Difference Between Pregnancy Cramps and Period Cramps

Pregnancy Cramps vs Period Cramps | Period (Menstrual Cramps) vs Pregnancy Cramps | what is Pregnancy Cramps? What is Period Cramps? How to manage them

Abdominal cramps, no matter what is related to cause immense distress, and fear in any individual. And if the cramps are related to something like your menstrual cycle or your pregnancy, then it can create more fear as you naturally associate your reproductive system with worse off condition which can cause serious disability and mortality. Here, we will discuss the two common complaints, Pregnancy Cramps and Period Cramps, their similarities, differences with the emphasis on what these symptoms mean and how to manage them.

What is Period Cramps?

Period Cramps (or menstrual cramps) are not the same as pre menstrual syndrome, but these two can overlie each other and promote the misconception. Menstrual cramps are properly known as dysmenorrhea. It can either be primary dysmenorrheal, where you have these symptoms of abdominal pain due to attaining of your menarche, or it can be secondary dysmenorrheal, where you have a period of painless menstruation followed by a period of painful menstruation. When the endometrial lining that has grown during the initial phases of the menstrual cycle begins to break nearing the end of the cycle, it causes the release of compounds called prostaglandin locally. These chemicals cause the myometrium or the muscles to contract, thus constricting the blood vessels creating a hypoxic state that is interpreted as pain by the human physiology. So greater the prostaglandin levels, greater the pain would be. These are usually accompanied with headache, nausea, vomiting, etc. The heavier cramps can be caused due to conditions like endometriosis or adenomyosis. This can be avoided with a balanced diet and regular exercise. But if it still persists, a regimen of oral contraceptives or a levenogestrol releasing IUCD can be used. Other surgical techniques are used in cases where the gynecological condition is not manageable through drugs alone.

What is Pregnancy Cramps?

When cramps associate with pregnancy, the gloomiest outcome that comes to mind is pregnancy loss. In pregnancy, the abdominal cramps may be associated with early pregnancy or late pregnancy. If associated with early pregnancy, most of these are inconsequential that requires only reassurance. But some like hyper emesis gravidarum, threatened miscarriage, inevitable miscarriage requires proper management. Most initial abdominal cramps are associated with implantation and maybe associated with slight bleeding, as well. In hyperemesis gravidarum, there is a hypovolemia with loss of electrolytes that maybe interpreted as abdominal cramps. If associated with nausea/vomiting, fever with chills, dysuria, abnormal discharge immediate consultation is required. These maybe managed with just a fluid infusion, antibiotics or gynecological procedures if the foetus is inevitably to be miscarried.

Pregnancy Cramps vs Period Cramps

Both these conditions are gynecological conditions with a basic, common pathophysiology where the excess of prostaglandins causes myometrial contraction leading to uterine arterial constriction, thus leading to a hypoxic state and pain. It can also be caused by inadequate water and electrolytes; again a hypovolemia causing hypoxia. Both may only need conservative management, but may require surgical or pharmacological management if severe.

• Dysmenorrhea is associated with menstruation, and pregnancy cramps are outside menstruation.

• Usually, dysmenorrhea is rare in a parous woman, but pregnancy cramps occur during gestation.

• Dysmenorrhea can be managed freely with drugs, but in dealing with pregnancy caution should be used in prescribing drugs.

• Dysmenorrhea is rarely life threatening, but pregnancy cramps threaten the life of the foetus.