Menstrual cramps

Menstrual cramps are experienced by more than 50% of girls and women during menstrual periods.  They are caused by strong contractions (even spasms) of the muscles in the uterus as it tries to expel menstrual blood.  Menstrual periods usually are not painful during the first 1 to 2 years after a girl has started having periods.  However, once ovulation begins, the level of progesterone in the bloodstream increases and leads to stronger contractions and cramps.

Cramps consist of pain in the lower midabdomen, which may radiate to the lower back or thighs.  Associated symptoms are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or dizziness in some girls.  Cramps usually last 2 or 3 days.

Home Care  

Ibuprofen.  Ibuprofen is an excellent drug for menstrual cramps.  It decreases the pain and the uterine contractions.  Two or three 200 mg tablets 4 times per day can be taken.  Always take 3 tablets as the first dosage.  Don’t wait for the onset of cramps to begin taking ibuprofen – begin taking it as soon as menstrual flow starts.
Local Heat.  A heating pad or warm washcloth applied to the area of pain or a 20 minute warm bath twice daily may help reduce the pain.
Aggravating Factors.  Any type of pain will seem more severe in people who are tired or upset.  Your daughter should try to avoid exhaustion, worry, and inadequate sleep during her periods.
COMMON MISTAKES.  A common mistake is to go to bed, but people who are busy usually notice the pain less.  There are no restrictions on what your daughter can do during her menstrual period.  She should not miss any school, work, or social activities.  She can swim, take a shower or bath, wash her hair, go outside in bad weather, date and so on.  If the pains are limiting your daughter’s activities even when she is using ibuprofen, ask your physician about stronger medication.

Call our office IMMEDIATELY if . . . 

  • The pain becomes severe and is not relieved by ibuprofen.
  • An unexplained fever (over 100°F) occurs.

Call our office during regular hours if . . . 

  • The cramps cause your daughter to miss school or activities.