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Can The Pill Help With an Irregular Period?

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Updated February 25, 2011

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Question: Can The Pill Help With an Irregular Period?

Many women suffer from an irregular period. Some women become anxious over having a long menstrual cycle, while others are concerned about not knowing when their period will start. Menstrual cycles can become unpredictable due to infrequent, irregular, or no ovulation patterns. Combination hormonal contraceptives, like The Pill, can provide the benefit of helping you regulate your monthly cycle or skip periods altogether. This can offer some relief for an irregular period.

Answer:

The Pill is one of the most widely used birth control methods. Women choose the Pill, as well as other hormonal contraception, due to its high effectiveness and ease of use. Yet, many pill users may not be aware of some of its noncontraceptive benefits. In fact, certain hormonal contraceptives can provide help with an irregular period.

Given that every women may have different reactions to specific birth control methods, this information is intended as a general overview. The main reason to use the Pill is for contraception (to prevent an unintended pregnancy) -- however, possible noncontraceptive benefits can be considered when determining which hormone birth control method to ultimately use.

The following is a list of specific prescription birth control methods that have been shown to be effective in providing some help for an irregular period:

  • Combination Pills: These birth control pills can help control menstrual cycles and irregular periods. Using combination pills can lead to a perfect and predictable 28-day cycle.

  • Extended Cycle Pills: Birth control pills such as Seasonique and Lybrel can help to delay (or completely stop) monthly bleeding. However, spotting may be more common during the first few months of use with these extended cycle pills.

  • Combination Hormonal Contraceptives: These birth control methods contain a synthetic estrogen and progestin. In addition to combination pills, the NuvaRing and the Patch fall under this category of contraceptives. Combination birth control can help skip periods for women who anticipate inconvenient menstrual bleeding during travel or important life events.
  • Progestin-Only Pills: These birth control pills are thought to prevent ovulation in approximately 50% of women; the remainder of women using this method will continue to have periods on a regular basis. Progestin-only pills may help some women who suffer from an irregular period.

  • Other Progestin-Only Methods: Progestin-only contraceptives such as Depo Provera, Mirena, and Implanon may initially result in unscheduled spotting/breakthrough bleeding. Over time, though, these methods can lead to diminished blood loss as a substantial number of women using these methods stop getting monthly periods altogether. Mirena, Implanon and Depo Provera may be good solutions for long-term menstrual cycle suppression provided that immediate relief from an irregular period is not expected. These methods are also helpful alternatives for women who can't use estrogen-based contraceptives.

Sources:

Archer DF, Jensen JT, Johnson JV, Borisute H, Grubb GS, Constantine GD. "Evaluation of a continuous regimen of levonorgestrel/ethinyl estradiol: Phase 3 study results." Contraception 2006; 74:439–45. Accessed via private subscription.

Kim-Bjorklund T, Landgren BM, Hamberger L. "Is the contraceptive effect of 300 micrograms of norethisterone mainly peripheral or central?" Contraception 1992; 45:57–66. Accessed via private subscription.

Steinauer J, Autry AM. "Extended cycle combined hormonal contraception." Obstet Gynecol Clin North Am 2007; 34:43–55. Accessed via private subscription.

Stewart FH, Kaunitz AM, Laguardia KD, Karvois DL, Fisher AC, Friedman AJ. "Extended use of transdermal norelgestromin/ethinyl estradiol: A randomized trial." Obstet Gynecol 2005; 105:1389–96. Accessed via private subscription.

Sulak PJ, Smith V, Coffee A, Witt I, Kuehl AL, Kuehl TJ. "Frequency and management of breakthrough bleeding with continuous use of the transvaginal contraceptive ring: A randomized controlled trial." Obstet Gynecol 2008; 112:563–71. Accessed via private subscription.

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