Menstrual cramps are already uncomfortable and annoying enough when they occur during your period. It can be even more frustrating when you start feeling cramps but you know your period is still days away. Having menstruation cramps before period is perfectly normal, but it can also be a sign that something else is happening. Understanding the reasons you might be getting cramps before period will help you find ways of addressing the issue.
Though the majority of cramps happen right when your period starts, it is possible to have cramps days before your period. This happens due to a condition called premenstrual syndrome (PMS). PMS occurs due to your body’s changing hormones right before a period. It is often accompanied by symptoms like mood swings, tender breasts, and fatigue.
Cramping is not always a symptom of PMS, but it is possible. The cramps associated with PMS tend to be light and occur primarily in the back. PMS cramping most often occurs 3 to 5 days before your period. Therefore, it might potentially be normal to have cramps 5 days before period in some instances.
When deciding whether or not your cramping is normal, you need to consider your unique situation. The majority of women do not have cramps 5 days before their periods. If you typically have light cramps as part of your PMS, it might be perfectly fine. However, if you never have cramps before your period and are suddenly experiencing them, something else besides PMS might be going on.
What Counts as Severe Cramping?
Many women hear that stomach cramps before periods are normal, so they try to power through their pain. This common misconception may be keeping you from getting the help you deserve. When asking “Is it normal to have cramps 5 days before period?”, you need to distinguish between light and severe cramping. Truly bad cramps before period are never normal. Light twinges of pain are common, but intense discomfort is not.
Signs that you have severe cramping include:
- Your cramps don’t improve if you take over-the-counter pain medication.
- You cannot focus, talk normally, or breathe easily during a cramp.
- You’ve quit doing certain daily activities due to cramping.
- Your cramps are worse than your usual level of period cramping.
- Your cramps are accompanied by pelvic pain, especially during intercourse.
- You experience vomiting, dizziness, abnormal discharge, or fever alongside your cramps.
The Most Common Causes of Menstruation Cramps Before Period
Besides basic PMS cramping, there are all sorts of reasons you might end up feeling stomach cramps before periods. These conditions can range from reproductive problems to pregnancy. Some of them are quick and easy to treat while others may require more extensive care.
In some cases, the pain in your abdomen might be unrelated to your menstrual cycle. If you have a urinary tract infection or bladder infection, you may be feeling cramp-like pain in your lower abdomen. With UTIs, you tend to also have a fever and pain when urinating. Cramping sensations can also be caused by constipation, stomach flu, and food poisoning. In these cases, your cramping is usually accompanied by strange bowel movements and possibly vomiting.
Another potential cause of stomach cramps before periods is an ovarian cyst. Ovaries grow cyst-like structures every month when releasing an egg. However, the cyst sometimes sticks around after ovulation. It can grow larger and eventually cause pelvic pain and abdominal bloating. Growths can also develop on the uterine wall. Called fibroids, these are associated with cramping, heavy bleeding, and pelvic pain.
In some cases, cramps 5 days before period are from endometriosis. This is a disorder that occurs when the tissue lining the uterus grows outside of the uterus. It results in heavy period cramping, menstrual irregularities, and chronic pain. Adenomyosis is a similar condition where uterine line cells start growing outside of their normal place. However, instead of growing outside the uterus, the abnormal cells grow into the uterine walls themselves. This also causes pain, alongside uterine enlargement.
Sometimes, what you think are menstrual cramps are actually the opposite. If an egg is fertilized and implants in the uterus, you may feel cramps. Implantation cramping feels quite similar to period cramping since it occurs in the same spot. Some women report that there is a distinct tingling or prickling sensation that accompanies implantation. This usually happens about 10 days after ovulation, so it can cause cramps five days before your period would usually start. Implantation is sometimes accompanied by light spotting and some nausea.
You may be able to identify these other conditions just by learning about their symptoms. However, many types of reproductive disorders have very subtle symptoms. You will typically need help from a female or male gynecologist South Florida to get a diagnosis.
How to Treat Menstruation Cramps Before Period
For typical period cramps and PMS cramps, a safe remedy is an over-the-counter painkiller. This can help dull the pain or make it go away entirely. Many women also find that a warm heating pad or hot bath helps to relax the muscles. Some research has also found cramping can be linked to certain nutritional deficiencies. Make sure you get plenty of water and magnesium in the days leading up to your period.
If you are getting cramps outside of your normal period and PMS, the best gynecological treatment will be identifying the underlying cause of the issue. There are all sorts of diagnostic tests available for abnormal menstrual cramps. You can start by taking a pregnancy test at home to see whether the cramps are caused by pregnancy. To identify problems like a UTI, your doctor may need to test the area for bacteria. Cysts can be seen with imaging tests like an ultrasound or an MRI. Issues like endometriosis may need exploratory surgery to diagnose.
Once your doctor helps you figure out what is wrong, you can move on to treating it. For infections, a round of antibiotics could resolve the cramping for good. Hormonal contraceptives can help with many of the symptoms associated with ovarian cysts and endometriosis. However, some women may need surgery to completely solve the problem.
Ultimately, it is not normal to be having severe cramps for days before your period. Some light cramping here or there might be an ordinary part of PMS. However, any pain bad enough to impact daily life should be discussed with your doctor.
As a Yale-trained gynecological doctor, Dr. Andrew Krinsky has plenty of experience diagnosing and treating the problems that cause abnormal cramping. Our practice provides gentle, compassionate care in a modern, up-to-date environment. If you’re tired of cramps controlling your life, call now to schedule your appointment.