Can low dose birth control pills help menopause symptoms?

Patricia Geraghty, NP
Women's Health
Low dose birth control pills can help menopause symptoms, particularly in the woman who is in the early stages of the menopause transition. Technically, menopause refers to the last menstrual period. We use the word "perimenopause" to refer to the time around this last period when women may experience various symptoms.
One of the earliest symptoms to appear during this transition, sometimes n the early forties, is irregular menstrual periods. The timing and flow of menstrual periods are governed by the communication of hormones between the brain and the ovaries. The source of hormone production in the ovaries are the immature eggs, or primordial follicles. Women get these eggs when they are a 19 week fetus, before birth. So it seems reasonable that, after four or more decades, these primoridal follicles don't function as well. Hormone production, rather than simply fading away as we approach menopause, becomes irratic.
The irratic production and unreliable communication between the brain and the ovaries typically result in menstrual periods that are closer together and heavier. In a woman with no other health concerns, using low dose hormonal contraception, such as pills or vaginal ring, can be very effective at maintaining more regular cycles and decreasing flow.
Mary Lake Polan
OBGYN (Obstetrics & Gynecology)

Yes, your menopausal symptoms are the result of low levels of the female hormone estrogen, and low dose birth control pills provide enough estrogen and progesterone-like hormones to stop the hot flashes and provide you with regular periods. And in addition, they provide estrogen to help prevent the osteoporosis and bone loss associated with menopause.

However, it's important to talk with your doctor before starting birth control pills to make sure you are not a smoker and don't have any additional medical issues that would make the pills a bad idea for other health reasons. If you and your doctor decide it's OK to take the pills, they are a great way of managing the menopause transition and relieving your symptoms while protecting your bones.

Oral contraceptives can help ease symptoms associated with menopause, including irregular periods and mood swings, among others. Typically, oral contraceptives are recommended to women who are still having periods. For many women in their 40s, oral contraceptives provide the added benefit of preventing pregnancy. Still, taking oral contraceptives close to menopause can make it difficult to determine when you have stopped menstruating. Women who smoke, have high blood pressure, experience migraines associated with aura or have diabetes, a history of gall bladder disease or blood clotting disorders should not use oral contraceptives. Discuss your health history with your healthcare professional and ask for guidance on this treatment option.

If you're considering taking hormones other than oral contraceptives to manage menopausal symptoms, be aware that the doses of estrogen and progesterone typically taken to manage menopausal symptoms are not adequate to provide protection against an unwanted pregnancy. A woman who is still fertile must use contraceptives containing higher levels of hormones or use additional birth control methods in addition to hormone replacement.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.