Hormonal Contraceptives and Menorrhagia Treatment

Menorrhagia is the medical term for heavy menstrual bleeding. If left untreated, menorrhagia can lead to iron deficiency anemia. It is estimated that about 20% of women of reproductive age experience heavy bleeding.

Birth control pills
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Can Hormonal Contraceptives Be Part of a Menorrhagia Treatment Plan?

Hormonal contraceptives (like the pill) help to lower overall bleeding episodes. Because of this, hormonal contraception may be especially helpful as part of menorrhagia treatment.

Plus, these birth control methods are a reversible and have less serious side effects than other treatment options. The alternative menorrhagia treatment is a surgical procedure called endometrial ablation. This procedure leads to sterilization.

You may have chosen to use hormonal birth control methods because it is effective and easy of use. But hormonal birth control has non-contraceptive benefits as well, one of which is that certain formulations can be part of a menorrhagia treatment plan.

Which Hormonal Contraceptives Can Be Part of My Menorrhagia Treatment?

The following is a list of specific prescription birth control methods that have been shown to be helpful in providing some help for menorrhagia. These may be good treatment options if you want to get pregnant in the future:

  • Combined Hormonal Contraceptives: These birth control methods contain both a progestin and synthetic estrogen. Combination birth control can lower heavy menstrual bleeding for a lot of women. So it is a reasonable option to initially try as part of your menorrhagia treatment. 
  • Combination Birth Control Pills: Monthly blood loss can be significantly reduced with the use of combination birth control pills. Research has also shown that triphasic combination pills (birth control pills that have changing levels of estrogen and progestin — to more closely mimic the hormonal phases during your menstrual cycle) have been especially successful at lowering the menstrual blood loss linked to menorrhagia.
  • Extended Cycle Birth Control Pills: Continuous birth control pills (like Amethyst, Yaz, BeyazSeasonique, and Lo Loestrin Fe) also help to lower your overall bleeding episodes. These extended cycle pills can be especially helpful in the management of menorrhagia. You can also use regular birth control pills to skip your period — this can also provide you with some relief.
  • Progestin-Only Contraceptives: These hormonal contraceptives are a good alternative if you want to use hormonal birth control, but you can't use a method that has estrogen. Progestin-only birth control options can help lower your bleeding days during your monthly period. Some of these methods may actually cause you to not have a period at all. Because of this, progestin-only contraception may be a possible part of your menorrhagia treatment plan.
  • Mirena IUD: The Mirena IUD is also a progestin-only method. For women with menorrhagia, research shows that Mirena lowers menstrual blood loss and improves quality of life as well as endometrial ablation — but Mirena has less serious side effects. Research shows women with heavy bleeding who use a a progestin-only IUD experience an up to 90% reduction in monthly blood loss.

Compared to women who use progestin-only pills (with the progestin norethindrone), women who use the Mirena IUD for menorrhagia treatment seem to be more satisfied and willing to continue with this as their menorrhagia treatment. Mirena may actually be a more effective treatment option than these birth control pills. So much so that now Mirena is FDA-approved to help treat heavy periods.

A Quick Disclaimer

Keep in mind that every woman may have different reactions to specific birth control methods. So even though hormonal birth control can be a helpful part of menorrhagia treatment, this information is meant to be a general overview.

The main reason to use hormonal birth control is for contraception (to prevent an unintended pregnancy) — but, if you suffer from menorrhagia, talk to your healthcare provider about some of these possible non-contraceptive benefits. It doesn't hurt to factor in some of these possible benefits when deciding about which hormonal contraceptive you will ultimately use.

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