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Dysmenorrhea (Painful Periods)

What is Dysmenorrhea?

Dysmenorrhea is recurrent, crampy, lower abdominal pain that occurs during your period.  It is very common, affecting 50-90% of women at some point in their lives, usually in their teens and twenties.  It typically begins 1 or 2 days before or with the start of a period and improves over the 2nd and 3rd day of bleeding.  It is common to experience mild nausea, diarrhea, back pain, headache, and/or dizziness along with the pain.

What can I do to reduce this pain?

At-home treatment options

  • Applying heating pad/heat pack applied to lower abdomen
  • Exercising
  • Staying very well hydrated (women need about 9 cups or 2.2 liters of fluids a day)
  • Ibuprofen 400mg-600mg by mouth every 4-6 hours starting a day or two before you anticipate your period will begin and continue until pain resolves.
  • Magnesium 250mg by mouth at bedtime starting a day or two before you anticipate your period and continuing until pain resolves
  • Begin taking a daily Fish Oil supplement (Barlean’s brand recommended)

Other options

If at-home treatments don’t provide relief, you can discuss the following options with your doctor:

  • Prescription strength NSAIDS (ibuprofen-like medicine) called Ponstel
  • Progesterone support during the luteal phase of the cycle (the part of your cycle after ovulation occurs until your period begins)
  • Low-dose Naltrexone, which is a medicine that is considered more experimental for treating painful periods, but shows some promise with few side effects
  • Proceeding with a diagnostic laparoscopy to look for problems with the anatomy of the pelvis, especially endometriosis (a disease of the female pelvis that can only be officially diagnosed with surgery)

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