. Menstrual bleeding is part of a woman’s life. It’s frustrating sometimes if it doesn’t show, and it can create anxiety at the same time.

Women are meant to menstruate, and all the problems women face during menses are well-known but only experienced by women. The most common of all are menstrual cramps, which almost every other woman has experienced. About 90% of women suffer from it monthly or sometime in their lives. So let’s look into the details.

Menstrual cramps

What are menstrual cramps?

Menstrual cramps are experienced during the first two or sometimes three days of menses. They are throbbing or cramping in nature in the lower belly, with discomfort and heaviness. It is also called “dysmenorrhoea.”

The uterus is a muscular structure with an endometrial lining. It thickens during periods due to hormones and sheds during periods. To expel the thickened endometrial lining, the uterine muscles contract. Prostaglandins are responsible for producing these contractions; they are chemicals released by the uterus itself during periods, and higher concentrations of this chemical can cause severe cramps.


Before going into details about causes, let’s see what the types of menstrual cramps are and how the reasons and outcomes vary as per the types of dysmenorrhoea.

There are two types of dysmenorrhoea:

Primary dysmenorrhoea: 

It is a menstrual cramp in females of the younger age group. If puberty appears earlier than age, around 10 to 12 years, they are more likely to suffer from menstrual cramps. 

 The menstrual cramps are not due to any underlying problems in the female genital tract like the uterus, vagina, or cervix, which is called primary dysmenorrhea. It is solely because of early puberty that a chemical produced by the uterus called prostaglandins is released in high amounts to cause the muscles of the uterus to contract and relax. It goes away with increasing age, after marriage, and after childbirth.

Secondary dysmenorrhoea:

Secondary dysmenorrhoea refers to the condition when menstrual cramps are due to any underlying condition, like problems in the uterus, vagina, or cervix.

What are those conditions? Let’s see:

Menstrual Symptoms:

NOT in all cases, but in a few cases.

The following menstrual symptoms can be seen:


Diagnosis is essential to differentiate and rule out primary or secondary dysmenorrhoea. Primary dysmenorrhoea doesn’t need any treatment.But secondary dysmenorrhoea should be ruled out for treatment.


    1. Primary dysmenorrhoea needs no treatment. Preventive measures or home remedies are helpful to reduce menstrual cramps:
  1. Secondary dysmenorrhoea:After diagnosing the underlying disease, the treatment of the disease can help relieve the painful cramping during periods.


About 70% of cases are curable, and women get rid of menstrual cramps completely.   In most cases, the causes are not severe. It is said that menstruating every month is rejuvenating for a woman. Mild cramping can be a good sign sometimes, indicating a woman’s fertility is intact.

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