Dysmenorrhea can be literally translated as "difficult monthly flow." Although it's normal for most women to have mild abdominal cramps on the first day or two of their period, about 10% of women experience severe pain.
There are two types of dysmenorrhea:
- Primary dysmenorrhea is menstrual pain that's not a symptom of an underlying gynecologic disorder but is related to the normal process of menstruation. Primary dysmenorrhea is the most common type of dysmenorrhea, affecting more than 50% of women, and quite severe in about 10%. Primary dysmenorrhea is most common in late adolescence and the early 20s. Fortunately for many women, the problem eases as they mature, particularly after a pregnancy. Although it may be painful and sometimes debilitating for brief periods of time, it is not harmful.
- Secondary dysmenorrhea is menstrual pain that is generally related to some kind of gynecologic disorder. Most of these disorders can be easily treated with medications or surgery. Secondary dysmenorrhea is more likely to affect women during adulthood.