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J Pain Res. 2012;5:169-74. doi: 10.2147/JPR.S30602. Epub 2012 Jun 20.

Prevalence of menstrual pain in young women: what is dysmenorrhea?

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Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Pediatrics, Obstetrics and Gynecology Unit, Azienda Ospedaliero Universitaria, Policlinico of Modena, Modena, Italy.



This study aimed to determine the frequency of dysmenorrhea, as identified by different definitions, in a population of young women, and to investigate factors associated with this complaint.


A final group of 408 young women completed a self-assessment questionnaire. This was a cross-sectional analytical study.


Menstrual pain was reported by 84.1% of women, with 43.1% reporting that pain occurred during every period, and 41% reporting that pain occurred during some periods. Women with menstrual pain had an earlier menarche (P = 0.0002) and a longer menstrual flow (P = 0.006), and this group was characterized as having a higher prevalence of smokers (P = 0.031) and a lower prevalence of hormonal contraception users (P = 0.015). Pain intensity was correlated (r = 0.302, P < 0.0001) positively with menstrual flow length (CR = 0.336), history of abortions (CR = 3.640), and gynecological pathologies (CR = 0.948), and negatively with age at menarche (CR = -0.225), use of hormonal contraception (CR = -0.787), and history of gynecological surgery (CR = -2.115). Considering the parameters of menstrual pain, a need for medication, and inability to function normally (absenteeism from study or social activities) alone or together, the prevalence of dysmenorrhea is 84.1% when considering only menstrual pain, 55.2% when considering the association between menstrual pain and need for medication, 31.9% when considering the association between menstrual pain and absenteeism, and 25.3% when considering the association between menstrual pain, need for medication, and absenteeism (P < 0.0001). The probability of having more severe dysmenorrhea is directly related to pain intensity as measured by a visual analog scale, but does not coincide with it.


Menstrual pain is a very common problem, but the need for medication and the inability to function normally occurs less frequently. Nevertheless, at least one in four women experiences distressing menstrual pain characterized by a need for medication and absenteeism from study or social activities.


absenteeism; dysmenorrhea; menstrual pain; treatment

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