Dysmenorrhea: Overview

What is dysmenorrhea?

Dysmenorrhea is the medical term used to describe painful periods and cramps that teens may have before or during their menstrual period. This pain may be severe enough to interfere with daily life, for example, causing the teen to miss school because of the pain.

Did you know?

  • As many as one in four teens have severe pain (or dysmenorrhea) with their periods.
  • For some girls and teens, painful periods can be very embarrassing to talk about with parents, teachers, coaches and even a doctor/ nurse. Being embarrassed can make girls and teens less likely to ask for help.
  • Dysmenorrhea is one of the most common reasons that girls and teens miss school.
  • For many women, dysmenorrhea gets better with age.

What causes dysmenorrhea?

The uterus is an organ inside a woman’s body. It has a lining inside it called the endometrium, which grows thicker in response to certain hormones that are made after a woman has started to have her period.

When the uterine lining sheds or bleeds, the uterine muscles squeeze. For women who have dysmenorrhea, the squeezing of the uterus causes pain. For women without dysmenorrhea, they may have menstrual bleeding without any cramps or pain.

Who gets dysmenorrhea?

Not all women experience dysmenorrhea. The reason why some teens and women experience dysmenorrhea is unknown.

Helpful resources:

Download information on dysmenorrhea en Español (pdf).

Find out more about the Adolescent Gynecology department at Children’s Hospital Colorado.