Primary dysmenorrhea is one of the most common gynecological complaints in young women, but potential peripheral immunologic features underlying this condition remain undefined. In this paper, we compared 84 common cytokine gene expression profiles of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from six primary dysmenorrheic young women and three unaffected controls on the seventh day before (secretory phase), and the first (menstrual phase) and the fifth (regenerative phase) days of menstruation, using a real-time PCR array assay combined with pattern recognition and gene function annotation methods. Comparisons between dysmenorrhea and normal control groups identified 11 (nine increased and two decreased), 14 (five increased and nine decreased), and 15 (seven increased and eight decreased) genes with ≥ 2-fold difference in expression (P<0.05) in the three phases of menstruation, respectively. In the menstrual phase, genes encoding pro-inflammatory cytokines (IL1B, TNF, IL6, and IL8) were up-regulated, and genes encoding TGF-β superfamily members (BMP4, BMP6, GDF5, GDF11, LEFTY2, NODAL, and MSTN) were down-regulated. Functional annotation revealed an excessive inflammatory response and insufficient TGF-β superfamily member signals with anti-inflammatory consequences, which may directly contribute to menstrual pain. In the secretory and regenerative phases, increased expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines and decreased expression of growth factors were also observed. These factors may be involved in the regulation of decidualization, endometrium breakdown and repair, and indirectly exacerbate primary dysmenorrhea. This first study of cytokine gene expression profiles in PBMCs from young primary dysmenorrheic women demonstrates a shift in the balance between expression patterns of pro-inflammatory cytokines and TGF-β superfamily members across the whole menstrual cycle, underlying the peripheral immunologic features of primary dysmenorrhea.