Menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea) are severe, painful cramps that occur with menstruation. There are 2 types:
Primary dysmenorrhea is caused by abnormal tightening of the muscles of the uterus (contractions). This is from changing hormone levels. The hormone prostaglandin controls the contractions of the uterus.
Secondary dysmenorrhea is often caused by endometriosis. This is when tissue that forms the inside lining of the uterus also grows outside the uterus. It can grow on other organs inside the pelvis or belly (abdomen). This can also cause internal bleeding, infection, and pelvic pain.
Other causes of secondary dysmenorrhea can include:
A girl is more at risk for menstrual cramps if she has:
Smoking also increases the risk.
Symptoms can occur a bit differently in each teen. The most common symptoms include:
Other symptoms can include:
Symptoms of primary dysmenorrhea occur just before menstrual bleeding starts each month. The pain can last for 1 to 2 days or more. It then lessens at the end of the period.
Symptoms of secondary dysmenorrhea can start several days before menstrual bleeding starts. The pain may get worse and last for days, weeks, or longer.
The symptoms of dysmenorrhea can be like other health conditions. Make sure your child sees her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
The healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and health history. He or she may also ask about your family’s health history. The provider will give your teen a physical exam. The physical exam may include a pelvic exam. Your daughter may also have tests, such as:
Treatment will depend on your teen’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is. Treatment options include:
Talk with your teen’s healthcare providers about the risks, benefits, and possible side effects of all treatments.
Possible complications include missed school or work because of severe pain. Dysmenorrhea can be caused by a condition such as endometriosis. If left untreated, this may have an impact on your teen’s future ability to become pregnant.
Painful periods can be difficult to cope with every month. You can help by making sure your teen has the tools to treat pain symptoms quickly. Your child may also need emotional support during painful days.
Call the healthcare provider if your child has:
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:
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