Can Bad Menstrual Cramps Make It Harder to Get Pregnant?

The Possible Connection Between Painful Periods and Fertility

woman looking out window, bad periods preventing her from living her life
If your period pain is so bad that it interferes with your daily life, you may have trouble getting pregnant. Anakin Tseng / Getty Images

If you're trying to conceive, you may wonder if painful periods can impact your fertility. Cramps themselves won’t stop you from getting pregnant. However, whatever is causing the bad cramps may possibly impact your fertility.

What Causes Period Cramps?

Cramps are caused by prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are a naturally occurring chemical and can be found in tissues throughout the body, including in the uterus.

Prostaglandins are really important. They play a role in the regulation of inflammation, cell growth, regulation of body temperature, and smooth muscle constriction and dilation.

As you might have guessed by now, they also play an important role in the uterus.

During menstruation, they trigger the uterine muscles to contract. This helps expel the uterine lining during menstruation. They also are important in inducing labor contractions and childbirth.

If your levels of prostaglandins are too high, they can trigger uterine contractions that are more intense. 

When uterine contractions are especially strong, oxygen gets cut off temporarily to parts of the muscle. The lack of oxygen leads to painful period cramps.

Teens may experience worse period cramps. This is because they naturally have higher levels of prostaglandins. Usually, the levels go down as they get older, and the cramps become less intense.

Women may also have easier periods after childbirth.

The medical term for period pain is dysmenorrhea. Period cramps caused by the normal activity of prostaglandins is called primary dysmenorrhea. This should not negatively impact your fertility.

However, period cramps caused or worsened by other diseases or abnormalities of the reproductive system are called secondary dysmenorrhea.

It’s secondary dysmenorrhea that can be associated with having a harder time getting pregnant.

Bad Menstrual Cramps and Your Fertility

Intense menstrual cramps can be caused by a number of diseases that impact fertility. Some of these diseases develop over time, even years.

This is why you might start having problems with cramps when you didn’t have this issue before.

Possible causes for abnormal period cramps, that can also impact your fertility, include:

Endometriosis: Endometriosis is notorious for causing not only bad period cramps but also infertility. 

If you have endometriosis, endometrium – the tissue that usually lines the uterus – grows in places outside of the uterus. It is estimated that up to 50% of women who struggle to conceive may have endometriosis. Women frequently go years undiagnosed.

Fibroids: Fibroids are an abnormal mass of tissue that grows within the smooth muscle of the uterus. They are almost always non-cancerous.

Many women never know they have fibroids. However, they occasionally can cause pain, lower fertility, and possibly increase the risk of miscarriage.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID): Another possible cause of bad menstrual cramps that can impact fertility is pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).

PID is caused by an infection in the reproductive organs. It leads to the formation of scar tissue, which sort of looks like webbing between the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus. It is the most common cause of blocked fallopian tubes.

Adenomyosis: Adenomyosis is when endometrium grows within and into the muscle of the uterus. This is different than endometriosis, where endometrium grows outside of the uterus. It’s also different than fibroids, which is a mass of muscle tissue that grows.

Adenomyosis can cause painful and heavy periods. It’s unclear whether or not it affects fertility, but some studies show it might.

Pelvic Pain and Fertility

Pelvic pain can also occur when you're not expecting your period.

Some women experience ovulation pain. Ovulation pain is common, with up to 50% saying they've had it at least once in their lives and 20% of women saying they get it every month. 

Ovulation is not normal if it interferes with your daily living, causes painful sexual intercourse, or is severe (even if sudden.) Ovulation pain can be a symptom of endometriosis. 

Ovulation pain can be so severe in some women that it prevents them from having sex when they are most likely to conceive. You should talk to your doctor if this is happening to you. 

Speaking of pain and sex, some women experience painful intercourse no matter what time of the month it is. 

Sex should not hurt. If you're trying to get pregnant, and pain is preventing you from having frequent sex, that can certainly lower your odds of conception. 

What Should I Do If I'm Having Painful Periods?

If you’re experiencing painful periods or pelvic pain, it’s important you talk to your doctor.

First of all, you don’t need to live in pain. There are treatment options available, and your doctor can explain them to you.

Second, many of these conditions worsen over time. Early treatment is best.

Third, painful periods can be a symptom of a disease that can cause infertility. If you’re trying to have kids – or you hope to have kids one day – talk to your doctor sooner than later.

Getting early treatment may possibility save your fertility or increase your odds of fertility treatment success.

More you should know:

Sources:

Dysmenorrhea. Disease and Conditions. ClevelandClinic.org. Accessed on May 27, 2015. http://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases_conditions/hic_Dysmenorrhea

Sunkara SK1, Khan KS. “Adenomyosis and female fertility: a critical review of the evidence.” J Obstet Gynaecol. 2012 Feb;32(2):113-6. doi: 10.3109/01443615.2011.624208. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22296416

Menstrual cramps. Disease and Conditions. MayoClinic.org. Accessed on May 27, 2015. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/menstrual-cramps/basics/definition/con-20025447

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