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What Causes Cramps & Brown Spotting?

By Lindsay Boyers ; Updated December 18, 2018

Normal menstruation involves the shedding of the uterine lining to signal the beginning of a new reproductive cycle and it occurs every 28 to 35 days, depending on the individual. Spotting is abnormal bleeding that occurs in between normal menstrual cycles. The brown color often associated with spotting is usually seen when blood has taken longer than usual to exit the body. The conditions that cause brown spotting often cause abdominal cramps as well.

Cervicitis

Cervicitis literally means inflammation of the cervix, which is the narrow end of the uterus. Medline Plus notes that cervicitis is a fairly common condition that affects approximately half of all women at some point. Cervicitis usually develops as a result of a sexually transmitted infection, but can occasionally be caused by exposure to chemical irritants, the use of a diaphragm and allergies to condoms, Medline Plus says. Symptoms of cervicitis include brown spotting between periods, pain during or after intercourse, unusual vaginal discharge or cramps and pressure in the abdomen and pelvis. Most cases of cervicitis can be successfully treated with a series of antibiotics. In those who do not respond to medication, minor surgeries may be needed.

Uterine Fibroids

Uterine fibroids are benign tumors that grow in the lining of the uterus. Fibroids can take on various shapes and may range in size from miniscule to several inches in diameter. Uterine fibroids usually develop in groups; it is rare to see a single fibroid. The cause of fibroids is unknown, but Women’s Health notes that a combination of hormonal imbalances and genetics is believed to be involved. The risk of developing fibroids increases with age and in those who are obese. Symptoms of uterine fibroids include brown spotting between periods, pelvic pain and abdominal cramps, frequent urination, pain during sexual intercourse, lower back pain and abdominal fullness. Some fibroids are so small that they do not require treatment, but larger fibroids may require removal of the fibroid alone or the entire uterus, Women’s Health says.

Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a condition that occurs when the tissue that lines the uterus, called the endometrium, begins to grow on other reproductive organs, such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes. The endometrium is the tissue that is shed during menstruation, and it behaves similarly even when present on other organs. The endometrium will shed from the ovaries and the fallopian tubes and cause brown spotting between periods. Some of the blood may become trapped, which can result in pelvic pain and cramps. Other symptoms of endometriosis include painful periods, heavy periods and infertility. The Mayo Clinic notes that the cause of endometriosis is still unknown. Treatment for endometriosis varies, but generally consists of pain medications, hormonal therapy and surgery.

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