We can probably agree that menstrual cramps are ~the worst~. While some people use heating pads, ibuprofen, or essential oils to help relieve the pain, others rely on their birth control to help. Yes, there is birth control you can take if you deal with bad cramps. If you’re not taking it already, you may want to try it out, so why not look into the options? It’s a win-win when you think about — birth control and cramp remedy all in one package.
Of course, it goes without saying that non-hormonal birth control, such as the copper IUD and condoms, are not cramp solutions. In fact, a copper IUD can make cramps worse, not better.
“ParaGard may actually increase cramps,” Dr. Michael Krychman, MD, OB/GYN, sexual medicine gynecologist and the executive director of the Southern California Center for Sexual Health and Survivorship Medicine, tells HelloGiggles.
But some kinds of IUDS, aka LARCs (Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptions) help alleviate menstrual cramps.
“Dysmenorrhea, or painful periods and cramps, happen when the uterus and its lining produce prostaglandins, which induce contractions and painful cramps,” Dr. Krychman says.
“Almost all combined oral contraceptives act to suppress and/or stop ovulation, which, in turn, decrease the endometrial lining and will decrease the amount of cramp-producing prostaglandins.”
Dr. Krychman also recommends taking an NSAID periodically to lessen your cramps.
“As a general rule, both the birth control pill and the hormonal IUD (multiple brands/doses) are both very helpful for dysmenorrhea,” she tells HG.
So, yes, aside from preventing pregnancy and regulating your menstrual periods, birth control pills also make your cramps less severe. Similarly, while hormonal IUDs prevent fertilization — the sperm can’t reach the uterus — they reduce menstrual bleeding and cramping as well.
ICYMI, an IUD is shaped like a “T” and inserted into your uterus.
Of course, your doctor will help you choose what type of birth control to help with your cramps, whether it’s the pill or a hormonal IUD. As a reminder, if you need help remembering to take the pill every day, there are period tracking apps to help. Phew!
As for non-copper IUDs that are solid cramp fighters, common hormonal ones are Mirena, Liletta, Skyla, and Kyleena devices. They contain the hormone progestin, which prevents pregnancy in two ways — it thickens cervical mucus, which serves to block sperm, and it prevents ovulation.
In addition, many people love IUDs since they last a long time and you don’t have to take it daily, like birth control pills. For instance, the Mirena IUD is effective for approximately five years. And the good news? You can get the IUD removed anytime.
Plus, IUDs are super popular among female OB/GYNS; they prefer IUDs over other birth control methods. According to a 2015 study in the journal Contraception, 42 percent of providers used LARCs, like IUDs, versus 12 percent of women in the general population.
However, regarding which hormonal birth control method is best for you, everybody — and every body — is different.
“This isn’t a one-size-fits-all question, it may vary between women,” Jennifer Wider, MD, and women’s health expert, tells HG. “But in general, birth control options with low-dose estrogen-progesterone and progesterone-only tend to help alleviate period cramps.”
Though menstrual cramps seem like a necessary evil, they don’t have to be. But, “getting to the root of bad cramps is essential since treating the underlying cause is ideal,” Dr. Dweck says. “Some causes include endometriosis, fibroids, and just idiopathic bad cramps.”
So, as usual regarding health-related matters, when in doubt, go get checked out.