Does She Have To Skip School On Those Days?

Dear Doctor

My 16 year old daughter has been complaining of painful periods, to the extent where she ends up skipping school on those days. She has been taking pain killers on occasion but refuses to visit a doctor saying that this is normal, even among her peers. Is this the case? As a single father I feel very helpless when it comes to dealing with this particular issue. What should I expect and when should I insist that she visits a doctor?Image

Single Dad.

Dear Single Dad,

Thank you for your question. This can be a very difficult topic for fathers to discuss with their daughters especially in the beginning, but it gets easier once you have the knowledge and can confidently answer the questions that she may have.

Your daughter is right, painful periods are a very common especially for young girls at the early years of their periods. Painful periods, also known as dysmenorrhea, usually cause pain in the lower abdomen, but may also be associated with other symptoms such as pain in the lower back, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and headache. These symptoms vary in severity form one individual to another, as well as from one period to another. The severity of the symptoms is what should dictate whether medical attention is warranted. In mild cases, women are able to control the pain by using home remedies such as hot baths or hot packs and rest. Others will require some pain relievers and other medications used to treat dysmenorrhea.

Some women feel that since periods are just part of being female, then it really isn’t a disease that requires medical attention. This is not true. There are cases when it is advisable to visit a doctor, such as if pain is not relieved by mild pain killers or if it is getting worse with time and if it is keeping her away from school as is the case with your daughter currently. In the same sitting, the doctor is able to assess whether there could be any other cause of the painful periods. There are some pelvic conditions that are known to worsen dysmenorrhea, and an accurate diagnosis is required for appropriate treatment. Therefore, talk to your daughter and explain the necessity for a doctors’ evaluation, which will go a long way in helping her control the pain so that it does not interrupt her school or social life. It will also help reassure you that everything is ok with her, and will promote the communication between the two of you where reproductive health is concerned.


Dear Doctor,

I am 19 years old and I have been suffering from very painful periods since my first period 4 years ago. I have been taking pain killers which have helped relieve the pain. The only problem is that the pain seems to have been getting worse this last year, so I have been taking more and more pain killers. Is this normal?



Dear Mary,

Thank you for your question.

Painful periods, also known as dysmenorrhea, is one of the most common reproductive conditions affecting young women not only in Nairobi but worldwide. As in your case, the pain usually begins when the periods first start and may persist in varying severity. However, in many cases, the pain reduces rather than increases with age. In this case where pain is worsening with time, then it is advisable to visit a doctor to ensure that there is no other cause of the dysmenorrhea. The doctor will take a full history, conduct an examination and order some tests to check for conditions such as fibroids, pelvic inflammatory disease, adenomysosis, and endometriosis among others, which can worsen dysmenorrhea. Treatment of any such condition will result in a reduction in the severity of pain you experience during your periods.

If the doctor does not find any condition that worsens dysmenorrhea, then he/she will be able to prescribe more effective treatment for the pain. This may include changing the pain killers you have been taking, or combining this with other drugs used to treat dysmenorrhea. In addition, you will get advice on some of the non-medicinal approaches that are helpful in controlling the pain during your periods. Therefore, please arrange to visit your doctor as soon as possible for the appropriate attention.


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