If you suffer from cramps during your period, you know how unexpected and excruciating they can be. We’re talking a knot in your stomach so severe that you might struggle to even get out of bed. However, a video from TikTok user @shantelmsmith recently sparked conversation about a different kind of period cramp: a sharp, stabbing pain in the rectum. Curious about this apparently common phenomenon, I reached out to an ob-gyn to find out what causes it.
According to Alyssa Dweck, MD, FACOG, a board-certified ob-gyn in Westchester County, New York, and sexual and reproductive health expert for Intimina, period cramps are not limited to your stomach. In fact, cramping can occur in the lower pelvis, vagina, thighs, and yes, even your butt.
Dr. Dweck explained that period pain stems from hormone-like chemicals called prostaglandins, which can “cause muscle contractions in the uterus, vagina, and rectum.” The aching and cramping you may feel in your butt is a direct result of restricted blood flow caused by these contractions. Generally, the pain is not a cause for concern and can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days.
However, Dr. Dweck added that muscle contractions may not be the only culprit. “Many people have bowel habit changes, including constipation, bloating, and diarrhea during menses,” Dr. Dweck told POPSUGAR, noting that these symptoms can also cause discomfort in that region. Additionally, “some may have issues such as endometriosis or fibroids, which can worsen cramping in the pelvic and rectal areas during menstruation,” she said.
The best way to ease the pain is to get ahead of it. “Anticipate discomfort with a menstrual app or calendar. This way, pain can be averted before it becomes too intense or even starts,” Dr. Dweck said, adding that NSAIDs can help alleviate these cramps. “NSAIDs work as anti-inflammatory agents and block the enzyme that makes prostaglandins, resulting in lower levels of prostaglandins. Less prostaglandin means less muscular contraction and less pain.” She noted that heating pads can also be helpful because they help promote healthy blood flow to the uterine, pelvic, and rectal muscles.
“Fleeting and transient rectal pain that occurs within menstruation and then quickly resolves is not uncommon,” Dr. Dweck said. However, if the pain becomes severe or if it continues outside of your period, it’s best to talk to your doctor, as it could be a sign of an underlying condition.