Low-dose 'pill' linked to pain during orgasm, study finds

May 3, 2013 by Kathleen Doheny, Healthday Reporter
Low-dose 'Pill' linked to pain during orgasm, study finds
Women on low-estrogen formulations report more pain overall, and during sex.

(HealthDay)—Women taking birth control pills with lower amounts of estrogen—a commonly prescribed contraceptive—may be at higher risk for chronic pelvic pain and pain during orgasm, according to new research.

A study of nearly 1,000 women found that women on the lower-dose were more likely than those on the standard dose (with higher ), or those not on the pill, to report pelvic pain.

"In our practice, we have seen a lot of this anecdotally," said Dr. Nirit Rosenblum, assistant professor of urology at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, a specialist in female pelvic medicine and .

To investigate the potential link further, she compared pain symptoms of women on low-dose birth control pills with those not on pills and those on standard doses.

She is scheduled to present the findings Tuesday at the American Urological Association's annual meeting in San Diego, but acknowledged additional research is needed to understand the association.

For her study, Rosenblum defined low-dose birth control pills as those that contain less than 20 micrograms (mcg) of . (The name often includes the word "lo.") Those that have 20 mcg or more are "standard" or normal dose.

When natural declines at menopause, women can begin to experience pelvic pain, Rosenblum said.

To see if low-estrogen birth control pills might mimic those effects, she evaluated the online survey responses of 932 women, aged 18 to 39, associated with two large universities. Women with a history of pelvic pain, the painful pelvic condition endometriosis or any who were pregnant were excluded from the study.

Women reported if they were on the pill or not and which dose pill. Of the 327 women taking birth control pills, about half used a low-dose pill. The other 605 women did not take the pill.

The women answered questions about pain. Twenty-seven percent of those on a low-dose pill had pelvic pain symptoms or reported compared to 17.5 percent of those not on the pill.

Those on normal-dose pills were less likely to have pelvic pain overall than those not on the pill, she found.

Low-dose pill users were twice as likely to report pain during or after orgasm than those not on the pill: 25 percent versus 12 percent. Those on higher-dose pills reported no difference in pain at sexual climax than those not using .

Dr. Christopher Payne, a professor of urology at Stanford University School of Medicine and director of its division of female urology, said the information could be helpful. However, "I don't know if we can draw any conclusions from this," he added.

"You can only say there is an association [between the low-dose pills and ]," he said. "You can't say it's cause and effect."

However, "it's certainly something people should be knowledgeable about," he added. The proposed mechanism—that the lower estrogen somehow is linked with the pain—is plausible, he said.

"We have observed people who have bladder pain say they often have flare-ups in the premenstrual period, which is the lowest estrogen level of the whole menstrual cycle," Payne said. However, some women also report pain in other parts of the cycle, he said.

"This information could help clinicians be aware there could be a connection between a woman's hormone level and her hormone therapy and their pain," Payne said.

However, he and other pain specialists see a subgroup of women—those who have pain problems. Many women on the low-dose pills could be experiencing no problems at all with the lower estrogen levels, Payne said.

Women using low-dose pills who do experience pain might ask their doctor about switching to another contraceptive or using a higher dose, Rosenblum said. However, higher-dose pills are linked with other risk factors, such as blood clots and strokes, so should discuss the pros and cons with their doctor.

The data and conclusions of research presented at medical meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Explore further: Estrogen helps keep joint pain at bay after hysterectomy

More information: To learn more about pelvic pain, visit the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Related Stories

Estrogen helps keep joint pain at bay after hysterectomy

March 20, 2013
Estrogen therapy can help keep joint pain at bay after menopause for women who have had a hysterectomy. Joint pain was modestly, but significantly, lower in women who took estrogen alone than in women who took placebo in ...

Continuous oral contraceptive pills offer women earlier pain relief

August 15, 2012
(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 ...

Vaginal delivery safest option for women with pelvic girdle pain, study finds

January 17, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Caesarean section increases the risk of persistent pelvic girdle pain after delivery compared with vaginal delivery, according to a new study from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.

Gradual bone reduction seen in some pill users

July 19, 2011
Birth control pills may reduce a woman's bone density, according to a study published online July 13 in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism by Group Health Research Institute (GHRI) scientists. Impacts on ...

Vitamin D3 might ease menstrual cramps

February 28, 2012
(HealthDay) -- Menstrual cramps are the bane of many women, but new research suggests that a form of vitamin D may one day be added to the meager list of pain relievers for the sometimes disabling condition.

Recommended for you

Mind-body therapies immediately reduce unmanageable pain in hospital patients

July 25, 2017
Mindfulness training and hypnotic suggestion significantly reduced acute pain experienced by hospital patients, according to a new study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Study suggests ending opioid epidemic will take years

July 20, 2017
The question of how to stem the nation's opioid epidemic now has a major detailed response. A new study chaired by University of Virginia School of Law Professor Richard Bonnie provides extensive recommendations for curbing ...

Team-based model reduces prescription opioid use among patients with chronic pain by 40 percent

July 17, 2017
A new, team-based, primary care model is decreasing prescription opioid use among patients with chronic pain by 40 percent, according to a new study out of Boston Medical Center's Grayken Center for Addiction Medicine, which ...

Private clinics' peddling of unproven stem cell treatments is unsafe and unethical

July 7, 2017
Stem cell science is an area of medical research that continues to offer great promise. But as this week's paper in Science Translational Medicine highlights, a growing number of clinics around the globe, including in Australia, ...

Popular heartburn drugs linked to higher death risk

July 4, 2017
Popular heartburn drugs called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) have been linked to a variety of health problems, including serious kidney damage, bone fractures and dementia. Now, a new study from Washington University School ...

Most reproductive-age women using opioids also use another substance

June 30, 2017
The majority of reproductive-age and pregnant women who use opioids for non-medical purposes also use at least one other substance, ranging from nicotine or alcohol to cocaine, according to a University of Pittsburgh Graduate ...

0 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.