It’s been almost two years since I wrote my first blog on using birth control for period pain, which you can find here. As more time has passed, and I’ve had some interesting experiences, I thought it was worth it to give you guys an update. It’s timely as well, considering the fact that the FDA recently approved the first nonprescription daily oral contraceptive. But before I share my pros and cons with you, I want to talk to you about what birth control actually is and how it affects your period.
What is birth control?
Birth control can refer to medicines, devices, or surgery that prevent pregnancy.
This is its main purpose. Birth control prevents pregnancy by stopping ovulation, or the releasing of the egg from the ovaries. Technically, you cannot have a period without ovulating, although some do experience abnormal bleeding. This is referred to as anovulatory bleeding, a non-cyclic, irregular, uterine bleeding. The bleeding you may experience when taking the birth control pill is referred to as withdrawal bleeding, which mimics a typical period. You can start to see now why birth control may be helpful for those who experience period pain. By stopping ovulation, you are not having a real period, which is why some people find relief. Birth control comes in the form of pills, injections, patches, vaginal rings, and more. My experience has only been with birth control pills, and that’s what I’ll be discussing in this blog.
Does it work?
The short answer? Yes. Birth control can help reduce period pain and PMS symptoms. I remember feeling so free and relieved when, after a long time of not using birth control, I went back on the pill. I could move around, and even danced that day! It worked! After a while however, I didn’t like how my body felt when taking the pill. These pills do have side effects, such as irregular menstrual bleeding, nausea, headaches, dizziness, breast tenderness, mood changes, and blood clots (which are rare in non-smokers under 35).
After a while, I started noticing mood changes. Even though I had PMS before going on the pill, these mood changes occurred all throughout the month. I felt confused, like I wasn’t in control of my own emotions. It became clear that my mood was being affected by the medication and not other factors. Later on I discovered that a previous doctor had put me on a low dosage pill, and my body wasn’t responding to that pill well. As more time passed, my cramps became painful. It still wasn’t as painful as before, but it was painful enough to leave me stuck in bed for hours. I also experienced nausea and would have periods of time where I could only eat bland food.
Do the pros outweigh the cons?
Don’t let my experience scare you off! Everyone’s body is different, and it takes some experimenting to find the right birth control pill and/or method for you. So, do the pros outweigh the cons? That really depends on the person and the season of life you’re in. During the seasons that I used birth control, it was helpful because I had a busy schedule and didn’t have to map out my month based on my period. In other seasons, the pros don’t outweigh the cons because I want to understand my body better and treat the root cause.
A Closer Look At The Pros and Cons
You have to ask yourself what is best for you in this season, and keep in mind that you may need to experiment with different birth control options before finding the one that works for you. It’s not necessarily a quick fix. Here’s my personal pros and cons:
1. Pro - It does help manage the pain.
Even when it didn’t completely take away my pain, my cramps were never as bad as they had been when I didn’t take birth control. Sometimes I would be bedridden, feel fatigued, and have cramps, but at least I could enjoy a movie and fall asleep.
2. Pro - Less bleeding.
I experience less bleeding when I’m on the pill and that’s a blessing! Sometimes I would hardly bleed at all. This is a very different experience from my typical period.
3. Pro - Faster recovery time
If you have dysmenorrhea, you know that even when the height of your pain is over, it can take days to recover. On the pill my energy levels would usually return to normal faster, and I could resume my normal activities.
1. Cons - It may take time to find the right pill for you.
I know that when you’re in pain, what you want most of all is the quickest pain relief option. That goes for any situation, not just periods. Unfortunately the birth control pill may not offer you immediate relief. As I mentioned before, it may take time to find the right birth control pill or method for you. You have to pay attention to how the medication makes your body feel.
2. Cons - The birth control pill is not a medication specifically for periods.
The purpose of the pill is to prevent pregnancy, not to treat your pain. Thus, its primary goal is not geared towards dysmenorrhea. It may be more important that you look at the root cause of your pain. You may have endometriosis, adenomyosis, or fibroids for example. This is a secondary cause that may require a different treatment.
Before I go any further, if you want to understand your body better and take some steps towards improving your menstrual cycle, check out Amber’s Care Period Box. This box was put together with you in mind! If you’re interested, click on the image below.
3. Cons - Side effects
As mentioned before, some people experience side effects when taking birth control. It’s up to you to decide if it’s worth it to endure the side effects to reap the benefits. Be sure to talk with a doctor if you are experiencing side effects, and see what other options are available to you.
Period pain is such a difficult thing to live with. Please know that you are not alone. We hope this information is helpful for you. Remember to discuss your concerns about birth control with a doctor, and do your research.