Sammy Nickalls
March 19, 2016 7:00 am

Some of us have had our periods for decades, but are still mystified about what’s going on down there and why. In the new HelloGiggles series “Period Talk,” we’ll ask gynecologists our biggest questions about all things period-related and finally get the answers to what is really going on . . . because everyone should be up-to-date on that time of the month!

Next up, we have a question about how to manage those dreaded cramps with birth control!

Q: Are there better and worse types of birth control to manage cramps?

Cramps. UGH. We’ve all been there and it’s NOT pretty. The good news is, though, that some types of birth control can help manage cramps and alleviate the pain, bloating, and all-around suckiness that comes with it.

Non-hormonal methods, like condoms and the copper IUD, will do nothing to manage cramps, Baltimore OB/GYN Dr. Lindsay Appel told HelloGiggles. However, estrogen-progesterone birth control and progesterone-only birth control can alleviate the pain associated with periods. But which method is better?

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“Neither option is necessarily better than the other, but the methods have different side effects which may be more desirable for certain people,” Appel said. “For example, estrogen-progesterone methods like birth control pills and the NuvaRing not only can help with cramping but also provide a predictable menstrual cycle with monthly periods. This may be useful for people who have irregular cycles or prefer to have a monthly period.”

If you have a heavy period, or if you want to make your period disappear altogether, there are other birth control options that help with your cramps and in other ways. “[P]rogesterone-only methods like Depo-Provera, the Mirena IUD, and the Nexplanon implant are also effective in treating cramping but are usually associated with decreased bleeding and in some people, no period altogether,” Appel told us. “Bleeding can sometimes be unpredictable with these methods but it is usually light. So the progesterone-only methods may be useful in somebody who has heavy periods.” (It’s important to remember that if you’re having life-altering, blindingly painful cramps, you should see your doctor to rule out possible health issues like endometriosis.)

While some birth control methods can alleviate cramping, the best defense is a good offense, said board-certified gynecologist Dr. Felice Gersh of Integrative Medical Group of Irvine. “Much of menstrual cramping occurs because women are deficient in B vitamins, magnesium, antioxidants, and other nutrients,” she told HelloGiggles. The best treatment might be preventative, she continued, explaining how “lifestyle changes including a healthy diet, adequate sleep and nutritional supplementation” are all “more natural ways to relieve cramping by alleviating the underlying cause.”

You heard the doctor: Next time your cramps have got you down, grab a heating pad and treat yo’self.

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If you have a question for Period Talk, email sammy@hellogiggles.com for your chance at getting an answer.

More from Period Talk: This is why your boobs are so sore before your period

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