DOCTOR'S VIEW ARCHIVE

Painful Periods Related to Stress

Medical Author: Melissa Stoppler, M.D.
Medical Editor: Barbara K. Hecht, Ph.D.

Painful menstrual periods, medically known as dysmenorrhea, affect 40 to 90% of women of reproductive age. While gynecological conditions ranging from uterine fibroids to endometriosis can cause painful menstrual periods, dysmenorrhea may also occur in the absence of any underlying abnormality. Dysmenorrhea is the most common gynecologic disorder in women during their reproductive years.

Dysmenorrhea may be, at least in part, related to lifestyle stress, according to researchers. One study to investigate the effects of stress on menstrual pain involved 388 newly-married childless women, age 20-34, working in the textile industry in China. All of these women expressed a desire to become pregnant.

The women kept records of their menstrual cycles as well as diaries of their daily stress levels (rating their stress as "low", "medium", or "high") during the 12-month study or until they became pregnant. The women also answered questions about their degree of symptoms and discomfort during menstrual cycles.

The perception of stress and the degree of dysmenorrhea in each menstrual cycle were based on the diaries kept by the women. The women were classified as having dysmenorrhea if they experienced two or more days of abdominal or lower back pain during a menstrual cycle.