You know that not every menstrual cycle is the same. And your period cramps may vary in intensity from month to month. However, if your cramps suddenly become so bad, it is important to find out the root causes.
In fact, severe period cramps can hit at any time. If you notice your period cramps are suddenly much worse than usual, it could be because:
- You are drinking too much caffeine
- You are stressed
- Changing your birth control,
- Hormonal changes.
Or it could be an early symptom of an underlying health condition.
Tracking your period cramps and understanding why they get worse is the first step in treating period cramps. Read the following to learn more about why your cramps are getting worse.
Drinking caffeine can make period cramps worse
One of the main reasons your period cramps are worse is because you’re overdoing it on the coffee! Drinking too much caffeine can make period cramps feel much worse.
Period cramps are basically just your muscles tensing and cutting off the blood and oxygen supply to your uterus, causing the lining to shed.
When you drink coffee, the caffeine floods through your body. The caffeine in coffee is a vasoconstrictor. This means that every cup of coffee helps shrink your blood vessels. This cuts off oxygen to your uterus and makes cramps worse. No wonder it’s more painful!
A study from 2016 concluded that women looking to reduce period cramps and other symptoms of PMS should limit the amount of coffee they drink.
The good news is that not all caffeine has the same effect. The caffeine found in green tea breaks down in your body much slower. This means you won’t get the same restrictive effect, but you still get the energy boost from caffeine.
To find out more about green tea, check out:
Can alcohol make period cramps worse?
Yes, alcohol can make period cramps worse. Not only is caffeine the vasoconstrictor in most women’s diets, but also alcohol. Like caffeine, it can also shrink blood vessels, making cramps worse. Besides, drinking alcohol can also cause dehydration, which may create more stomach cramps.
In addition, a diet that is high in salt has a similar effect by restricting your blood vessels and making cramps more painful. Salt also increases your blood volume, leading to high blood pressure. This puts more stress on your whole body and can make cramps more intense.
So, if you consume coffee, alcohol and lots of salty food all in one day, it will make your cramps feel much worse than usual.
Caffeine found in coffee is a vasoconstrictor meaning it narrows blood vessels cutting off blood and oxygen from your uterus. This makes cramps more frequent, more intense and more painful. Alcohol and salt can have a similar effect. Swapping coffee from green tea can give you the caffeine hit without the vasoconstrictor effect.
Stress can lead to painful cramping for months
Another reason many of us experience bad period cramps is stress. Being stressed can actually impact your cramps for several months.
When you are stressed, it can cause low progesterone levels. This means your oestrogen is working overtime which causes super painful cramps.
This happens because when you feel stressed, it can impact the development of the eggs in your ovaries. If an underdeveloped egg implants in your uterus, the uterus won’t produce enough progesterone because it doesn’t want to keep an unhealthy egg.
The result is a drop in your progesterone levels, causing extra painful period cramps. Since an egg could take 90 days to develop, it could be giving you bad cramps now if you were super stressed months ago.
Furthermore, research suggests that just one day of intense stress early in the month could make all menstrual symptoms, including cramps, much worse.
Stressors causing bad period cramps
The type of stress that impacts your egg development is just emotional stress. Other types of stressors can cause stress and damage to your body in the same way.
A stressor is anything that causes a hormonal reaction in the body producing cortisol. Common stressors include:
- Lack of sleep
- Bad nutrition
- Excess physical activity
- Mental exhaustion
Studies have found that stressors can have a lasting impact on our underlying health, including our reproductive system. So, if you’re training hard for a marathon and not eating well, it could have the same effect as being stressed at work.
Managing stress is crucial for promoting your overall health as well as helping minimise bad period cramps. Check out this article for some excellent herbal remedies for stress and anxiety:
- Which Herbal Teas Should I Drink for Stress and Anxiety?
- How To Naturally Reduce Anxiety Before My Period
When your body undergoes stress, physical, emotional or mental, it can affect the development of your eggs. When an egg is underdeveloped, your uterus produces less progesterone resulting in painful cramping. It can take around 90 days for an egg to develop.
Hormonal imbalance could cause more cramps
As we mentioned above, stress-induced low progesterone can cause painful cramps. But any imbalance in your hormones could make your period cramps worse.
Progesterone and oestrogen work together during your cycle to keep everything in balance. Progesterone stops your uterine lining from becoming too thick, while oestrogen helps thicken it. If your progesterone is low, there is more lining to shred, so you get more cramps as your body removes it.
If you think your cramps are getting worse because your hormones are unbalanced, you may also experience:
- Low sex drive
- Intense mood swings
- Irregular flow
- Weight gain
If your hormones are imbalanced because you have high progesterone and low oestrogen, you will be more sensitive to pain. According to research, low oestrogen levels won’t make your cramps worse, but they might feel worse as you react to the pain.
Therefore, balancing your hormones should effectively help reduce the pain from your cramps. To find out more about balancing your Oestrogen and Progesterone levels for fewer painful cramps and a more manageable period, check out:
Hormonal imbalance can cause a thicker uterine lining, so your muscles have to cramp more to shred the lining effectively. This means a heavier flow and more cramps. Other signs of a hormonal imbalance include mood swings, weight gain and headaches.
Any changes in birth control can create more cramps
If you are taking birth control or changing birth control, you might upset the natural balance of your menstrual cycle, making your cramps worse. Changes to your body’s regular cycle can result in more intense period cramps.
Changes to your birth control can cause your body to have new reactions to your hormones as they settle. This can last for months and means you get bad cramps for a few menstrual cycles. When you change your birth control, your hormone levels change, and your reproductive system needs time to reset.
If your cramps get much worse when you start or end a form of birth control, try to wait for at least three months before making more changes. This gives your body time to adapt to your new hormone levels.
If you are still experiencing severe cramps after several months, speak to your doctor about changing your birth control.
Can birth control help with cramps?
While switching birth control can play havoc with your hormones and make your cramps worse, you can also use birth control to manage your cramps.
Research shows that birth control can be used to suppress the growth of the lining, which will improve cramps and lighten a heavy flow. If your hormones are unbalanced, birth control can help balance your hormones for less intense cramping.
However, if you switch forms of contraception, you may find your menstrual cycle may change for several months. You may find your flow gets heavier, and your cramps get worse. You may also notice acne as your hormone levels rebalance.
Changes to your birth control can upset the rhythm of your menstrual cycle, causing changes to your cramps. If you experience more painful cramps when you change birth control, try to wait several months to give your body time to adjust. If the pain continues, speak to a doctor.
Problems with your ovaries can cause extreme cramping as a warning sign
Although your ovaries aren’t the cause of cramps, they are central to the menstrual cycle, so problems with your ovaries could cause extreme cramping as a warning something else is wrong.
Your ovaries are at the start of the process because they release the egg. If you develop a problem in your ovaries, such as a tumour, a polyp or a twisted ovary, it could result in sudden, painful cramps as a warning of a bigger problem.
When your menstrual cycle is disrupted, your muscles may cramp more frequently and more intensely. Some common ovarian issues that could cause severe cramping include:
- Ovarian Torsion
- Ovarian polyps
- Ovarian cancer
- Ovarian cysts
How to tell if cramping is a sign of a more severe problem?
Cramping is painful but this can be your body telling you something is wrong. If over-the-counter pain medications don’t help, you are crippled with pain or notice the cramps start before the period and last long after, speak to a doctor.
You could also experience nausea, vomiting, dizziness, fainting and digestive problems that could signal your cramps are caused by an underlying health issue. One sign your cramps are an underlying health issue is that you have cramps but no period.
Check out this article to find out more about why you sometimes get cramps, but your menstrual cycle isn’t regular:
Sudden extreme cramping could be a sign that there is a problem in your ovaries. Your ovaries are a central part of your menstrual cycle, so if there is a problem, it could mean you have a more painful period. Keep a lookout for other signs and speak to a doctor if you are concerned.
Dysmenorrhea is really bad period pain
Period cramps can get better or worse from month to month. However, if they remain extremely painful, it could signify you have more severe Dysmenorrhea.
Dysmenorrhea is a condition in which your period pain becomes excruciating and could cause you to pass out, vomit, or be unable to go about your daily life. Your period cramps will also come with sharp, shooting pains.
Dysmenorrhea is actually very common. As many as 90% of Australian women suffer from Dysmenorrhea. If you have Dysmenorrhea, you may also experience:
- Sharp, stabbing pain
- Leg pain
- General muscle weakness
- Back pain
- Cramps before, during and after your cycle
What causes Dysmenorrhea?
The reason Dysmenorrhea is so common is that it has lots of causes. Some studies have even found that exposure to certain environmental factors can make Dysmenorrhea worse and more common.
The most common causes include:
- Hormonal imbalance
- Exposure to air pollution
- Pelvic inflammation
- Chronic stress
- Ovarian abnormalities
- Abnormal pregnancy
- Tumours or Polyps
Although Dysmenorrhea is very common, it doesn’t mean you have to just accept it as normal. Women that suffer from Dysmenorrhea usually experience pain before their period as hormone levels adjust. It can last for a day or so or perhaps up to a week.
If you think you suffer from Dysmenorrhea, you should contact your doctor to discuss a proper diagnosis and management of the pain.
Dysmenorrhea is very common and can be caused by hormonal imbalance or conditions like endometriosis or polyps. Dysmenorrhea or intense period pain can start the week before your period and last for several weeks. This severe pain can cause you to faint, vomit or impact your life.
How to treat severe period cramps naturally for immediate relief
As we’ve seen, there are plenty of reasons why your cramps may suddenly get worse that don’t cause major concern. Although it isn’t usually a significant health issue, you can still take steps to manage the pain of severe cramps.
It’s possible to treat bad period cramps like you’d treat regular period cramps.
Very few women will require prescription medication. Research suggests that combining OTC medication with other forms of natural pain relief is enough for most women. You can try natural, at-home remedies to help reduce and manage pain and help stop cramps.
Apply heat for effective period pain relief
You can also use heat to help ease period cramps.
The warmth of a hot bath, hot water bottle or heat pad helps relax the muscles in your uterus, preventing cramps before they happen. Any cramps you do experience will likely be less intense.
In fact, applying heat to your abdomen is so effective at helping with cramp relief, one study found it was more effective than taking standard medication.
Gentle exercise and stretching to minimise cramps
When you exercise, your body releases endorphins and hormones that help slow down pain signals. While you will likely still experience cramps, they will be much less intense.
The endorphins released during exercise last for several hours, so going for a short jog can help you feel better all day. You will be less sensitive to pain and find your period cramps easier to tolerate.
Furthermore, gentle stretching and yoga can provide immediate pain relief by relaxing your muscles and preventing cramps.
Besides minimising cramps, being active throughout the day also has other amazing benefits. Let’s check what they are here.
- Go for the burn and exercise to keep belly fat away!
- Regular exercise and movement can lessen fluid in your legs
- Sweating may help flush salt out of your body fast
Drink herbal tea for immediate relief from cramps
Another way to get immediate relief from period cramp pain is to try herbal remedies.
Herbal remedies can help with period cramps because they contain vitamins and minerals to soothe cramping muscles and help with pain relief.
Some of the best natural teas for dealing with period cramps include:
Alternatively, you can blend several teas together for more targeted relief. If you want to try a tea blend, we recommend:
Menstrual Cramps Tea Siam Ginger Lemongrass contains ginger, orange, lemongrass and liquorice to help reduce inflammation and calm cramps. The anti-inflammatory properties help to soothe and relax tense muscles to minimise cramps. Lemongrass helps to stimulate the uterus to shred its lining without painful cramps.
Hormone Balance Tea Équilibre Tea can help rebalance hormones to prevent cramps and help manage a painful period. This tea blend contains Ashwagandha to help stabilise your hormone levels to help manage PMS symptoms. Try drinking one cup a day during your period to help manage painful cramps.
Red raspberry leaf tea is also great if you are pregnant, read
If your cramps are worse than usual, you can still treat them like regular period cramps with at-home remedies. Applying a heat pack, doing yoga and drinking herbal teas can all help reduce pain caused by sudden cramps. You should also avoid alcohol and coffee to help reduce pain.
There are lots of reasons why your period cramps might get worse all of a sudden. Most of the time, it’s nothing serious to worry about. If you have been feeling very stressed, drinking alcohol or lots of coffee or even exercising a lot, it could worsen your cramps.
Any changes to your hormones can also cause your cramps to get worse. Hormonal imbalance caused by low progesterone or a change to birth control can make your period cramps bad for months.
If you are concerned your cramps are the sign of an underlying health problem such as cancer, Dysmenorrhea or a problem with your ovaries, speak to your doctor. Until then, the best thing to do when your period cramps get worse is to treat them at home with natural remedies.
Check out this helpful article for more on how Rose tea can help with period cramps: