Menstrual Cramps: Brief Teen Version

What are menstrual cramps?

Menstrual cramps cause pain in your lower abdomen during the first few days of your period. Cramps are caused when the muscles of your uterus contract, or squeeze. The pain sometimes spreads to the lower back or thighs. Some girls also get dizzy, vomit, or have nausea or diarrhea with cramps.

Many teenagers have cramps with their period.

How can I take care of myself?

Use ibuprofen. (Advil, Motrin, Nuprin) or naproxen (Aleve). These drugs help take away the pain and reduce the number of cramps you have.

  • You can get these drugs at the drug store.
  • For ibuprofen, use 200 mg tablets. Take 2 tablets 4 times a day. For naproxen, use 220 mg tablets. Take 1 tablet 3 times a day.
  • Start with 2 tablets of naproxen or 3 tablets of ibuprofen as soon as there is any blood flow, or even the day before, if you can. Don’t wait until the cramps start. It should make you feel well enough not to miss anything important. Do not take both drugs together.

You shouldn’t need to miss any school, work, or social activities because of cramps. If ibuprofen or naproxen do not help, ask your doctor about getting a stronger medicine.

Call your doctor right away if:

  • Your pain gets very bad and ibuprofen or naproxen do not help.
  • You get an unexplained fever.
  • You start to feel very sick.

Call your doctor during office hours if:

  • Ibuprofen or naproxen do not help you enough.
  • The cramps cause you to miss school or other activities.
  • Cramps last more than 3 days with each period.
  • You have other concerns or questions.
Written by Barton D. Schmitt, MD, author of “My Child Is Sick,” American Academy of Pediatrics Books.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2012-05-15
Last reviewed: 2014-06-10
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 Barton D. Schmitt, MD. All rights reserved.

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