Continuous oral contraceptive pills offer women earlier pain relief

(Medical Xpress) -- Taking oral contraceptives continuously, rather than as traditionally prescribed for each cycle, provides earlier relief for moderate to severe menstrual cramps -- dysmenorrhea -- according to researchers at Penn State College of Medicine.

Dysmenorrhea occurs during menstruation, resulting from abnormal uterine contractions, increased sensitivity to pain and added pressure in the pelvic area. It is often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache and fatigue.

"Between 50 and 90 percent of women suffer from this condition, and it can really limit work, school, or ," said Dr. Richard Legro, professor of obstetrics and gynecology. "Previous studies have estimated that dysmenorrhea accounts for 600 million lost work hours and $2 billion annually."

Participants in this study suffered from unexplained menstrual pain. Their pain was not attributable to previous surgeries, ovarian cysts, , or other pelvic or bowel diseases. Results were published in Obstetrics and Gynecology.

"Oral contraceptives are often prescribed to treat this condition, since reducing menstruation is a relatively straightforward way to relieve this cramping," said Legro. "However, we wanted to determine whether there was a measurable difference between cyclic and continuous oral contraceptive treatment methods."

Cyclic treatment with mimic a woman's natural cycle by preventing menstruation for 21 days, then stopping the pills for the next 7 so bleeding can occur. The continuous method consists of 28 days of active contraception, with no break for menstruation.

After six months of evaluation, both treatment groups experienced a significant reduction in . However, women taking the continuous contraceptive treatment reported significant relief earlier due to the uninterrupted nature of treatment.

While there is little or no difference in the composition of these two methods -- only the time they're taken -- there are different side effects with each. Patients should consult their doctor before making any changes to their regimen, as further research is needed to determine the risk-to-benefit ratio of extended use of continuous contraception for treatment of primary dysmenorrhea.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New study: Pine bark significantly reduces menstrual pain

Jun 18, 2008

A new study reveals dysmenorrhea, a condition that causes extremely painful menstrual periods affecting millions of women each year, can be reduced naturally by taking Pycnogenol (pic-noj-en-all), pine bark extract from the ...

Recommended for you

Is egg freezing an empowering option for women?

Nov 17, 2014

Katie Hammond, a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology researching the experience of egg donation in Canada, discusses the recent decision by tech giants Facebook and Apple to offer egg freezing to ...

Peripheral nerve blocks OK for migraines in pregnancy

Nov 14, 2014

(HealthDay)—For migraines that do not respond to medications, peripheral nerve blocks may be a treatment option in pregnant women, according to research published online Nov. 5 in Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Hearing the heart of the mother and her baby

Nov 14, 2014

A group of students from the Autonomous Metropolitan University of Mexico (UAM-I) developed a technological portable prototype able to diagnose health conditions in the mother and in the baby by monitoring ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.