Birth Control Pill Helps Ease Painful Periods, 30-Year Swedish Study Finds

Taking birth-control pills alleviates menstrual pain, according to researchers who have been studying the effect for 30 years.

Scientists at Sweden’s Gothenburg University surveyed 1,400 Swedish women who turned 19 in 1981, 1991 and 2001 on levels of dysmenorrhea, or pain from menstrual periods, and questioned them again when they turned 24. Oral contraceptives reduced pain more than increasing age did, according to the study published today in the journal Human Reproduction.

Dysmenorrhea accounts for an estimated 600 million lost working hours and $2 billion in productivity costs in the U.S., the researchers said. The combined oral contraceptive, or COC, pill is approved as a method of birth control in the U.S. and European Union. The regulatory agencies would require a randomized controlled trial for manufacturers to be able to market the pills for dysmenorrhea. Some doctors already prescribe it “off-label” to help with painful periods.

Using the pill “was shown to reduce dysmenorrhea severity, and this information is important for health providers when informing women of the non-contraceptive benefits of COC during contraceptive counseling,” Ingela Lindh, lead researcher of the study, said in the article.

The study was funded by the Gothenburg Medical Society, the Hjalmar Svenssons Fund and a Swedish government grant.

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To contact the editor responsible for this story: Phil Serafino at

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