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New evidence that the pill benefits period pain

Wednesday January 18th, 2012

New findings published today confirm that the contraceptive pill can reduced the severity of painful periods.

Although widely used for very painful periods (primary dysmenorrhoea), treatment with combined oral contraceptives was questioned in a 2009 Cochrane review which found "limited evidence for pain improvement".

So researchers led by Dr Ingela Lindh of Gothenburg University, Sweden, looked at the effectiveness using a group of 2,102 young women followed from the ages of 19 to 24 years.

Findings are reported in the journal Human Reproduction. "The severity of dysmenorrhoea was significantly lower in combined oral contraceptive users compared with non-users," say the team.

Combined oral contraceptive use and increasing age were both linked with dysmenorrhoea, they add, possibly because childbirth reduces the severity of the pain. However, "use of the pill reduced the severity of dysmenorrhoea more than increasing age and childbirth," they conclude.

Dr Lindh said: "Painful periods occur frequently, particularly in young women where as many as 50 to 75 per cent suffer from dysmenorrhoea. It can have a detrimental effect on these women's lives, causing regular absenteeism from school and work, and interfering with their daily activities for several days each month.

"Therefore effective management of dysmenorrhoea is beneficial for both the women affected and society."

She believes that information about the effects of the pill on painful periods should be included in contraceptive advice, "as it has been shown that women who experience a beneficial effect of combined oral contraceptives other than contraception, such as a reduction in dysmenorrhoea, are more likely to continue with the pill".

The effect of combined oral contraceptives and age on dysmenorrhoea: an epidemiological study. Lindh, I. et al. Human Reproduction January 18 2012 doi:10.1093/humrep/der417

Tags: Europe | Pharmaceuticals | Women’s Health & Gynaecology

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