What is dysmenorrhea?

For girls of any age, the menstrual period is a time well known for cramping — dull, throbbing or squeezing pains in the lower abdomen. For one girl, these aches may be mildly annoying and no cause for concern, but for another, the discomfort may be so severe she has to stay home from work or school. Debilitating menstrual cramping is called dysmenorrhea. There are two types of dysmenorrhea, primary and secondary:

  • Primary dysmenorrhea is a term describing severe menstrual cramping that has always joined a woman's menstruation.
  • Secondary dysmenorrhea is a term describing menstrual cramping that develops because of some other condition, such as endometriosis or ovarian tumors.

Any young woman can develop dysmenorrhea, but factors that may predispose her include:

How we care for dysmenorrhea

At the Division of Gynecology and Adolescent and Young Adult Reproductive Endocrinology Program at Boston Children's Hospital, we understand the seriousness of severe menstrual cramps. Our experienced physicians will work with your daughter to provide an accurate diagnosis and treatment of the problem underlying her dysmenorrhea.

The Center for Young Women's Health provides extensive and easy to access information for girls with questions about her menstrual cycle. The following guide may be helpful to her: Puberty and Your Menstrual Cycle: A Guide for Teens.