Painful Menstrual Periods
(Dysmenorrhea; Menstrual Cramps)
- Primary dysmenorrhea—painful regular (ovulatory) menstrual cycles caused by uterine muscle contractions (due to high levels of prostaglandins produced in the lining and body of the uterus after ovulation)
- Secondary dysmenorrhea—painful periods due to an underlying condition, such as endometriosis (a condition involving the lining of the uterus) or infection
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When Should I Call My Doctor?
- Severe or unusual cramps
- Cramps that last for more than a few days
- Signs of infection, such as fever or chills
- Cramps with heavy menstrual bleeding
- Abdominal or pelvic tenderness
- Vaginal discharge (other than menstrual bleeding)
- Pelvic ultrasound —a test that uses sound waves to examine structures in the pelvis
- Hysteroscopy —a test that uses a long, thin telescope with a camera on one end to view the inner uterus
- Hysterosalpingogram —a test that uses x-rays to view the uterus and fallopian tubes
- Pelvic laparoscopy —a test that uses a thin, lighted tube to view structures in the pelvis
- To help ease discomfort, place a heating pad on your abdomen or lower back. Taking a warm bath may also be helpful.
- Exercise regularly, which may help to reduce menstrual cramps.
- Find out if alternative treatments are a good option for you, for example:
- Exercise regularly.
- If you smoke, quit .
- Drink only moderate amounts of caffeine and alcohol.
American Academy of Family Physicians http://www.aafp.org/
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists http://www.acog.org/
Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada http://www.sogc.org/
Women's Health Matters http://www.womenshealthmatters.ca/
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Diabetes and pregnancy. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: http://www.acog.org/publications/patient%5Feducation/bp051.cfm . Accessed July 2010.
Coco AS. Primary dysmenorrhea. Am Fam Physician . 1999;60:489-496.
Dysmenorrhea. Cleveland Clinic website. Available at: http://my.clevelandclinic.org/disorders/dysmenorrhea/hic%5Fdysmenorrhea.aspx . Accessed January 9, 2012.
Dysmenorrhea. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/ . Updated November 23, 2011. Accessed January 11, 2012.
Dysmenorrhea: painful menstrual periods. American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: http://www.familydoctor.org/829.xml?printxml . Accessed August 10, 2005.
Dysmenorrhea: symptoms. Family Doctor.org website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/dysmenorrhea/symptoms.html . Updated January 2011. Accessed January 9, 2012.
Dysmenorrhea: treatment. Family Doctor.org website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/dysmenorrhea/treatment.html . Updated January 2011. Accessed January 9, 2012.
French L. Dysmenorrhea. Am Fam Physician . 2005;71:285-291.
Menstrual cramps: lifestyle and home remedies. Mayo Clinic website. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/menstrual-cramps/DS00506/DSECTION=lifestyle-and-home-remedies . Updated May 3, 2011. Accessed January 9, 2012.
Menstrual cramps: treatments and drugs. Mayo Clinic website. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/menstrual-cramps/DS00506/DSECTION=treatments-and-drugs . Updated May 3, 2011. Accessed January 9, 2012.
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID): CDC fact sheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/std/pid/stdfact-pid.htm . Updated September 28, 2011. Accessed January 9, 2012.
Speroff L. Clinical Gynecologic Endocrinology and Infertility. 6th ed. Baltimore, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 1999.
9/30/2008 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php : Witt CM, Reinhold T, Brinkhaus B, et al. Acupuncture in patients with dysmenorrhea: a randomized study on clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness in usual care. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2008;198:166.e1-8.
- Reviewer: Andrea Chisholm
- Review Date: 09/2012 -
- Update Date: 00/92/2012 -