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Painful Periods – Can Combined Oral Contraceptive Pill Help?

September 29th, 2017

Painful Periods – Can Combined Oral Contraceptive Pill Help?

Painful Periods – Can Combined Oral Contraceptive Pill Help?

Painful menstruation (also known as dysmenorrhea) is a serious condition that affects a large population of adult women, up to 50 to 75% according to new estimates. Moderate to severe pain during menstruation can take a huge toll of mental, physical and emotional health. Although, there are a number of therapeutic and non-therapeutic options available to alleviate acute pain; a new study has suggested that oral contraceptive pills can alleviate the symptoms of pain during menstruation.

The results of this 30-year study were published in the peer-reviewed journal Human Reproduction.

How Can Oral Contraceptive Pills Help?

Lead investigators of this study from Gothenburg University, Sweden, Dr Ingela Lindh analyzed the data and suggested that women who take combined oral contraceptive pills are less likely to experience significant pain and discomfort during menstruation compared to other females in the similar age group.

The team of investigators also explained that dysmenorrhea is seen more frequently in women of younger age groups; and in most cases, the symptoms tend to improve as the women age. Nonetheless, the symptomatic relief from combined oral contraceptive pills is independent of the age of women.

For the purpose of this study, data was collected from about 400 to 520 women over a course of 30-year period (i.e. 1981, 1991, and 2001), when these females reached the age of 19. Information regarding various menstrual parameters were collected, such as reproductive history, menstrual history, height, weight, menstrual patterns etc. These women were also followed -up after 5 years, when they were 24 years.

Normal Menstrual Cycle Image

The 5-year lag in the follow-up enabled these females to compare their symptoms at 19 and 24 years of age; as well as to experience the impact of combined oral contraceptive pills and age on their menstrual symptoms.

Investigators used two main scoring systems to calculate the impact of age and COC on the intensity and severity ofpain during menstrual cycle.

  • VAS or visual analogue scale in which the females defined the intensity of pain on a scale of 1 (no pain) to 10 (severe pain)
  • VMS or Verbal multidimensional scoring system in which females describe how pain affected various aspects of their daily life

It was observed that females who took COC reported 0.3 unit decrease in the intensity of pain compared to the women who did not took COC. In addition, it was also observed that aging and childbirth also improved in the symptoms and intensity of menstrual pain; however, there is limited evidence that childbirth actually reduces the intensity of menstrual pain.

Dysmenorrhea is a serious issue that accounts for approximately 600 million hours in lost productivity in United States alone; causing $2 billion annually to the country. If you are suffering from disabling menorrhea, it is highly recommended to speak to your doctor about viable options like combined oral contraceptive pills. It has been observed that women who understand the efficacy of COC as a good contraceptive and understand the benefits in the setting of menorrhea are more likely to stay compliant with this regimen.


  • Powell, A. (2017). Choosing the Right Oral Contraceptive Pill for Teens. Pediatric Clinics, 64(2), 343-358.
  • Priya, K., Rajaram, S., & Goel, N. (2016). Comparison of combined hormonal vaginal ring and low dose combined oral hormonal pill for the treatment of idiopathic chronic pelvic pain: a randomised trial. European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, 207, 141-146.

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