Continuous Oral Contraception Offers More Comfort For Menstrual Cramps Than Other Methods
August 16, 2012

Continuous Oral Contraception Offers More Comfort For Menstrual Cramps Than Other Methods

Connie K. Ho for — Your Universe Online

Premenstrual syndrome can be a difficult time of the month for females. Recently, researchers sought to study the effects of different contraceptive methods on the menstrual cycle.

Scientists at Penn State College of Medicine recently discovered that women who take oral contraceptive on a continuous basis, rather than during each menstrual cycle, have relief for moderate to severe cramps at an earlier rate.

The cramps, known as dysmenorrheal, take place during menstruation are due to abnormal uterine contractions, added pressure in the pelvic area, and heightened sensitivity to pain. Those who have dysmenorrheal may also suffer from diarrhea, headache, fatigue, nausea, and vomiting. The researchers believe that a large number of women are affected by the disorder.

"Between 50 and 90 percent of women suffer from this condition, and it can really limit work, school, or athletic performance," explained Dr. Richard Legro, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Penn State, in a prepared statement. "Previous studies have estimated that dysmenorrhea accounts for 600 million lost work hours and $2 billion annually."

In this particular study, the participants felt unexplained menstrual pain. The pain was not related to endometriosis, ovarian cysts, previous surgeries, or other diseases related to the pelvic or bowel area. The findings were recently published in Obstetrics and Gynecology. It is the official publication of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, working to promote excellence in the clinical practice of obstetrics and gynecology.

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

Having cyclic treatment with oral contraceptives is similar to a women´s natural cycle by stopping menstruation for 21 days and then stopping the pills for the following seven so that bleeding can happen. On the other hand, the continuous method involves 28 days of active contraception and no stop for menstruation.

The researchers looked at both methods over a six-month period and determined that each group of women had a significant decrease in menstrual pain. Though, women who participated in continuous contraceptive treatment demonstrated more pain relief earlier because the treatment progressed with no interruptions.

As well, the researchers believe that continuous contraceptive treatment and cyclic contraceptive treatment have different side effects. Patients should speak to their doctors before deciding to make changes to their regimen. They believe that more research needs to be done in this area to better understand the risk-to-benefit ration of using continuous contraception to treat primary dysmenorrhea.

The study was supported through funding from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, an arm of the National Institutes of Health. The organization was developed to conduct and support research regarding the health of children, adults, families, and various groups. Topics include improving health of women, men, and families as well as understanding reproductive health and fertility/infertility.