Common Feminine Conditions: Cramps After a Period

Have you ever found yourself suffering from cramps after a period? Most women are familiar with the cramping that can occur just before a period is due which can also last a few days after menstruation begins; but it can be a little unsettling to feel cramps after a period. There are many natural occurrences that can cause cramping to occur well after one’s period has finished, and in most cases this type of cramping is usually not a sign of a serious problem.

What Are Menstrual Cramps?

Menstrual cramping is a term used to describe contractions of the uterus. In most cases this type of cramping is caused by a hormone called prostaglandin, which is usually released as the uterus begins to shed its lining. The heaviness that can occur along with menstrual cramps is a result of the blood vessels in the pelvic region expanding which causes blood to pool in this area. What we actually feel when all of this goes on is swelling or weightiness in the hips, lower stomach, and sometimes the vulva and upper thighs as well as chronic tightening in the lower abdomen accompanied by dull, persistent pain.

A Precursor to Ovulation

It may be a bit shocking to learn that cramps similar to those that occur during the onset of menstruation can actually occur after a period ends and ovulation approaches. Ovulation is the time in a woman’s cycle where the egg is released and is a woman’s most fertile period throughout the month. Those who are very “in tune” with their body may notice cramping that occurs shortly before ovulation is due to start. These types of cramps are usually just referred to as ovulation cramps and are a harmless and natural sensation, albeit uncomfortable for some women. Ovulation cramps are caused by retention of fluid in the abdomen when the egg is released from the ovary. The fluid is meant to release at this time but on occasion it can lead to irritation of the pelvic lining. Cramps that feel more like period cramps may be caused when the ovary stretches during the process of releasing the egg.

While ovulation cramps can be a bit of an annoyance, they generally aren’t very strong or excessively painful. Another sign that you are nearing ovulation is the presence of mucous discharge that is clear, slick, and stretchy in consistency. You might also experience light blood spotting about two weeks before your next period is due, which is another common sign that ovulation is upon you.

Implantation/Pregnancy

Cramps after a period can also be caused by pregnancy. It is quite common for women to experiencing cramping and even blood spotting during the implantation process. During implantation, the already-fertilized egg attaches itself to the rich lining of the uterus. Many women overlook the possibility of implantation because it seems like this would happen in a very short time after conception. In truth, the egg can become fertilized as soon as a few hours after intercourse or as long as a week afterward. This in mind, the fertilized egg can only last about a day inside the fallopian tubes, therefore it must hurry its way down into the uterus where it can attach itself to the lining there and begin reproducing cells and starting the growth process. Altogether it can take a week to 10 days for implantation to occur after the act of intercourse is done.

If you have been trying to get pregnant or if you feel that you might have conceived, then it might be a good idea to take a pregnancy test if you do not start your next period at the time that you expect to. The hCG hormone that the egg starts to produce once it attaches itself to the uterus begins right after implantation but it can take a few weeks for the hormone to become strong enough for the pregnancy test to detect. For the best results try taking the pregnancy test with the first urination of the day when the urine has had several hours for the hormone to build up. This is usually the time when the concentration of hCG is at its highest in urine.

Endometriosis

Cramps after a period can also be caused by endometriosis, which is a condition where the cells that make up the uterine lining end up growing somewhere else in the body such as the rectum,  bladder, ovaries, and other spots in the pelvic region. When it’s time for one’s period, these tissues which are generally present inside the uterus swell up due to hormonal triggers. Normally these tissues would be flushed out of the body during menstruation but if the uterine tissues are not located inside the womb then they will become swollen at the cue of hormones but will not be flushed out during menstruation. The most common symptoms that occur with endometriosis include cramping and pain in the abdomen, bleeding between periods, excessive pain during periods, painful cramping before and during menstruation, pain during and after intercourse, and difficulty with conception.

A pelvic exam and possibly an ultrasound and/or a laparoscopy may be performed to test for endometriosis. For women who still want to have children and who experience few or minor symptoms then they may choose to go untreated with the exception of bi-yearly exams to keep tabs on the condition. For most other women, particularly those who may want to have children in the future or who are having pretty strong symptoms associated with endometriosis, the treatment options can include hormone supplements to prevent the condition from worsening, pain medication, and surgery to remove the existing tissues, if possible. If the condition is severe it may be necessary to remove the ovaries and/or the uterus.