Your Post-Period Cramps Could Indicate a Bigger Problem

Sophia Caraballo
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From Woman's Day

Periods are a pain, there’s no denying that. They come with cramps, bloat, and let's not even talk about the cravings. They are a week of pure misery. But for some people, this misery might last a little longer.

Typically, women can expect cramps one or two days after their periods, Dr. Peter Weiss, OB-GYN, FACOG at Rodeo Drive Women’s Health Clinic, tells Woman's Day. But some women may experience cramps weeks after their period has ended What's worse, some women think it's a normal symptom of their cycle.

But it's not normal.

“Because symptoms can mimic other conditions, it’s easy for women to 'normalize' their pain or think that it’s all in their head,” Dr. Rebecca Brightman, Private Practice OB-GYN in New York, tells Woman's Day.

This "normalizing" of symptoms, however, can make it harder for women to be diagnosed with a more serious condition.

Here are a few reasons why you may be experiencing cramps after your period, and what to do when the pain hits.

What Are These Types of Cramps Called?

Cramps caused by anything other than menstruation are called secondary dysmenorrhea. According to Cleveland Clinic, however, they can also occur any time in the menstrual cycle.

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Secondary dysmenorrhea can come with a number of symptoms. Dr. Brightman says these include, but are not limited to, painful sex, painful bowel movement and urination, pelvic pain, bleeding or spotting between periods, heavy menstrual bleeding, bloating, fatigue, and difficulty participating in day-to-day activities.

What Are the Possible Causes?

Secondary dysmenorrhea can be caused by uterine fibroids, cysts, or polyps. Some of the more serious causes, however, include endometriosis, PID, and adenomyosis.

According to SpeakENDO, endometriosis, “occurs when tissue which acts a lot like the lining of the uterus starts growing outside of the uterus, where it doesn't belong.” Those painful cramps after your period may also be accompanied by pelvic pain and pain during sex. The Endometriosis Foundation of America estimates that one in 10 women suffer from this condition, but that ratio may be larger as most women who have endometriosis go undiagnosed. Unfortunately, endometriosis has no known cause or cure yet.

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Similarly to endometriosis, adenomyosis occurs when there is tissue growth. But, according to the Mayo Clinic, this tissue, which is similar to the one lining the uterus, grows into the muscular walls of the uterus and sheds during menstruation. With adenomyosis, your uterus may become enlarged, which translates to having a tender pelvic area and a very heavy period. And although there is still no known cause of adenomyosis, it tends to go away when menopause begins.

PID, however, is different in that it is an infection, "that happens when sexually transmitted bacteria spread from the vagina to the uterus and other parts." It's not considered a sexually transmitted disease, according to the Mayo Clinic, but it's often caused by one. In addition to cramps, PID symptoms include heavy vaginal discharge, bleeding during or after sex, and painful urination and intercourse. Like most infections, PID can be treated with antibiotics once diagnosed.

When Should You Visit a Doctor?

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You should always talk to your doctor about the symptoms that come with your period, especially if they seem abnormal.

Additionally, Dr. Brightman recommends talking to your doctor “if you’re unable to manage your menstrual symptoms with lifestyle changes and find that your symptoms are impacting your health and daily activities.”

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