Dysmenorrhea is pain a woman feels during menstruation. Discomfort is primarily caused by cramping of the uterus. The most common type, primary dysmenorrhea, is an extreme form of discomfort most women feel in the first few hours or days of their period. Pain may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, chills, and diarrhea. Applying heat to the lower abdomen and using over-the-counter pain medication may help ease any discomfort. Dysmenorrhea is common in women who have had no children. The symptoms tend to decrease with age and after a full-term pregnancy.

Secondary dysmenorrhea usually occurs suddenly in women whose early menstrual periods have been relatively pain-free. An underlying medical problem such as endometriosis or pelvic inflammatory disease may be the cause. Pain can begin two or three days before the menstrual period and radiate from the abdomen to the back and legs. The pain may last throughout the period. If you have painful menstrual periods, you may want to seek medical attention. Your doctor may prescribe medications or recommend other measures that can ease or prevent your pain.

Be sure to visit The American Obstetricians and Gynecologists website for additional information.