Using Birth Control to Reduce Heavy Periods

Lynsey Keep, RN
A woman tired of having heavy periods

Many women of child-bearing age question if there is a link between birth control and heavy periods.

Menorrhagia

Heavy periods, or menorrhagia as its officially known, is a problem that many women face. The periods can be heavy and long in duration as well, causing a woman to feel physically exhausted and emotionally drained. For some, heavy periods can be debilitating, inconvenient to daily routine, and socially embarrassing.

Some women find it difficult to define whether their menstrual flow is heavier then normal. Indicators of this include:

  • An increase in the need to change sanitary wear, with unexpected 'flooding' being a problem.
  • Evidence of blood clots in the blood loss.
  • Bleeding for longer than seven days or more frequently than every 21 days.

There are several causes for heavy menstrual periods, the most common being:

  • Dysfunctional uterine bleeding - where there is no specific cause but the problems has been formally identified.
  • Fibroids
  • Endometriosis
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
  • The use of intra-uterine contraceptive devices
  • Endometrial polyps
  • Congenital uterine abnormality

The causes of heavy periods are lengthy. It often requires a thorough investigation to establish what the exact causes is, however, the use of birth control pills to treat heavy periods is relatively universal.

Birth Control and Heavy Periods: One of Many Choices

Birth control fortunately has other equally useful benefits as well as preventing against unwanted pregnancy. Certain pills may also control problems like acne and skin complaints, but they may also be effective as a treatment for heavy bleeding.

Combined Oral Contraceptive Pill

This birth control pill has two active ingredients, hence the word 'combined'. These ingredients are ethinylestradiol and levonorgestrel. The two act as synthetic versions of the better known hormones 'estrogen' and 'progesterone'. This type of pill works simply by over-riding the menstrual cycle to stop the action of the menstrual blood loss. Estrogen and progesterone usually drop at the end of the cycle and this is when a woman has her period.

Mirena Coil

The Mirena is popularly used as a long-term method of contraceptive but it has become well known for it use in the treatment of heavy periods. This tiny device is inserted by a physician and placed at the top of the cervix. It offers contraceptive protection by means of a steady release of hormones, which are imbedded in the device. In many who use it, the Mirena causes absent periods, but some women still have a light blood loss. In very few cases, the Mirena has the opposite effect and increases menstrual blood flow, however, this is usually only for a short time.

The Mirena also benefits women by having a 'life-span' of five years. For women who have been kidnapped by months or years of heavy periods, the sheer relief of a device that can be inserted and forgotten about for that long is hugely desirable.

Finding What Is Right For You

The FDA doesn't recommend women use their 'everyday' birth control pills to stop periods. Some women, for example those going on vacation, may choose not to have a break in their pill pack so that they subsequently do not have a period. But this is not a good idea as it can disrupt the cycle, particularly if done on a regular basis.

A physician will decide on the best form of treatment after a full history has been taken. Don't despair if suffering from a heavy menstrual loss, birth control and heavy periods really do provide effective short or long term treatment for what is an extremely upsetting and debilitating problem.

Using Birth Control to Reduce Heavy Periods