Dysmenorrhea is a common menstrual complaint with a major impact on women's quality of life, work productivity, and health-care utilization. A comprehensive review was performed on longitudinal or case-control or cross-sectional studies with large community-based samples to accurately determine the prevalence and/or incidence and risk factors of dysmenorrhea. Fifteen primary studies, published between 2002 and 2011, met the inclusion criteria. The prevalence of dysmenorrhea varies between 16% and 91% in women of reproductive age, with severe pain in 2%-29% of the women studied. Women's age, parity, and use of oral contraceptives were inversely associated with dysmenorrhea, and high stress increased the risk of dysmenorrhea. The effect sizes were generally modest to moderate, with odds ratios varying between 1 and 4. Family history of dysmenorrhea strongly increased its risk, with odds ratios between 3.8 and 20.7. Inconclusive evidence was found for modifiable factors such as cigarette smoking, diet, obesity, depression, and abuse. Dysmenorrhea is a significant symptom for a large proportion of women of reproductive age; however, severe pain limiting daily activities is less common. This review confirms that dysmenorrhea improves with increased age, parity, and use of oral contraceptives and is positively associated with stress and family history of dysmenorrhea.
Keywords: dysmenorrhea; incidence; menstrual pain; natural history; painful menstruation; prevalence; risk factors.