Primary dysmenorrhea among Mexican university students: prevalence, impact and treatment

Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol. 2010 Sep;152(1):73-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ejogrb.2010.04.015. Epub 2010 May 15.


Objective: To evaluate the prevalence, impact and treatment of primary dysmenorrhea among Mexican university students.

Study design: A multiple-choice questionnaire was administered to 1539 students in six university programs: medicine, nursing, nutrition, dentistry, pharmacy and psychology. Data on the presence, severity, symptoms, treatment and limitations caused by dysmenorrhea were obtained and analyzed.

Results: The mean+/-SD age of the women was 20.4+/-2.0 years; the mean age of menarche was 12.3+/-1.5 years. A total of 64% of the women experienced dysmenorrhea. Dysmenorrhea was more prevalent among nutrition and psychology students than among medicine, pharmacy and dentistry students (p<0.05). Dysmenorrhea was mild in 36.1% of women, moderate in 43.8% and severe in 20.1%. Nursing students showed an intensity of pain that was significantly higher than that of medicine and dentistry students (p<0.05). Sixty-five percent of the women with dysmenorrhea reported that it limited their daily activities, and 42.1% reported school absenteeism (SA) as a result. Of those who experienced dysmenorrhea, 25.9% consulted a physician, and 61.7% practiced self-medication (SM). The most common medications used were an over-the-counter (OTC) medication with paracetamol (an analgesic), pamabrom (a diuretic), and pyrilamine (a histamine antagonist), another OTC with metamizol (a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug [NSAID]) plus butylhioscine (an antispasmodic drug) and naproxen (a NSAID). Of those women using prescribed medications, 18.4% reported complete remission of their symptoms, while 78.1% reported little to moderate alleviation, and 3.6% reported no effect on their menstrual distress. Similarly, of the women who practiced SM, 23.4% reported complete relief, 75.5% reported little to moderate effectiveness, and 1.0% reported no efficacy.

Conclusion: The prevalence of dysmenorrhea among Mexican university students is high, and the pain that these women suffer can be severe, disabling and result in short-term SA. The pain is often not completely relieved despite the use of medication. It is necessary to improve the therapeutic options for relief of pain caused by dysmenorrhea and to minimize the impact of dysmenorrhea on social, economic and school activities.

MeSH terms

  • Absenteeism
  • Acetaminophen / therapeutic use
  • Adolescent
  • Dipyrone / therapeutic use
  • Drug Combinations
  • Dysmenorrhea / drug therapy*
  • Dysmenorrhea / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Menarche
  • Mexico / epidemiology
  • Naproxen / therapeutic use
  • Nonprescription Drugs / therapeutic use
  • Pain / drug therapy
  • Prevalence
  • Propanolamines / therapeutic use
  • Pyrilamine / therapeutic use
  • Scopolamine / therapeutic use
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Students / statistics & numerical data*
  • Theophylline / analogs & derivatives
  • Theophylline / therapeutic use
  • Universities / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult


  • Drug Combinations
  • Nonprescription Drugs
  • Propanolamines
  • Acetaminophen
  • Naproxen
  • Dipyrone
  • Theophylline
  • Scopolamine
  • Pyrilamine
  • pamabrom