Background: Menstrual discomfort is common among women of reproductive age and can be debilitating. The accuracy of self-report of menstrual discomfort is unknown.
Methods: At enrollment into the DES Reproductive Health Study in 1990, premenopausal women classified their frequency of any menstrual discomfort as “always,” “often,” “sometimes,” and “never.” Subsequently, women provided daily diary information for up to 6 months regarding any menstrual discomfort and medication used for menstrual pain.
Results: A total of 324 women contributed data on 4 or more menstrual cycles in the prospective study. At enrollment, 10% had reported never having menstrual discomfort. Of these, 65% recorded at least 1 day of menstrual discomfort during follow-up. For the 27% who had reported always having discomfort, 88% recorded discomfort in all cycles. The enrollment statement of discomfort was more strongly correlated with the percentage of cycles in which women took medication for menstrual pain; respondents who said they never had menstrual discomfort reported use of pain medication in 3% of cycles; sometimes, 36%; often, 67%; and always, 92%. The average number of days per cycle with prospectively recorded menstrual discomfort was also correlated with the enrollment response.
Conclusions: A single question regarding frequency of menstrual discomfort was positively correlated with prospectively recorded menstrual discomfort and especially with pain requiring medication.