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For people with Down syndrome, family members, caregivers and professionals.

Common Symptoms Associated with Menstruation (Periods)

March 2022 | Hannah Graham, MD - Adult Down Syndrome Center

Many women with Down syndrome experience symptoms associated with their period. When those symptoms are consistent or more severe, women are sometimes diagnosed with premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). Additional information about PMS and PMDD in women with Down syndrome can be found at this link.

However, for many women, symptoms associated with periods are mild or come and go. Symptoms associated with menstruation in women with Down syndrome are similar to symptoms experienced by women without Down syndrome. 

Some common symptoms include: 

  • Cramping
  • Nausea
  • Breast tenderness/swelling
  • Weight gain
  • Food cravings
  • Swelling of extremities
  • Less interested in engaging in activities
  • Irritability*

*In our experience, irritability is the most common symptom reported by women with Down syndrome and their families and caregivers. 

Some common treatments include: 

  • Heating pad to the lower back/abdomen
  • Wearing looser fitting bras, shirts, and pants
  • Encouraging good water intake
  • Eating healthy foods
  • Exercising
  • Over-the-counter medications

Traditionally, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or naproxen are the first line medication to use for period cramps and pain. These medicines are excreted by the kidney and should not be used in people with kidney disease. For women who cannot take NSAIDs, we often recommend acetaminophen for pain relief for period cramps.

Other over-the-counter medications are marketed to help with period cramps. Some of these contain caffeine (possibly helpful for period cramps) and diuretics (medicines to urinate out extra water in order to decrease swelling). Discuss with your doctor which of these options might be best for you. 


For additional information on women's health, please see this section of our Resource Library. 

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We offer a variety of resources for people with Down syndrome, their families and caregivers and the professionals who care for and work with them. Search our collection of articles, webinars, videos, and other educational materials.

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Please note: The information on this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to serve as a substitute for a medical, psychiatric, mental health, or behavioral evaluation, diagnosis, or treatment plan by a qualified professional. We recommend you review the educational material with your health providers regarding the specifics of your health care needs.