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18-01-2012 | General practice | Article

Combined pill ‘reduces menstrual pain’


Free abstract

MedWire News: Use of the combined oral contraceptive (COC) pill reduces the severity of dysmenorrhoea, research appears to confirm.

The study from Sweden found that COC use was associated with reduced menstrual pain measured on two different scales, independently of increasing age. The authors believe the findings mean clinicians can now discuss the potential benefit with women more confidently, after a previous Cochrane review concluded there was limited evidence for pain improvement.

Dr Ingela Lindh and colleagues from Gothenburg University assessed current severity of dysmenorrhoea in three groups of 520 women aged 19 years in 1981, 1991 and 2001, and then reassessed them again 5 years later.

The team looked at the effect of COC use on each individual woman's pain scores over the study period. Their analysis showed that COC use independently reduced pain on the verbal multidimensional scoring system by 0.3 units, which Lindh explained meant women went down from, for example, severe to moderate pain, while having improved working ability and reduced need for analgesics. COC use was also associated with a 9 mm reduction in menstrual pain on the visual analogue scale.

"Information about the effects of COC use on painful periods should be included in contraceptive counselling, as it has been shown that women who experience a beneficial effect of COCs other than contraception, such as a reduction in dysmenorrhoea, are more likely to continue with the pill," Dr Lindh noted in a press statement.

Although a randomised trial of the effects on dysmenorrhoea specifically would be needed before approval for the indication, some GPs already prescribe COCs 'off-label' to alleviate painful periods, and Dr Lindh stressed that until such a trial is performed, "our study has clearly indicated a beneficial influence of COCs on the prevalence and severity of dysmenorrhoea".

GP News is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Caroline Price