Painful Menstrual Cramps

Many women experience crampy pain around the time of menstrual periods. Painful menstrual cramps, also called "dysmenorrhea," usually involves the area around the lower abdomen or pelvis, but can be felt in other areas such as the lower back, hips or upper thighs.

Menstrual cramps can be mild to moderately severe, usually lasting one to three days. About ten percent of women with painful periods have such severe pain that they cannot work, exercise or play for several hours to several days each month. Fortunately, most women find relief or control of their symptoms with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or naproxen.

For many women, painful menstrual cramps have been a part of their lives for years.

This Decision Guide is designed to help women who have more recent onset of painful menstrual cramps or whose cramps have become worse in the last several months. The guide consists of a series of questions. You answers will lead to information pertinent to your menstrual cramps and tips on how to manage your cramps.

Please note that this guide should be used for informational purposes and is not intended to replace the evaluation and advice of your health care provider.

Click here to begin.

If your menstrual cramps have developed recently this may indicate a new medical problem or a change in your hormones. For example, painful cramps that have had their start within the past six weeks may be caused by infection or pregnancy. Cramps that started more than six weeks ago are less likely to be from one of these problems.

Did your cramps begin within the last six weeks?

Yes, my cramps started less than six weeks ago.

No, my cramps started more than six weeks ago.

Sometimes menstrual pains can be related to methods of birth control.

Did you recently start or have you been using an intrauterine device, an IUD?

Yes, I recently began or have been using an IUD.

No, I am not using an IUD.

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