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Do Birth Control Pills Help Control PMS?

Do Birth Control Pills Help Control PMS?


Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) affects nearly 75 percent of women in some capacity. However, the government’s National Women’s Health Information Center estimates that more than a third experience PMS symptoms that are severe enough to interfere with daily life. This usually goes beyond the minor cramps, bloating and slight emotional sensitivity that is common with PMS. More severe cases can also include nausea, diarrhea, migraines, depression, extreme irritability and debilitating fatigue. Many women who are burdened by PMS avoid birth control, believing that it will only worsen their symptoms. However, research has shown that it can actually help.

Water Retention

Increases in certain hormones before your period cause your body to store water in its tissues, making you look and feel like you’ve gained weight. While this isn’t inherently problematic, it can be an annoyance. Some types of birth control have a diuretic effect that will combat this.

Pain Relief

Some women endure cramps that are nauseatingly painful. Taking birth control reduces your body’s amounts of prostaglandin, a substance that causes uterine contractions. Breast swelling and tenderness is another frequent issue. Because prostaglandin also plays a role in this, birth control can even help to reduce this discomfort.


When levels of sex hormones become high, the sebaceous glands of the skin begin to secrete more oil. This increased oil production causes more dirt and bacteria to adhere to the skin, resulting in pimples. Many women develop acne immediately before their period, which can cause unsightly blemishes and scarring. As with the emotional symptoms of PMS, acne can be minimized or prevented by the consistent hormone levels provided through birth control.

Emotional Symptoms

PMS is known to cause crying spells, mood swings, depression and general dysphoria. This is believed to be a result of severe fluctuations in hormone levels before and during the menstrual period. In extreme cases, PMS has even been known to result in physically violent or self-injurious behavior. Taking birth control keeps hormone levels more consistent, reducing or eliminating a lot of these unpleasant symptoms.

Gas and Bloating

It’s not uncommon for women to experience increased gas and bloating during their periods. Shifting hormones have a profound effect on the digestive system, which can upset the normal intestinal function. This is usually minor, but sometimes it can cause serious discomfort. Clothes may feel too tight and eating may be uncomfortable. Furthermore, increased intestinal gas puts additional pressure on the uterus, worsening the severity of cramps. Improved hormonal stability from birth control can help.


Resources: 7/16/2013

University of California-Press Room
Birth Control May Provide Relief for PMS

University of Illinois-McKinley Health Center
Menstrual Cramps (Dysmenorrhea)

National Alliance on Mental Illness
Women and Depression

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