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  • Dysmenorrhea is also called menstrual cramps, period pain, or painful menses. It is pain in your uterus (womb) during menstruation (monthly period). It may occur when the body makes too much hormones (body chemicals) that help your uterus contract (squeeze). Depending on the cause, dysmenorrhea may be primary or secondary. Primary dysmenorrhea happens to women who do not have another medical problem. Secondary dysmenorrhea may be caused by a problem in your uterus, ovaries, or fallopian tubes. With dysmenorrhea, you may have cramping with dull or sharp pain in your lower abdomen (stomach). Other signs and symptoms include dizziness, loose stools, upset stomach, and headache.
  • Your caregiver will ask questions about your pain, other symptoms, and treatments you have used in the past. He will also ask about your periods, sexual activity, and health problems. A pelvic exam, ultrasound, or MRI may be done to check for possible causes of your dysmenorrhea. Treatment may include medicines, and ways to control pain, such as heat therapy and transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation (TENS). Your caregiver may also suggest changes to your diet and exercise plans. As a woman ages, primary dysmenorrhea may go away. Depending on what is causing secondary dysmenorrhea, its signs and symptoms may decrease or go away.


Take your medicine as directed.

Call your primary healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medicine may decrease swelling and pain or fever. This medicine can be bought with or without a doctor's order. This medicine can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your primary healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow the directions on it before using this medicine.
  • Pain medicine: You may need medicine to take away or decrease pain.
    • Learn how to take your medicine. Ask what medicine and how much you should take. Be sure you know how, when, and how often to take it.
    • Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take your medicine. Tell caregivers if your pain does not decrease.
    • Pain medicine can make you dizzy or sleepy. Prevent falls by calling someone when you get out of bed or if you need help.

Ask for information about where and when to go for follow-up visits:

For continuing care, treatments, or home services, ask for more information.

Diet and nutrition:

  • Eat a variety of healthy foods every day to help you feel better. Eat a lot of foods that are high in fiber, such as vegetables and fruits. Eat a lot of fish, such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, and herring. Decrease the amount of fat in your diet. Eat lean meats, which are meats that have little or no fat in them. Ask your caregiver if you should make changes to your diet.
  • Your caregiver may want you to take magnesium and vitamins B and E. Taking these supplements may decrease your pain. Ask your caregiver before taking herbs or using other treatments.
  • Avoid drinks that have alcohol, such as beer, wine, vodka, whiskey, or other adult drinks.

Keeping a pain diary:

It may be easier to answer your caregiver's questions by making a pain diary or book. A pain diary will help you remember details about your pain because it is all written down. Write down when your pain starts, and when your periods start and stop. Write down all the words that come to you about your pain and other symptoms. Write down what you did to stop or treat your pain.


  • Use heat: Put heat on your lower abdomen using a warm compress or a heating pad. This may decrease your pain. A warm moist compress is a small towel dampened with hot water and placed in a plastic bag. Wrap a towel around the plastic bag to prevent burns. Keep the heating pad turned on low.
  • Exercise: Stay active. Getting regular exercise often can decrease the pain. Exercise increases body chemicals that may help ease pain and make you feel better. Talk to your caregiver before you start exercising. Together you can plan the best exercise program for you.
  • Manage your stress. Stress may make dysmenorrhea worse. Find ways to help your mind and body relax, such as deep breathing. Stay away from people or things that make you feel upset. Talk to someone about things that upset you.
  • Stop smoking and avoid people who smoke: Cigarette smoke may increase your risk of getting dysmenorrhea. Ask your caregiver for information on how to stop smoking if you are having trouble quitting.

For more information:

  • The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
    P.O. Box 70620
    Washington , DC 20024-9998
    Phone: 1- 202 - 638-5577
    Phone: 1- 800 - 673-8444
    Web Address:


  • You get new symptoms, or they are worse than before treatment.
  • You feel very nervous or get angry easily after you take your medicines.
  • You have problems sleeping, thinking clearly, or feel so sad that you cannot cope.
  • Your pain or other symptoms make it hard for you to do the things you enjoy.
  • Your periods are early, late, or more painful than usual.
  • You have questions about your pain, treatment, or care.


  • You feel more pain even after taking your medicines.
  • You have heavy vaginal bleeding and you faint or feel light-headed.
  • You suddenly have chest pain and trouble breathing.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Dysmenorrhea (Discharge Care)

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