Question

My daughter has been complaining of painful periods. What are some red flags that this is not typical menstrual pain but something more serious like endometriosis?

Answer

More than half of all women who menstruate say they experience some pain each month during their period. There are two types of dysmenorrhea: primary and secondary. Primary dysmenorrhea is pain caused by a menstrual period, also known as “period cramps.” Common period cramps tend to become less painful with age. Period cramps can often be treated with over the counter medication like ibuprofen. The birth control pill has also been shown to alleviate adverse symptoms of menstruation like cramping or acne. Secondary dysmenorrhea is pain caused by a disorder in a woman’s reproductive system, such as endometriosis, adenomyosis, or fibroids. Pain from secondary dysmenorrhea usually lasts longer than pain from common period cramps and can begin earlier in the menstrual cycle.

Some pain or discomfort during your period is normal, but a large amount of pain is not. If taking over the counter pain relievers like ibuprofen is not helping to ease your daughter’s period pain, it may be a sign of a more serious condition. Talk to your doctor if your daughter continues to experience severe or unusual cramps that last for more than two or three days. Your daughter’s doctor will ask about the symptoms she’s experiencing and may also perform a pelvic exam. If the doctor suspects secondary dysmenorrhea is the cause of your daughter’s pain, further tests may be necessary. Both types of dysmenorrhea can be treated, so it’s best to consult with a doctor to determine the best treatment options for your daughter’s painful periods.


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