Taking the Pill for Painful Periods Could Be a Bad Choice


painful periodsMost 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?


birth control, hormonal imbalances, menstruation, obgyn


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nonmember avatar Manchester

I was prescribed birth control pills for debilitating periods at 16 and used the pills for the next 14 years. When your periods are debilitating, you have to asses the risk vs benefit. There are also low dose versions birth control pills.

nonmember avatar Guest

So my question to you is (since you seem to think you are more informed then my OB/GYN) what are some of these other options you think are better than the pill? You say there are some but you never specify what they are. Not to say that you are wrong, but I would really be curious to hear what is supposed to be better than the pill.

nonmember avatar Ashley

Great information! Also, one thing I sadly didn't learn until I stumbled across an article at age 36 is that tampons can greatly increase cramping! For me it's only during the first couple of days and then I am fine, but that was life-changing information for me. Why didn't the doc mention it???

Kwiat2 Kwiat2


Lynette Lynette

2 more natural things to try before turning to meds is chiropractic care.  It can lessen cramps and regulate periods(which can lessen flow).  Another thing is upping your calcium.

nonmember avatar karin

if the holistic approaches would last longer than a half hour to an hour I would go back to them. I dont have a week to sit with needles in my body, hot compresses and gallons of herbal tea, I have things to do. When severe anemia was added to the killer cramps I only had a few options, slow the bleeding down or be sick 30 days a month, iron transfusions do not sound very enjoyable.

bills... billsfan1104

I heard that tampons cause painful periods too, because of the crap that is on the tampons.

Simpl... Simply_Janeen

I've heard people swear by using apple cider vinegar. I know of at least a couple of people who have been drinking it and have had less painful periods.

There's something called a Mayan Womb Massage that's supposed to be good for that area too.

The big thing would probably be to find out what is causing the issue and figuring out what can be done to take care of it. I was on the pill when I was younger due to painful periods. I was on them off and on from the age of 17 to the age of 24 when I went off after reading some information about the pill. I haven't been on them since and am greatly concerned about going on them ever again. We'll have to see what happens when I get older but so far at least, my periods have stopped being so painful.

slw123 slw123

I think that all women should be informed, but for most taking the pill is still going to be the most reasonable approach.  I am estrogen dominant and it did cause problems for me when we first wanted children.  I would get pregnant and then miscarry at 11 weeks because I didn't make enough progesterone.  Once we figured it out, it still took another pregnancy (and loss) to find out how much progesterone replacement I needed.  In the end it all worked out and I have two wonderful children, but it would have been nice to skip the emotional pain I went through with my losses.  I still choose to take the pill though.

godde... goddess99

When I tried that cure it made me sick.

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