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What causes menstrual cramps in teens?

Claire Welch
Nursing

Menstrual cramps are caused by normal contractions of the uterine muscle. The uterus is a muscle (muscles can be found all over your body). During the menstrual cycle, a change in hormones results in uterine contractions which results in expelling menstrual fluids through the cervix. Just like a cramp in your leg muscle, for example, a cramp in uterine muscle can be painful. Higher levels of prostaglandins (hormones) results in more severe cramping. Severe cramping constricts the blood vessels which feed the uterus and a lack of blood supply is what results in pain. Not all teens experience menstrual cramps. Exercise, such as walking or cycling, can help ease menstrual cramps. Soaking in a warm tub or using a heating pad (follow the heating pad instructions!) can help lessen cramping.  If you are concerned about your cramps or they change and become severe, make sure to discuss your concerns with your primary care provider. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can be helpful, but make sure to talk to your health care provider before starting any drug treatment. 

Daphne Oz
Health Education
Menstrual cramps -- those horrible aches in your lower abdomen, back, and even your thighs -- are created by prostaglandins, chemicals your body releases at the start of your period signaling your uterus to contract and push out its old lining. Every woman's body makes different amounts of these chemicals, and the more you produce the harder your contractions and the more painful your cramps.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.