Can Birth Control Be a Dysmenorrhea Treatment?

Dysmenorrhea is the medical term for painful menstrual cramps that occur immediately before or during your period. The pain can be so bad that it limits your daily activities.

Dysmenorrhea is the most commonly reported menstrual disorder. It can affect up to 90% of young women. ​Birth control pills (as well as other hormonal contraceptives) can help in the treatment of dysmenorrhea.

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Cause of Dysmenorrhea

Painful menstrual cramps are triggered by the release of prostaglandins. These are natural substances that are made by cells in the inner lining of the uterus and other parts of your body.

Prostaglandins that are made in the uterus cause your uterine muscles to contract. This helps to shed the built-up uterine lining during your monthly period. If your uterus makes too much prostaglandin, dysmenorrhea can occur.

Birth Control for Managing Cramps

Hormonal birth control is easy to use and effective at preventing pregnancy. Certain birth control methods can provide non-contraceptive benefits as well.

Some hormonal contraceptives have been shown to lower the pain associated with dysmenorrhea. The following is a list of the prescription birth control methods that have been shown to be helpful in relieving some bad menstrual cramp pain:

  • Combination birth control pills: Containing both estrogen and progestin, these pills help relieve bad menstrual cramps by blocking prostaglandin production.
  • NuvaRing: NuvaRing works like combination pills to ease menstrual cramps.
  • Nexplanon: This progestin-only implant appears to reduce dysmenorrhea in most women.
  • Mirena IUD: While there's not much data supporting it, this IUD may reduce or eliminate monthly periods for many women, which should theoretically make menstrual cramps less likely.
  • The Patch: The contraceptive patch also works like combination birth control pills and can help to decrease menstrual pain.

Skipping Your Period

Since extended-cycle birth control pills can reduce or completely get rid of your period, they should also provide you relief from dysmenorrhea pain.

You can also lessen painful menstrual cramps by skipping your period with the pill, using NuvaRing, or with the patch.

A Word From Verywell

The main reason to use hormonal contraception is for birth control. Women may react differently to specific birth control methods.

If you have painful menstrual cramps or dysmenorrhea, ask your healthcare provider about some of these birth control methods and their possible non-contraceptive benefits.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Dmitrovic R, Kunselman AR, Legro RS. Continuous compared with cyclic oral contraceptives for the treatment of primary dysmenorrhea: a randomized controlled trialObstet Gynecol. 2012;119(6):1143–1150. doi:10.1097/AOG.0b013e318257217a

  2. Bernardi M, Lazzeri L, Perelli F, Reis FM, Petraglia F. Dysmenorrhea and related disordersF1000Res. 2017;6:1645. Published 2017 Sep 5. doi:10.12688/f1000research.11682.1

  3. Carvalho N, Margatho D, Cursino K, Benetti-Pinto CL, Bahamondes L. Control of endometriosis-associated pain with etonogestrel-releasing contraceptive implant and 52-mg levonorgestrel-releasing intrauterine system: randomized clinical trialFertility and Sterility. 2018;110(6):1129-1136. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2018.07.003

  4. Ramazanzadeh F, Tavakolianfar T, Shariat M, Purafzali Firuzabadi SJ, Hagholahi F. Levonorgestrel-releasing IUD versus copper IUD in control of dysmenorrhea, satisfaction and quality of life in women using IUDIran J Reprod Med.

  5. Hillard PA. Menstrual suppression: current perspectivesInt J Womens Health. 2014;6:631–637. Published 2014 Jun 23. doi:10.2147/IJWH.S46680

Additional Reading

By Dawn Stacey, PhD, LMHC
Dawn Stacey, PhD, LMHC, is a published author, college professor, and mental health consultant with over 15 years of counseling experience.