Nearly 50 percent of all women are afflicted with some degree of menstrual cramping and for 15 percent, the abdominal pain is severe enough to cause hindrance in day-to-day life. Whether you experience cramping before your period or cramping after your period, we’re going to help you get sorted. Below you’ll learn everything from what causes period cramps at any time of your cycle and how to ease them naturally.

But, what are menstrual cramps? During your menstrual period, your uterus contracts to help expel its lining. Hormone-like substances (prostaglandins) involved in pain and inflammation trigger the uterine muscle contractions. Higher levels of prostaglandins are associated with more-severe menstrual cramps. Severe contractions could constrict the blood vessels feeding the uterus. The resulting pain can be compared to the chest pain that occurs when blocked blood vessels starve portions of the heart of food and oxygen.

Not a scientist? It basically means that your muscles are just aching from pushing out the blood.

What causes menstrual cramps?

  • EndometriosisThe tissue that lines your uterus becomes implanted outside your uterus, most commonly on your fallopian tubes, ovaries or the tissue lining your pelvis
  • Uterine fibroids: These noncancerous growths in the wall of the uterus may be the cause of pain
  • Adenomyosis: The tissue that lines your uterus begins to grow into the muscular walls of the uterus
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID): This infection of the female reproductive organs is usually caused by sexually transmitted bacteria
  • Cervical stenosis: In some women, the opening of the cervix may be so small that it impedes menstrual flow, causing a painful increase of pressure within the uterus

While WebMD might tell you the five causes of your symptoms are all reason to run to the doctor, there are often much less severe and more common reasons for your symptoms.

You probably think that menstrual cramps just include the pain in your lower stomach; however, it actually includes a lot more.

Menstrual Cramp Symptoms

Symptoms of menstrual cramps can vary, extending from your lower stomach to other areas of the body:

  • Throbbing or cramping pain in your lower abdomen that may be intense
  • Dull, constant ache
  • Pain that radiates to your lower back and thighs

Some women also experience nausea, loose stools, headaches and dizziness.

All of us experience cramps differently due to the numerous factors that affect them—emotional stress, being younger in age, beginning puberty early, frequently smoking, irregular or heavy bleeding during your period, never giving birth and experiencing heavy bleeding can all increase the intensity of our periods.

So, it isn’t surprising that we experience different types of cramps. Some of us have pain in our abdomen, while some feel pain in their hips or lower back. A few women even get an upset stomach. Basically, we all feel a little bit of pain in different parts of our bodies in various intensities either before or after our period.

I usually get cramps about five days before I begin my period. It’s my not so friendly reminder that my time of the month is on its way. However, when I recently told my friend that I get cramps before my period, she said that she had them after?

Almost 90 percent of women report they regularly have such painful episodes right before menstruating, but women can experience cramps after. Why? What’s the difference? Let’s dive in.

Cramps Before Your Period

Cramps before your period is the uterus tightening and relaxing at the same time, which causes us the mild to sharp pains. While this happens, a chemical called “prostaglandins” is released–this increases the intensity of the contractions. Thus, severe cramps are a sign that your prostaglandin levels are too high.

Most women can feel cramps before their period begins. This could happen up to two weeks before your period to just the day before. A few of us even have cramping while we have our period.

You may be surprised to find out that there are actually two stages to the cramps that you feel before your period begins.

Primary: These are the most common, where pain is felt in your lower stomach. You typically feel them one or two days before your period.

Secondary: You will feel these cramps in your lower back. These cramps typically occur three to five days before your period.

If your period doesn’t arrive, but you’re still feeling cramps this could be caused by implantation. This is when the egg and sperm fertilize. The fertilized egg makes its way into the uterus where it attaches to the uterine lining. During this process, you might bleed or have sudden cramping that will last just a few minutes.

Cramps After Your Period

can continue up to two weeks even after the bleeding has stopped. They definitely aren’t fun, but they also aren’t a reason for concern.

Uterine Incapacity: A woman’s uterus is meant to expel all of the blood from a period by the time a woman’s period ends, but that doesn’t always happen. When there’s some blood left in there that needs to be expelled, we feel more cramps and in result, some spotting.

Hormonal Imbalance: When our hormones are off balance, our bodies change at a rapid pace. One of the signs of a hormonal imbalance is cramping.

Many women become concerned that they are pregnant if they have cramps at the end of a period or cramping a week after. However, this is a very, very rare occurrence. Immediately after a period, a woman does not ovulate under normal conditions so her body will not physically be able to get pregnant yet.

If you’ve started menstruating within the past few years and have menstrual cramps, chances are your menstrual pain isn’t a cause for concern. However, if menstrual cramps disrupt your life every month, if your symptoms progressively worsen, or if you’re older than 25 and just started having severe menstrual cramps, see your doctor. They could be due to a medical problem such as endometriosis, uterine fibroids or pelvic inflammatory disease.

Pregnancy Cramps vs. Period Cramps

Pregnancy cramps usually happen when the pregnancy first takes place. These cramps are caused by the body adapting and changing to prepare for birth as well as to accommodate the baby growing inside of you. Women may get alarmed and fear that the baby is in danger, but you shouldn’t be worried. Mild cramping during this time is very normal. It’s also a little different from menstrual cramps. They’re usually:

  • More mild
  • Lower than normal
  • Cramping on both sides

However, most women say that the cramping is similar to their normal menstrual cramps. It is only very few women that feel sharp twinges of pain in their lower abdomen that can last months after pregnancy occurs. This is absolutely normal though—the uterus and muscles inside of your body are just stretching to accommodate the baby.

The only time that cramps during pregnancy can be cause for concern are when:

  • Cramping is very severe and painful
  • Cramping is consistent and doesn’t go away
  • Blood is present

You should not have any cramping and bleeding seen together when you’re pregnant. Any vaginal bleeding at this time should result in an immediate visit to your doctor.

Natural Remedies for Relieving Period Cramps

Easing menstrual cramp symptoms is one way that women can come together whether they experience cramps before or after their period. Along with choosing mindful period products, like Cora’s organic tampons and pads, there are many natural remedies that are available to help women alleviate menstrual cramp pain and discomfort:


A trip to the yoga studio or even just a brisk walk and talk session on the gym treadmills can make a big difference in your menstrual cramp symptoms. The increase in blood circulation will help make them go away, but that’s not the ringer. Menstrual cramps are usually made worse by stress and since exercise is a natural way to lower stress, you may not feel your symptoms much at all. Don’t skip the gym and stick to your normal routine.

Food & Proper Hydration

  • Staying hydrated actually prevents your body from retaining water and avoids painful bloating. Warm water helps cramps by increasing blood flow to the skin and relaxes cramped muscles. Bring your tea thermos to work with you and sprinkle some ginger in as a digestive aid. You should also bring water-based foods such as celery, cucumbers, watermelon and berries—you can even throw them all into a salad.
  • It might be helpful to drink more milk during this time since calcium reduces depressive and anxious feelings in the brain while vitamin D regulates the enzyme that converts tryptophan into serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate moods. Another great source of these vitamins is yogurt, which also contains live cultures to promote healthy digestion. Try switching your breakfast to a natural yogurt and granola parfait for the week of your period.
  • Bananas, avocados, and sweet potatoes rich in potassium can help boost moods, aid sleep and regulate bowel movements. Throw a banana in your gym bag for a snack or add a few slices of avocado to your lunch or dinner.
  • Salmon and tuna are both fish that are rich in Omega 3’s and other fatty acids that are great for relaxing the muscles in your body, which may decrease the severity of your cramps.

Avoid Tight Clothing

Avoid tight clothes, especially at the waist. They only hurt the stomach and further compressing it causes discomfort. Opt for your favorite dresses instead of jeans. When you’re not at work – feel free to bust out the yoga pants.

Sex & Orgasms

Orgasms relieve all kinds of pain, including our menstrual cramps. Before an orgasm, the uterus is more relaxed and at the moment of climax, blood flow increases, which helps to relieve the cramps. Orgasms additionally relieve cramps by the release of endorphins, which instantly help you feel better. They also help to relax your whole body and induce sleep so you won’t feel any cramping at all.

According to a survey on, it’s women, not men, who close up shop during their period. More than three-quarters of the guys polled said they’d love to have period sex, although 54 percent would do it only with a serious girlfriend or wife.

If you want to give it a try, here are a few tips:

  • Spread a dark towel on the bed
  • Use a latex condom so that you can easily “roll off” the blood
  • Keep a warm, wet washcloth or towel nearby
  • Try different positions. Lying on your back or side will be less messy than going at it on top.

Our advice? Go all out and deal with the sheets in the morning.


Try a hot bath or a heating pad. Get in bed, relax and put something hot right over your lower abdomen for quick, soothing relief. You can buy heating pads and hot water bottles at your local drugstore, but you can make your own too. Simply get an old sock, fill it with uncooked white rice, tie it up and microwave for one or two minutes.

Acupuncture & Massage

Certain acupuncture points are thought to regulate blood flow through the abdominal cavity and relax the nervous system, which can help ease menstrual cramps. Studies show that acupuncture is just as effective as over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicines for reducing pain.

If acupuncture isn’t your thing, massage therapy is another great way to control—and in some cases, completely stop—cramps. Lie down in a comfortable place and relax your mind before smearing your hands with your favorite lotion. Then, begin to slowly move your palms over your bellybutton in small circular movements. After a minute or so, begin to apply some pressure. You will find sensitive spots around the belly button. Apply adequate pressure to these spots in order to relieve your cramps.

Listen to your body, nourish it with the proper nutrients and exercise your soul. We are unique human beings and our period cramps will not be the same as our mother’s or best friend’s, but we can treat our bodies with the same care that they all need.

What do you change in your routine before, during or after your period to help ease your cramps? Let us know in the comments.

This article has been medically reviewed by Dr. Janet Brito.

Follow @bloodmilkwomen on Instagram

**We love reading your comments, but unfortunately, are unable to post or respond to comments or questions that outline specific medical issues and seek medical advice. For any medical concerns, we always advise consulting a medical professional. If you’d like to learn more about your period, we’d recommend checking out other Blood and Milk articles.**

Featured image by Daria Nepriakhina

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Continue the conversation


  • Good lesson. Pls am awaiting lady trying to convince. I have been having this muscle issue since 2years ago ,I have been started to link it to my childless. Expect all these what can I use as a pill?

  • I get serverve lower back pain, early morning & early evening. I have to wear a gurle at times. I get very tiresome during the early afternoon. I take short naps. The pain&cramping keeps me from doing my activities. It gets more painful sitting down. Plz give me some advice.

  • I get terrible pain in my lower back n my belly
    And I’ve had this problem all my life starting wen I turn a young lady …
    So that’s like 16 years
    But now that that I read these information im going to try a lot of the thing I learn

  • I am cramping and I am due for aunt flow tomorrow but today makes that 30 day cycle for me. Can someone help? Don’t want to over think or assume

    • Once never got monthly. Doctor don’t worry change life. Next time got them really bad. Went to the doctor tables pain.

  • Thermacare has self stick heating ‘pads’ that stick to your undergarment so that you have constant heat in the abdomen area. They last about 6 to 8 hours. I found those extremely helpful. If you’re at home or someone else is driving, wine helps to alleviate pain also.

  • I’m disappointed to see that this blog is publishing information to encourage women to not see a doctor if experiencing pain with periods including menstrual cramps. Experiencing pain during your period that causes you to feel nauseous or vomit is not normal and absolutely reason to see your doctor and discuss the pain and other symptoms you feel and how this impacts your daily routine. Mild cramps for a short duration of time, hours or a single day for instance, are fairly common as this article suggests. However, cramps that last for days, cause vomiting, cause sever pain, and disrupt your daily function are absolutely cause to see a doctor. I would encourage you to discuss all your symptoms with a doctor if you have any doubt wether your symptoms are normal. If something doesn’t feel right to YOU, listen to your body and speak up for it. #endomarchchicago #stopthesilence #severeperiodpainisnotnormal

    • Hi Julie! We definitely agree and, as you can see at the bottom of the article, we always recommend consulting a medical professional if something is concerning you.

    • >. Thank you, Julie!! As someone with endo, I’m severely disappointed to see the info on this page. Suggesting cramping for *weeks* before or after your period are “normal and not a cause for concern”. At absolutely no time other than at ovulation and menstration should you have cramping or persistent pain, especially severe. Very misleading article.

  • Cramps for weeks before your period or weeks after are not normal… why does this article suggest that??

    Mild cramping for a day or so mid-cycle is normal due to ovulation, but that should go away and shouldn’t continue on for weeks. Mild cramping a few days before and after also usually not a concern. Mild to moderate cramping relieved with OTC meds during your period? Also okay. But cramping for weeks without end in the abscence of a period is a major sign of endometriosis and/or adenomyosis and absolutely warrants a visit to the doctor.

    Articles like these do not help the diagnosis of these diseases and are a contributing factor to why these diseases have such a delay of diagnoses. Woman come online looking for answers, see an article that says weeks of cramps are normal, and don’t investigate it farther.

  • It is really annoying when my period arrives because of the cramps it gave me. Thank you for sharing these tips that can surely help me when I’m at my period days.

  • An article that finally makes sense thank you. I’ve been dying with pain with periods since I was 19/20. I’m 36 and I’m actually having an episode now hence why I’m on the internet desperately trying to find why I feel so much pain. It’s taken this long to find something that helps me understand what’s going on I’ve seen so many doctors over the last 16 yrs and I’ve been on anaprox for yrs now.

  • Alexis, they are absolutely normal for me. I experience severe pain two weeks before every monthly and for a week after. I suffer from PCOS and it is very normal for those of us who have it, to have severe stomach and back pains.
    I enjoyed reading this and have tried a few of the suggestions to lessen the pain. They actually do help.

  • I’m having cramps but my period passed 18 days ago and my cycles are always 28 days

  • Though reviewed/written by women, this post comes from a very patriarchal lens. Severe pain or extended pain is not normal. It should not be put up with or explained away. The dismissive language used implicitly demeaning women who ‘run to your doctor’ is unhelpful and not reflective of our world where women typically put up with extensive pain and do not go to the doctor for fear of being criticized and dismissed, especially women of color.

    What this article doesn’t say is that spotting between your cycle is not normal. And MUST be checked out. 90%+ of the time it will be fine, but in up to 10% of cases it’s endometrial cancer which if caught early is 99% curable (but caught late is under 20% survival rate). So if you are bleeding mid cycle, see your doctor immediately.

    Orgasms and exercise can cause severe pain for some during their period. These articles always state they improve things. Truth is research for women’s health have been sorely lacking, sorely underfunded. Telling you ‘don’t skip the gym’ is just plain wrong. It’s not a time to exercise unless you feel like it. Exercise can make things worse and is not the solution for all or even most women. There is virtually no chance that women won’t have tested themselves whether exercise helps or hinders – did you run for a bus or climb lots of stairs during your period and feel better after? If yes then great exercise works for you, if no then don’t do it.

    Quoting Men’s health magazine and almost shaming women who don’t want to have sex during their period is just not on. Also, what a heteronormative view! Up to 20% of women would prefer to have sex with women but you won’t find those stats in men’s health magazine. What about women who don’t have a partner? Where are the masturbation suggestions should women find orgasms effective pain relief for them? My advice, test out yourself if orgasms relieve your pain before you involve a partner who’s technique may be lacking or who you just may not feel like being with when you’re bleeding. Of course if you do feel like sex with a partner then go for it!

    This article doesn’t talk about vitamin B6 or other important nutrients which can be an inexpensive way to help for some women. Google studies on taking it to reduce bloating and moods, it can also severely reduce cramps.

    This article is a big fail. So sorry to see women continuously being failed by the medical system. Do better Blood and Milk.

    • Yes! Thank you about the exercise and orgasm. I don’t understand how someone who is having severe cramping, is able to concentrate on anything else; let alone, an orgasm.

  • The below report is from 2013, not sure if there has been any further research on the topic since, but if this hasn’t been refuted yet it doesn’t seem worth the risk having sex during your period given the risk of creating antisperm antibodies.

  • Wow this is beautiful I’ve learnt a lot I’m actually currently in pains with cramps but I’ve not seen my period yet…..thanks for the enlightenment

  • Awsome thanks for this piece but I have a question…whenever u have cramps before period …..will you period come like will u flow

  • Am 49 still getting period every month painfull cramps heavy bleeding only thing helps is ginger and lemon tea and ibrphen and massage with essential oils sweet almond oil and coconut oil the best pads make the cramps stronger and worse any advice pls

  • Please help I haven’t started my period for the past 2 or 3 days I have had severe cramps in the belly and everything I read I have tried apart from sex but it has not helped


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