Can Birth Control Be a Dysmenorrhea Treatment?

woman balled up on bed with cramps
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Dysmenorrhea is the medical term used for when you have 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 percent of young women. ​Birth control pills (as well as other hormonal contraceptives) can help in the treatment of dysmenorrhea.

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.

The Best 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: These pills contain both estrogen and progestin. Combination pills can help relieve bad menstrual cramps because they block the production of prostaglandin.
  • NuvaRing: NuvaRing works in the same way that combination pills do and it can help to ease menstrual cramp discomfort.
  • Nexplanon: Nexplanon is a contraceptive, progestin-only implant. It appears that the use of Nexplanon can reduce dysmenorrhea in most women as well.
  • Mirena IUD: There is not much data on using the Mirena IUD for dysmenorrhea treatment. After Mirena is inserted, this IUD can reduce or completely eliminate monthly periods for many women. In theory, having fewer or no periods should make menstrual cramps less likely to occur.
  • The Patch: The contraceptive patch also works like combination birth control pills. Because of this, the patch can help to decrease the pain of dysmenorrhea and menstrual cramps.

Reducing Cramps By Skipping Your Periods

Dysmenorrhea is caused by excess prostaglandins that are released during 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 pillusing 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 doctor about some of these birth control methods and their possible non-contraceptive benefits.

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