Period cramps are something that girls are told is a normal experience that one is to expect, bear, and suck up as a side effect of being a woman. And, for the most part, this is more or less true–menstrual cramps are usually the result of contractions in the uterus that lead to restricted oxygen to the blood cells and subsequent pain in the stomach, lower back, and inner thighs. Most people who get periods experience them and, while they kind of suck, there are some things you can do to abate the pain and they aren’t really something you should be concerned with. But sometimes, certain types of period cramps can be a sign that something more serious is happening to your body.
Before we get into this, I would like to stress a few things: First of all, there is no such thing as a truly “normal” period, so if you read this and start to freak out because some things apply to you, but others don’t, and you aren’t quote sure if this means you’re going to die or not, relax. Even if your period and cramps aren’t 100% “normal,” statistically, you are probably just fine. I am also very much not a doctor, and, as such, I cannot really tell you if your cramps are normal, dangerous, or something in between–so, if you’re not sure what’s going on, you should visit a doctor to be safe. But I do know that there are some initial signs you can use to figure out what’s going on with your body. So, check out these ways to tell if your period cramps aren’t normal:
They Keep You From Going About Your Daily LifeOne of the most telltale signs that you should be paying some more attention to your cramps is if they're so painful that they impede you from doing anything else. Cramps do hurt, but they shouldn't be preventing you from going to school, work, or soccer practice (or track practice. Or dance class. You get the point). So, if you find that your cramps are rendering you incapable of leaving your bed, you might want to visit a doctor. Image source: iStock
Over-The-Counter Pain Meds Don't Do AnythingAnother sign that your period cramps aren't quite normal is if ibuprofen, aspirin, and Midol don't make a difference when you take them. This means that the pain that your period causes is much more severe than most people's, and there's something else going on that a doctor might need to check out. (And, for the record, this does mean that you should visit a doctor, not double your dosages or combine medications.) Image source: iStock
Your Cramps Last Longer Than Three DaysIt's totally normal for your period to last anywhere from two to seven days. You shouldn't have constant, debilitating pain this whole time, though--cramps should start a little before you get your period, but it's not considered normal for cramps to last the entire duration of a period. So, if you have cramps that last longer than three days, this is a good reason to visit a doctor. Image source: iStock
You've Got Heavy, Long PeriodsA heavy, long-lasting period is not necessarily indicative of anything that you should be worried about (many people have a heavy flow and a wide-set vagina, after all). But if it's combined with any or all of the previous cramp symptoms, this could also be a sign of a fibroid (a benign tumor that grows on the side of the uterus) or something else. Image source: iStock
You Spot Between PeriodsAgain, spotting between periods isn't always bad--it happens to some girls naturally, particularly within a few months of starting their period, and can also be caused by some medications. But if you have super heavy periods and excess cramping pain and spotting? Visit a doctor. This probably isn't super comfortable for you, first of all, and your doctor might be able to help you figure out if there's anything else you should worry about.Image source: iStock
You're VomitingAn upset, queasy stomach is a pretty common side effect of menstrual cramps. (This can also lead to looser bowels, AKA what is colloquially referred to as "period shits.") But the pain shouldn't be so intense that you're puking as though you have the stomach flu every time you're on your period--if you are, visit your doctor and see if there's anything they can do for you.Image source: iStock
You Get Cramps Even When You're Not On Your PeriodPeriod cramps tend to have a pretty distinct feel--pain in the lower belly, pressure on the abdomen, and pain in the lower back. If you notice these kinds of sensations when you're not on your period, this could be a sign of another, more serious issue.Image source: iStock
Do you get really bad cramps? Do you have any advice for dealing with them? Let us know in the comments!