Figure 1703626 1920Women often chalk up menstrual cramping to a normal part of life with a uterus. And usually, they’re right. But some painful period symptoms are caused by underlying health issues.

Every once in a while a patient asks me “why are my cramps so bad?” The answer varies, but what I want everyone to know is that if your menstrual pain negatively impacts your life, it’s time to bring it up with your healthcare provider. There are so many options for pain relief these days! I covered a few in a contribution I made to Bustle’s titled “What causes painful periods?

Why are my cramps so bad?

Here are some signs your period pain may be due to an underlying condition:

  1. You don’t get relief from over-the-counter (OTC) medications.
  2. Your cramps don’t start to subside within 48 hours of starting your period.
  3. You have abdominal pain after your flow has stopped.
  4. You experience increasingly intense cramping after the age of 25.
  5. You have cramping when you’re not on your period.

If these signs don’t apply to you, you may find relief in using a heating pad, taking a bath, engaging in light exercise, taking OTC medications (such as Advil or Tylenol), or having an orgasm.

Call your doctor right away if you experience severe cramping, accompanied by fever, vomiting, dizziness or unusual bleeding and discharge.

A few significant gynecological problems that can intensify cramping include endometriosis, ovarian cysts, fibroids and Pelvic Inflammatory Disease caused by sexually transmitted bacteria. Really severe pelvic pain can also be caused by ectopic pregnancy or toxic shock syndrome.  Even appendicitis pain can be mistaken for period pain.

If cramping is “cramping” your style, speak with your medical provider. Treatment will vary depending on diagnosis, but there are solutions that can help relieve your pain. 

Meet Dr. Savita Ginde

Dr. Savita Ginde is an advocate and thought leader for reproductive health and served as Chief Medical Officer of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains for over 13 years. And, until very recently, she served as the Chief Healthcare Officer for STRIDE Community Health Center where she oversaw all of STRIDE’s healthcare services and led their COVID-19 vaccination efforts.