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Dysmenorrhea – Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

Dysmenorrhea – Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

Many women experience some pain when they have their period. This often includes mild cramping and pain in the lower back or abdomen.

What is dysmenorrhea?

Dysmenorrhea is the medical term used to describe period pain. It can include cramping in the lower area of the abdomen, back pain, and pain in the pelvic area. Dysmenorrhea can also  be associated with headches and backpain.1

Dysmenorrhea often occurs in healthy women and girls without any other health issues.

Dysmenorrhea is a common condition, with more than one half of all women who menstruate suffering it 1-2 days per month.2  It is more common among women and girls who have heavy or irregular periods.3  Researchers have also discovered that the condition is more common in females who had their first period before the age of 12 and women with a low body weight. 4

Is dysmenorrhea the same as Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)?

No, PMS is different to dysmenorrhea. PMS causes breast soreness, mood swings, and bloating. It typically occurs before the menstrual cycle begins and symptoms lessen once the menstrual cycle has begun.

There are two types of dysmenorrhea, we will refer only to:

Primary dysmenorrhea

Primary dysmenorrhea usually occurs in girls and younger women.5  It is not related to a specific disease and can happen to perfectly healthy females.6  It usually starts before the period begins, lasts between 8 to 72 hours7  and tends to become less severe by the time a woman has reached her mid-20s or has given birth. 8

The main cause of primary dysmenorrhea are the uterine contractions that occur during menstruation to let blood out of the uterus.9

Primary dysmenorrhea is also related to chemicals that are released by the uterus during this time. When you menstruate, special chemicals called prostaglandins are released from the lining of the uterus, this increases the strength of uterine contractions. Higher levels of these chemicals are released in the first few days of the menstrual period, which is why dysmenorrhea is more common during this time. 10

How do I know if I have dysmenorrhea?

As mentioned before, it is completely normal to experience some cramping during your period. This will occur as a result of uterine contractions. However, if you suffer from severe pain each month and these alternative methods don’t help to relieve period pain, you should consult your GP.

How is dysmenorrhea treated?

One of the most well-known known options aimed at reducing the symptoms of dysmenorrhea are NSAIDs (non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) which work by reducing the levels of prostaglandins released which in turn reduces the severity of the cramps caused by uterine contractions. We recommend you consult your GP before taking NSAID medications for long periods of time.

Extra tip: Track your menstrual cycle!

Tracking your menstrual cycle can help you identify any unusual changes you experience. 

Always read the label. Use only as directed. Incorrect use could be harmful. If symptoms persist consult your healthcare professional