What Causes Cramps After Your Period?

Medically Reviewed By Valinda Riggins Nwadike, MD, MPH
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Most people experience cramps after their period at some point in their lives. While the cause of these cramps can vary, many treatments can help alleviate the pain. Most of the time, cramps after your period are not a cause for concern. However, sometimes you may need to seek medical care.  

In this article, we will explore what causes cramps after your period and offer some solutions on how to manage them.

Ovulation

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The most common cause of cramps after your period is ovulation. This is when the body releases an egg from the ovary, which then travels down the fallopian tube. 

During this time, the uterus contracts. This can cause a sharp pain in the lower abdomen, also known as mittelschmerz. About 40% of people of reproductive age with ovaries experience this pain almost every month.

Pregnancy

Hormones released during early pregnancy can cause cramps ranging from mild to severe. 

The cause of these cramps is not entirely understood. However, they may be related to implantation, which is when the fertilized egg attaches to the uterus. You may also notice blood spotting during this time. 

These cramps typically go away on their own. However, there are times when cramping can mean something more serious.

Severe cramping, spotting, or passing fluid and tissue from your vagina may indicate pregnancy loss. Spotting early in pregnancy is not always a sign of miscarriage. However, if you have any concerns, speak with your doctor.

Read more about the symptoms of implantation and early pregnancy.

Ectopic pregnancy

An ectopic pregnancy, where the embryo implants outside the uterus, may cause cramps after your period. Pain, bleeding, and nausea are all symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy.

The egg of an ectopic pregnancy cannot develop. The potential rupture of the fallopian tube is a life threatening risk for the person who is pregnant. Treatment typically requires medication and surgery to stop the embryo’s growth and remove it from the body. 

Learn more about ectopic pregnancy.

Endometriosis

Endometriosis is when the cells that line the uterus grow outside of the uterus. These cells can implant on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and other organs, such as the bowel and bladder.

Endometriosis may also spread to other parts of the body.

Endometriosis is a common cause of pain and cramping after your period. It affects more than 11% of people assigned female at birth between ages 15 and 44 years.

There is no cure for endometriosis. However, if your symptoms are severe, hormone therapy or surgery may be able to help. 

Read more about endometriosis.

Adenomyosis

Adenomyosis is a condition that occurs when endometrial tissue grows into the muscles of the uterine wall. This thickens the uterine wall and may cause cramps after your period.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) are a temporary, noninvasive treatment for this condition. Otherwise, a hysterectomy (removing the uterus) is the next treatment option. Speak with your doctor about your treatment options and which ones may be the most effective for you.

Read more about adenomyosis.

Ovarian cysts

Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs that develop on or inside the ovaries. This condition is common and can be quite painful, especially when the cysts rupture.

Cramps after your period may be a sign of an ovarian cyst. Most of the time, they do not require treatment. Ovarian cysts may change in size while your hormones fluctuate throughout your cycle.

Read more about ovarian cysts.

Uterine fibroids

Uterine fibroids are noncancerous growths that form in or on the walls of the uterus. Most people who have uterine fibroids do not have any symptoms. However, some may experience cramps after their period. This is likely due to the size and location of the fibroid growths.

While the cause of uterine fibroids is unknown, they may be related to estrogen levels. Treatment may include surgery or taking over-the-counter (OTC) NSAID medications for pain.

Read more about uterine fibroids.

Cervical stenosis

Cervical stenosis is a condition where the cervix becomes too narrow and impedes blood flow. 

This can cause cramps after your period, infertility, and pain during sex. Treatment for cervical stenosis usually involves surgery to widen the cervix.

Pelvic inflammatory disease

Cramps after having your period may be due to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). This is a serious infection that can cause infertility without treatment. Untreated sexually transmitted infections (STIs) often cause PID.

It is important to seek treatment for PID if you experience these cramps or symptoms of an infection.

Read more about pelvic inflammatory disease.

What cramps feel like

Symptoms of cramps vary from person to person and may be accompanied by other symptoms. 

Some common symptoms include:

The pain can range from mild to severe and may worsen over time.

Treatment for cramps after your period

Cramps after your period can be highly painful. However, there are things you can do to help manage the pain. Here are a few ways to pain cramps after your period: 

  • Stay hydrated: Staying hydrated is important to keep the body healthy. It can help alleviate cramping.
  • Exercise: Walking, doing yoga, stretching, or otherwise moving around can relieve tension and reduce cramps.
  • Practice self-care: Relaxation techniques, such as aromatherapy and meditation, can help reduce muscle spasms and ease cramping pain.
  • Apply hot or cold packs: Heat therapy helps relax tight muscles, while ice packs can help reduce inflammation.

Finally, talk with your healthcare professional if your cramping is severe and prevents your daily activities. Heavy bleeding with cramping is another sign that you may want to talk with a doctor. 

Your doctor can perform an exam and diagnose any underlying conditions. They can also discuss dietary changes or medications that may help reduce cramping and manage your symptoms.

Summary

Cramps after your period can cause discomfort. However, taking care of yourself before, during, and after your period can help make the pain more manageable. Many people experience cramps after their periods. The cause is often unknown but can include ovulation, ovarian cysts, or endometriosis. 

Treatment for cramps varies depending on the cause. However, they may include medication, hormone therapy, or surgery. 

To help reduce the pain, try increasing your water intake, exercising, and using heat or ice therapy. Contact your doctor if you experience severe cramping, especially if it accompanies bleeding.

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Medical Reviewer: Valinda Riggins Nwadike, MD, MPH
Last Review Date: 2022 Nov 30
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