Use of medication by adolescents for the management of menstrual discomfort

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1997 Sep;151(9):905-13. doi: 10.1001/archpedi.1997.02170460043007.


Objective: To determine how adolescents use medication to manage menstrual discomfort.

Design: Survey.

Setting: Public high school.

Participants: Convenience sample of 386 adolescent girls (80% return rate: 10 refusals and 8 exclusions). Two hundred and ninety-one cases were used for analyses (16.26+/-1.00 years [mean+/-SD]; range, 14-21 years), distributed equivalently across grades 10 through 12. Parent's socioeconomic status was predominately class III or lower on Hollingshead's Two-Factor Index of Social Status. Eighty-five percent of the subjects were English Canadian.

Main outcome measures: The Menstrual Distress Management Questionnaire (designed for our study to measure disability and medication use) and the Symptom Severity Scale.

Results: Ninety-three percent reported menstrual discomfort during the last 3 menstruations and 70% of these had used over-the-counter (OTC) medications to manage the discomfort. Users of OTC medications reported greater symptom severity and disability than non-OTC users. Seventy-five percent of the OTC medication users took within the recommended dose of 1 to 2 pills, but 57% took medication less often than the maximum daily frequency. The size of a single dose of OTC medication was correlated with how often OTC medication was taken (r[s]=0.40, P<.001). Seventeen percent used prescription medication and reported significantly greater symptom severity and disability than nonprescription medication users. Seventy-one percent of the prescription drug users took the prescribed amount, 13% took less, and 16% took more.

Conclusions: Adolescent girls frequently suffer from menstrual discomfort and use OTC medications to manage the discomfort, but they may not be using OTC medications effectively. There are possible explanations for medicating behavior and future research directions should be considered.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior*
  • Adult
  • Drug Prescriptions
  • Dysmenorrhea / drug therapy*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Nonprescription Drugs / therapeutic use*
  • Nova Scotia
  • Prevalence
  • Self Medication / methods*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Nonprescription Drugs