This article looks at some of the most common causes of vaginal cramps, as well as treatment options and when to see a doctor.
Possible causes of vaginal cramps include the following:
Vaginal infections can cause vaginal cramps, sharp pain, inflammation, and discomfort. Common types of vaginal infection include:
- bacterial vaginosis
- sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as trichomonas
- urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- yeast infections
Infections can also cause fever and unusual discharge, which may be foul-smelling.
Vaginal cramps are a common symptom of menstruation. They occur as the uterus contracts to shed the uterine lining.
Although cramps higher up in the pelvis are more common, it is not unusual to feel cramping in the vagina as well.
While doctors would expect some mild cramping during menstruation, severe pelvic pain and bleeding are not typical period symptoms.
A doctor can prescribe medications, such as birth control pills, to reduce the incidence of pelvic pain and discomfort resulting from menstruation.
Dyspareunia is the medical term for painful sex. This pain may occur during or immediately after sex.
Some people also experience dyspareunia when they use tampons.
Dyspareunia typically feels like menstrual cramps with the addition of a deep, burning pain inside the pelvis.
Multiple causes of dyspareunia exist, including infections, inflammation, and a history of surgery on the vagina or uterus.
Pelvic floor disorders are conditions that cause pain, cramps, and other symptoms in the pelvic floor muscles, which support the bladder, rectum, and uterus.
These disorders may occur after a woman has given birth, as delivery can weaken the pelvic floor.
In addition to vaginal cramps, pelvic floor disorders can lead to constipation, pain during sex, and difficulty controlling a urine stream.
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
PID is a condition that occurs when an infection in the pelvic organs causes inflammation in the vaginal tissue.
Symptoms can range from mild to severe, and may include:
- bleeding between periods
- pain in the lower abdomen
- pain during sex
- unusual discharge from the vagina or an odor
- vaginal cramps
People who have STIs, such as gonorrhea or chlamydia, are more likely to experience PID.
Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous growths that develop in the uterine wall. They are most common in people who are in their 30s and 40s but tend to go away after menopause.
Uterine fibroids can cause heavy bleeding, vaginal cramps, pain during sex, and a feeling of fullness or pressure in the lower abdomen.
Vulvodynia is a medical condition in which a person experiences pain in the vulva, the external female genitalia, for 3 months or longer without any known cause.
Miscarriage, or pregnancy loss, occurs when a pregnancy ends at or before 20 weeks of gestation.
In addition to vaginal cramps, miscarriage can cause spotting or bleeding and pain in the abdomen.
While people can expect some mild vaginal cramps during menstruation, other instances of vaginal cramping can indicate underlying but usually treatable health issues.
A person should speak to a doctor if they are experiencing any of the following symptoms in addition to vaginal cramps:
- foul-smelling or unusual discharge
- a sensation of pelvic fullness and pressure
- heavy or unexplained bleeding
- severe pain
- pain during sex
- trouble controlling urination or feelings of urinary urgency
If a pregnant woman is concerned about vaginal cramps, especially those occurring alongside bleeding, she should speak to a doctor.
While mild vaginal cramps are often a standard symptom of menstruation, severe or recurrent cramps may have an underlying medical cause.
A doctor can provide an accurate diagnosis and recommend treatment options to alleviate pain and reduce the frequency of vaginal cramps.
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