Prevalence of menstrual pain in young women: what is dysmenorrhea?

J Pain Res. 2012:5:169-74. doi: 10.2147/JPR.S30602. Epub 2012 Jun 20.


Objectives: This study aimed to determine the frequency of dysmenorrhea, as identified by different definitions, in a population of young women, and to investigate factors associated with this complaint.

Materials and methods: A final group of 408 young women completed a self-assessment questionnaire. This was a cross-sectional analytical study.

Results: Menstrual pain was reported by 84.1% of women, with 43.1% reporting that pain occurred during every period, and 41% reporting that pain occurred during some periods. Women with menstrual pain had an earlier menarche (P = 0.0002) and a longer menstrual flow (P = 0.006), and this group was characterized as having a higher prevalence of smokers (P = 0.031) and a lower prevalence of hormonal contraception users (P = 0.015). Pain intensity was correlated (r = 0.302, P < 0.0001) positively with menstrual flow length (CR = 0.336), history of abortions (CR = 3.640), and gynecological pathologies (CR = 0.948), and negatively with age at menarche (CR = -0.225), use of hormonal contraception (CR = -0.787), and history of gynecological surgery (CR = -2.115). Considering the parameters of menstrual pain, a need for medication, and inability to function normally (absenteeism from study or social activities) alone or together, the prevalence of dysmenorrhea is 84.1% when considering only menstrual pain, 55.2% when considering the association between menstrual pain and need for medication, 31.9% when considering the association between menstrual pain and absenteeism, and 25.3% when considering the association between menstrual pain, need for medication, and absenteeism (P < 0.0001). The probability of having more severe dysmenorrhea is directly related to pain intensity as measured by a visual analog scale, but does not coincide with it.

Conclusion: Menstrual pain is a very common problem, but the need for medication and the inability to function normally occurs less frequently. Nevertheless, at least one in four women experiences distressing menstrual pain characterized by a need for medication and absenteeism from study or social activities.

Keywords: absenteeism; dysmenorrhea; menstrual pain; treatment.