Most of us ladies at some point have suffered from excruciatingly painful periods (or, in docs' and researchers' lingo, dysmenorrhea). If you've ever gone to your OB/GYN for help, you've probably heard him or her sing the praises of what they consider the #1 "cure" for this problem: The birth control pill. Docs have prescribed it for years off-label as a fix for cramps and heavy bleeding.
Now, there's a new study confirming this long-held belief. The findings, which are published in the journal Human Reproduction, show that women who used a combo estrogen-progestin pill (which is pretty much every mainstream pill these days) suffered less severe pain than women who did not use it. That's fabulous and all, but no one's talking about WHY this is the case?? And that's the most important part!
It never ceases to amaze me how so many women are mis- or un-informed on exactly how their Rx is actually helping them achieve certain results, like "regulating periods" or "treating period pain." It does that by effectively shutting down your reproductive system. The pills' progestin, a synthetic, lab-made version of the natural hormone, signals to your ovaries that they don't have to produce progesterone anymore, and so, as a holistic OB/GYN friend of mine once explained, your ovaries are basically in hibernation while you're on the pill. That "regulated period" isn't a real period -- it's a pseudo one, created by withdrawal when you take the sugar pills in your pack. So, if you're not really menstruating, it should come as no surprise then that period pain also dissipates.
Some women say they could care less how it happens as long as they don't have to deal with the debilitating cramps, and I understand, but at the same time, would you trade a little relief now for more problems down the road? When the ovaries stop making natural progesterone, your body quickly becomes estrogen dominant, a condition that can cause a slew of problems, from weight gain to endometriosis and breast cancer.
Ironically, estrogen dominance is often the root cause of painful periods, so it seems to follow that that's something you wouldn't want to make worse or simply "bandage" with birth control pills ... Instead, you'd want to address the problem at its source!
Clearly, we've got a two-pronged problem here: Women should care enough to ask how their prescriptions work and how they'll affect them, and at the same time, a doctor should be volunteering that information without question.
There are gynos who dole out birth control pills for all different reasons. (Patients deserve to know that sometimes it's because they have a pharmaceutical rep breathing down their neck wanting them to meet certain monthly goals, or because they're sponsored by a certain pill maker.) But when one of the reasons is dysmenorrhea, women deserve to know there's more to the story, and there are better options (like correcting estrogen dominance by limiting xenoestrogen exposure, exercise, stress relief, etc. and/or using targeted supplements, herbs, or acupuncture) that will serve them more holistically in the long-run.
What do you think about using birth control pills for period pain?