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'The Pill' Can Help Ease Period Pain, Study Finds
Date:1/17/2012

TUESDAY, Jan. 17 (HealthDay News) -- There's more evidence that use of the oral contraceptive pill can help ease the cramps, bloating and other pain some women experience during their period.

Some previous research, as well as anecdotal evidence, have suggested that the Pill could help women with painful periods, but a 2009 review of all available research concluded there was limited evidence for such a conclusion.

The new findings, from a Swedish study that has been running for 30 years, show that women who used the combined birth control pill (estrogen plus progestin) suffered less severe pain than women who did not use the Pill, the researchers said.

Their study findings appear online Jan. 18 in the journal Human Reproduction.

Experts estimate that pain associated with menstrual periods accounts for 600 million lost working hours and $2 billion in lost productivity in the United States each year.

One expert in the United States noted that doctors have long used the Pill to help ease such symptoms.

"Many obstetrician/gynecologists have used oral contraceptive pills to help alleviate menstrual pain, otherwise known as dysmenorrhea," said Dr. Jenifer Wu, an obstetrician/gynecologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "This is technically an off-label use of these commonly prescribed medications," she added.

The Swedish researchers noted that younger women typically suffer more from painful periods than older women. And while they did find that symptoms eased somewhat with increasing age, the effects of age and Pill use were independent of each other and use of the Pill had a greater effect overall.

The study included three groups of women who turned 19 in 1981, 1991 and 2001. Each group included 400 to 520 women, who were asked about their pattern of menstruation and menstrual pain, reproductive history, contraceptive use, height and weight.

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