Dysmenorrhea: Meaning, Diagnosis and Overview

What is Dysmenorrhea?

Dysmenorrhea is the medical term for the painful cramps that may occur immediately before or during the menstrual period. There are two types of Dysmenorrhea
  • Primary Dysmenorrhea is another name for common menstrual cramps. These usually begin one to two years after a woman starts getting her period. Pain usually is felt in the lower abdomen or back.
  • Secondary Dysmenorrhea is pain caused by a disorder in the woman reproductive organs. Pain usually begins earlier in the menstrual cycle and lasts longer than common menstrual cramps.
It is the most commonly reported menstrual disorder. More than one half of women who menstruate have some pain for 1-2 days each month.


Recovery Time

Recovery time is only a few days. The pain can get better by some pain medication, birth control pills, or other home remedies. If your symptoms are not eased by these measures, your doctor may suggest surgical options.


  • The diagnosis of Dysmenorrhea is based upon a woman medical history and physical examination.
  • Physical examination for women with Dysmenorrhea for a complete abdominal and pelvic examination can be done.
Other tests include:
  • Ultrasound
  • Imaging tests like CT scan and MRI
  • Hysteroscopy
  • Laparoscopy

FAQs prepared by doctor

Q1.  What is dysmenorrhea?
Dysmenorrhea refers to the crampy lower abdominal discomfort that begins with the onset of menstrual bleeding and gradually decreases over the next 12-72 h.

Q2.  I have strong menstrual-like cramps when I nurse my newborn. Is that normal?
During the first few days to weeks after delivery, you may feel strong cramps in your uterus when your milk lets down. Breastfeeding helps shrink the uterus, so nursing moms may be able to return to their pre-pregnancy shape and weight quicker.

Q3.  What shall I do when I start getting abdominal cramps?
Cold Hip bath daily for 10-15 minutes cures all menstrual disorders.
Absolute bed rest with slight elevation of both legs while lying down and a warm water bath during painful episodes of menstruation is good.
Place a heating pad on your abdomen. The flow of heat can provide soothing, temporary pain relief.
Gently massage your lower abdomen or lower back.
Taking an anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen several days before your expect period may be beneficial.

Q4.  What is the long term outlook (prognosis) for menstrual cramps?
In general, a woman s menstrual cramps do not worsen during her lifetime. In fact, the menstrual cramps of primary dysmenorrhea usually diminish with age and pregnancy. This is thought to be due to the fact that the nerves of the uterus degenerate with age and disappear late in pregnancy, with only a portion of these nerves regenerating after childbirth.

Q5.  To what extent the menstrual cramps could be serious?
Menstrual cramps have no medical complications in themselves, but they often interfere with school, work and social activities.
The diseases and conditions sometimes associated with menstrual cramps may have complications, though. For example, endometriosis can cause fertility problems, while pelvic inflammatory disease can scar your fallopian tubes, increasing the risk of a fertilized egg implanting in the tube (ectopic pregnancy) instead of in your uterus.

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