Menstrual cramps are sharp pains in a woman's lower abdomen that occur when her menstrual period begins and may continue for 2-3 days. Symptoms can range in severity from a mild annoyance to severe pain that interferes with normal activities.
Menstrual cramps are the leading cause of absenteeism in women younger than 30 years. Although over half of women who have menstrual periods experience some discomfort, 10% are temporarily disabled by symptoms.
Also known as Dysmenorrhea can feature different kinds of pain, including sharp, throbbing, dull, nauseating, burning, or shooting pain. Dysmenorrhea may precede menstruation by several days or may accompany it, and it usually subsides as menstruation tapers off. Dysmenorrhea may coexist with excessively heavy blood loss, known as menorrhagia.
The following circumstances may make a woman more likely to experience menstrual cramps:
- She started her first period at an early age (younger than 11 years).
- Her menstrual periods last 5 days or longer.
- She is overweight or obese.
- She smokes cigarettes or uses alcohol.
- She has never been pregnant.