Birth Control for PMDD: Does It Work?

Learn the Benefits of Birth Control for PMDD

Noncontraceptive Benefits of the Pill
Noncontraceptive Benefits of the Pill. Astronaut Images/Getty Images

If you have premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), or know someone who does and want to help, It's a good idea to look into use of birth control for PMDD.

What Is PMDD?

PMDD is a severe and comparatively rare form of the more common premenstrual syndrome (PMS). With PMS, a woman may experience a wide range of physical and/or emotional symptoms about 5 to 11 days before her monthly menstrual cycle begins.

The more severe PMDD is a condition that adversely affects the psychological well-being, social interactions, and relationships of about 3% to 5% of women of reproductive age. Hormonal birth control methods, including extended-cycle pills, have been shown to offer some relief and may work as treatment for PMS as well as PMDD.

Hormonal Contraception for PMDD

Hormonal contraception, like the Pill, is a very popular contraceptive choice for many women, yet women using this type of birth control may not be aware of its non-contraceptive benefits. Various hormonal contraceptives have shown some ability to diminish PMDD symptoms (as well as provide some PMS relief).

Women may react differently to certain contraceptive methods. Therefore, this information is intended to be a general overview. Also, keep in mind that the chief reason to use hormonal birth control is for contraception (to prevent an unintended pregnancy).

Options for Treating PMDD With Hormonal Contraceptives

If you and your doctor are considering the non-contraceptive benefits of birth control for treating your PMDD, there are a number of hormonal methods to consider. 

The following is a list of prescription birth control methods that have been shown to be effective as treatment for PMDD as well as PMS:

  • Certain combination birth control pills can offer some relief for PMDD symptoms. In randomized controlled trials, the only combination pills that have shown improvement in PMDD symptoms are those with a combination of ethinyl estradiol and drospirenone (like Yaz, Ocella, and Beyaz). Yaz is the only birth control FDA-approved to treat PMDD.

    These pills have been shown to offer relief from both physical and psychological PMDD symptoms, with improvement in health-related quality of life. 

    Combination birth control pills have also been shown to decrease premenstrual mood deterioration in reproductive-aged women receiving treatment for depression.
  • Because extended-cycle pills can reduce your number of periods to 4 times a year (Seasonique) or suppress menstruation altogether (Lybrel), these pills may offer some PMDD and PMS relief. Women on cyclic hormonal contraception (21-day active pills/7-day placebo) may experience premenstrual symptoms as well as pelvic pain, headaches, breast tenderness, and bloating during the hormone-free interval. Extending the usual 21-day cycle of contraceptive pills has been shown to reduce pelvic pain and headaches while improving overall mood.

Sources:

Coffee AL, Kuehl TJ, Willis S, Sulak PJ. "Oral contraceptives and premenstrual symptoms: Comparison of a 21/7 and extended regimen." Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2006;156:1311-1319. 

Joffe H, Cohen LS, Harlow BL. "Impact of oral contraceptive pill use on premenstrual mood: Predictors of improvement and deterioration." Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2003;189:1523-1530. 

Joffe H, Petrillo LF, Viguera AC, et al. "Treatment of premenstrual worsening of depression with adjunctive oral contraceptive pills: a preliminary report." J Clin Psychiatry. 2007;68:1954-1962. 

Pearlstein TB, Bachmann GA, Zacur HA, Yonkers KA. "Treatment of premenstrual dysphoric disorder with a new drospirenone-containing oral contraceptive formulation." Contraception. 2005;72:414-421. 

Yonkers KA, Brown C, Pearlstein TB, et al. "Efficacy of a new low dose oral contraceptive with drospirenone in premenstrual dysphoric disorder." Obstet Gynecol. 2005;106:492–501. 

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