Washington: Taking oral contraceptive pills continuously, rather than as traditionally prescribed for each cycle, provides earlier relief from moderate to severe menstrual cramps, a new study has claimed.
The severe pain - dysmenorrhea - occurs during menstruation, resulting from abnormal uterine contractions, and increased sensitivity to pain and added pressure in the pelvic area.
It is often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, headache and fatigue.
“Between 50 and 90 percent of women suffer from this condition, and it can really limit work, school, or athletic performance,” Dr. Richard Legro, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Penn State College of Medicine, said.
“Previous studies have estimated that dysmenorrhea accounts for 600 million lost work hours and $2 billion annually,” he said.
Participants in the study suffered from unexplained menstrual pain. Their pain was not attributable to previous surgeries, ovarian cysts, endometriosis, or other pelvic or bowel diseases.
“Oral contraceptives are often prescribed to treat this condition, since reducing menstruation is a relatively straightforward way to relieve this cramping,” Legro said.
“However, we wanted to determine whether there was a measurable difference between cyclic and continuous oral contraceptive treatment methods,” he said.
Cyclic treatment with oral contraceptives mimic a woman’s natural cycle by preventing menstruation for 21 days, then stopping the pills for the next 7 so bleeding can occur.
The continuous method consists of 28 days of active contraception, with no break for menstruation.
After six months of evaluation, both treatment groups experienced a significant reduction in menstrual pain. However, women taking the continuous contraceptive treatment reported significant pain relief earlier due to the uninterrupted nature of treatment.
While there is little or no difference in the composition of these two methods - only the time they’re taken - there are different side effects with each.
The study has been published in Obstetrics and Gynecology.