OMG! The uterine clock is ticking. It’s that time of the month again when you want to stick to the corner of your bed with heavy menstrual cramps in your stomach. It is quite common for women to have painful menstrual cramps, but what if the cramps become increasingly more severe and unbearable day by day. It may be a sign of an underlying medical problem in the female pelvic organs and may affect the ability to have a beautiful baby.
In collaboration with The Channel 46, Dr Y. Swapna, Fertility Consultant, Nova IVF Fertility, Vijayawada, offers her expert opinions regarding menstrual cramps, whether it can affect fertility, and leading causes of abnormally painful periods that can impact fertility, and how they can be treated.
What Are Menstrual Cramps?
Menstrual cramps, also known as dysmenorrhoea, are agonising, excruciating, and continuous pains in the lower abdomen. Dysmenorrhoea can be divided into two types –
- Primary dysmenorrhoea causes mild to moderate pain, and
- Secondary dysmenorrhoea leads to severe pain and is usually related to another medical condition that affects your fertility
Most women suffer from menstrual cramps before and during their periods. Menstrual cramps are often accompanied by nausea, loose stools, headaches, and dizziness. While some women consider it a mere discomfort, menstrual cramps can be a severe problem for others and interfere with their daily activities. Many underlying medical conditions cause painful periods, and treating the underlying cause is the key to relieving the pain.
Do Menstrual Cramps Affect Your Fertility?
Although menstrual cramps are normal, they can also be caused by diseases that impact fertility. Some of these conditions are present from birth, and some develop over time. You might not experience symptoms initially, but they tend to worsen as time goes by. You don’t have to worry about menstrual cramps unless they constantly interrupt your daily routine. If this is the case, then you should consult a health professional as several reproductive health conditions can cause menstrual cramps and fertility problems.
4 Common Causes Of Abnormally Painful Periods That Can Impact Fertility & How They Can Be Treated
Endometriosis is a common medical condition that causes painful periods. It occurs when endometrial tissue (lining of the womb) grows outside the uterus. This leads to hormone fluctuation, heavy bleeding, scarring tissue, and unbearable pain. If the cause behind your painful menstrual cramps is endometriosis, you might also be at risk of fertility problems. Most women ignore the symptoms and consider it normal, leaving it untreated for years. While there is no natural cure for treating endometriosis, its symptoms can usually be treated with medication or surgery, depending on the severity of the disease and completion of childbearing.
Similar to endometriosis, the endometrium grows within the muscular wall of the uterus in Adenomyosis. While the exact cause of the disease remains unknown, it is believed to be caused due to fluctuations of progesterone, FSH, and oestrogen levels in a woman’s body. This condition causes lower abdominal pain, painful cramps, heavy periods, and bloating during menstruation and affects fertility in a few women.
The treatment for adenomyosis again depends on their severity of symptoms. Mild symptoms can be treated with pain medications, heating pads etc. In severe anti-inflammatory conditions, hormone therapy etc, may be prescribed and, in rare cases, uterine artery embolisation and endometrial ablation may be the way forward.
Fibroids refer to abnormal muscular growth that develops in or on the woman’s uterus, cervix, and pelvic ligaments. While these tumours are typically benign and non-cancerous, sometimes they can be large and cause extreme abdominal pain and heavy bleeding during periods. Apart from the pain, fibroid also lowers fertility and raises the risk of miscarriage. However, few women may experience no signs and symptoms, and, hence, the medical condition may go unnoticed until they have an incidental finding in the scan.
There is no single best treatment for fibroid unless required.
4. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease is another possible condition that causes terrible menstrual cramps and fertility issues. It is usually caused by sexually transmitted infections. Some symptoms of PID include pain in lower belly, heavy discharge with unpleasant odour, heavy bleeding during period, and painful sexual intercourse.
It may lead to infertility, if not treated properly. PID is treated with antibiotics, but sometimes hospital admission may be needed.
It is highly recommended that you consult a doctor if you experience sudden and severe menstrual cramps. Avoiding your annual screenings can lead to many severe problems being left undiagnosed. This may affect your health and lower your odds of conceiving. The screening tests will help to find any serious health conditions at an early stage so that you can get proper treatment.
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