Do you have a question you’ve been dying to ask, but didn’t know who to turn to? Well, now you do. The National Women’s Health Network has established a weekly Q & A column where you can ask questions on a variety of topics. Those topics include contraception, abortion, sexual health, menopause & menopause hormone therapy, osteoporosis, obesity, and some aspects of heart disease. Each week we will feature a new question. See this week’s question below.

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What we are able to provide:

  • A feminist perspective on current issues in women’s health
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Please note: Questions submitted will not be answered personally, and not all questions submitted will be answered. If your question is selected, you will be notified via email. Before you submit your question, search our website to see if you find the answer to your question. Your answer might be found in a fact sheet, newsletter article or on one of our advocacy pages. NWHN can provide you with accessible and accurate health information; however, we are not medically licensed professionals and thus cannot provide medical diagnostic or treatment advice.


Weekly Question – My daughter has been complaining of painful periods. What are some red flags that this is not typical menstrual pain but something more serious like endometriosis?


Painful periods, also known as dysmenorrhea, are the most commonly reported menstrual disorder. More than half of all women who menstruate say they experience some pain each month during their period. There are two types of dysmenorrhea: primary and secondary. Primary dysmenorrhea is pain caused by a menstrual period, also known as “period cramps.” Common period cramps tend to become less painful with age. Period cramps can often be treated with over the counter medication like ibuprofen. The birth control pill has also been shown to alleviate adverse symptoms of menstruation like cramping or acne. Secondary dysmenorrhea is pain caused by a disorder in a woman’s reproductive system, such as endometriosis, adenomyosis, or fibroids. Pain from secondary dysmenorrhea usually lasts longer than pain from common period cramps and can begin earlier in the menstrual cycle.

Some pain or discomfort during your period is normal, but a large amount of pain is not. If taking over the counter pain relievers like ibuprofen is not helping to ease your daughter’s period pain, it may be a sign of a more serious condition. Talk to your doctor if your daughter continues to experience severe or unusual cramps that last for more than two or three days. Your daughter’s doctor will ask about the symptoms she’s experiencing and may also perform a pelvic exam. If the doctor suspects secondary dysmenorrhea is the cause of your daughter’s pain, further tests may be necessary. Both types of dysmenorrhea can be treated, so it’s best to consult with a doctor to determine the best treatment options for your daughter’s painful periods.

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