- Birth control works by preventing ovulation
- Birth control has been shown to support mood symptoms because it removes the hormone fluctuations that occur around ovulation.
- Some people report relief from PMS & PMDD symptoms from the use of hormonal birth control while others report worse symptoms.
- There are several side effects to consider before taking birth control for non-contraceptive purposes.
- There are ways to prevent and support PMS & PMDD without the use of hormonal birth control.
How Does Birth Control Work?
Birth control was developed to prevent pregnancy, not to reduce PMS symptoms. It prevents pregnancy by creating an anovulatory cycle, known as a cycle without ovulation.
To prevent ovulation birth control utilizes synthetic versions of the hormones estrogen and progesterone, the primary hormones that fluctuate during your menstrual cycle. These hormones work to stop ovulation by providing a steady dose of estrogen in the first half (Follicular phase) of your cycle giving the body no signal for your ovaries to release an egg. In the second half of your cycle (Luteal Phase) the pill delivers progesterone to halt uterine lining growth. Finally, it delivers a week of placebo (sugar pills) to make hormone levels drop and to begin menstruation or withdrawal bleeding.
What is a Pill Bleed?
Are you getting a real period when you’re taking hormonal birth control? No. The bleeding during your menstrual phase that occurs when on the pill is not the same as a menstrual period—it is known as withdrawal bleeding. Withdrawal bleeding occurs when you begin you placebo pills and HBC stops delivering hormones into your body creating a drop is hormone levels causing your uterine lining to shed. Because this is not your body naturally creating this change, it is induced by the lack of hormones being ingested this is different than a normal menstrual cycle bleed and may change over time of taking the pill.
Why is My Period Different on Birth Control?
Hormonal birth controls prevent several normal biological processes in the body from happening. This include: thickening of your uterine lining, ovulation and the normal cycling of reproductive hormones. Because of these differences most periods on hormonal birth control are lighter or non-existent.
Does Birth Control Work for Mood Swings?
Some people experience improved mood symptoms from taking hormonal birth control while others experience more mood and mental health related symptoms while on the pill. Studies show both sides of this with some saying that birth control supports mood related symptoms while others show that it can create adverse mood effects. While each body is unique and responds to hormonal changes differently A 2001 clinical trial* states that negative emotional and sexual side effects are the best predictors of individuals discontinuing or switching forms of hormonal birth control, yet the side effects of HBC have been largely ignored.
Birth Control for PMDD
If you are someone who experiences PMDD you have likely heard that birth control can help support your symptoms. As mentioned above, each individual may have a different reaction to the hormones delivered via birth control with varying results.
In randomized controlled trials**, combination pills such as Yaz, Ocella and Beyaz, have proven to be the most effective in treating symptoms of PMDD. At this time Yaz has been approved by the FDA to treat the symptoms of PMDD.
Things to Consider Before Taking Birth Control
Over 100 million people utilize birth control world wide without knowing how it actually works or the possible side effects. It’s time to change that.
The pill is estimated to be recommended to over 10.6 million women in the US—often times being recommended for common menstrual complaints like acne, PMS, and irregular cycles. Can the pill help support and alleviate these symptoms? Yes. Does it address the underlying root cause of these symptoms? No.
Additionally birth control, just like all prescription drugs, comes with it’s own laundry list of potential and irreversible side effects. These include: microbiome disruption, low thyroid, increased risk of stroke and blood clot, increased risk of cancer, increase inflammation, nutritional depletion and more.
How to Treat PMS & PMDD without Birth Control
The symptoms you experience around your period are your bodies cry for help—treating these symptoms requires figuring out why you are experiencing these symptoms in the first place. Often times it’s related to nutrition and lifestyle factors like environmental toxins, stress and how much exercise you are getting.
Manage Your Blood Sugar to Support PMS
When it comes to nutrition and your period blood sugar balance plays a large role in alleviating your symptoms. Since estrogen and progesterone control both your menstrual cycle and your blood glucose it’s not wonder that when you get out of balance—you feel it. To help control blood sugar:
- Eat regularly throughout the day.
- Be mindful and limit your intake of added sugars
- Eat meals with a good balance of protein, fat, carbohydrates and fiber.
- Limit alcohol and caffeine, especially on an empty stomach
- Exercise regularly.
Ensure Proper Nutrition to Reduce Period Symptoms
Nourishing your body with a well balanced diet is of course an essential element of providing your body with the proper nutrition it needs to thrive. Research shows that diets high in calcium, vitamin D, B1 and B2 may reduce experiencing PMS. Additionally is recommended by doctors as our food supply is dramatically less nutrient dense than it has ever been. is a great multivitamin option for those experiencing period or hormone related symptoms.
Exercise Regularly to Prevent PMS
Creating a regular exercise routine can help prevent premenstrual headaches, breast swelling, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, bloating and vomiting.***
Remove Environmental Toxins to Reduce PMS
Environmental toxins are ever present in our lives from pesticides on our food to plastics and chemical ingredients in personal care. By creating awareness of these toxins and doing our best to remove them and replace them with cleaner products we can support healthy hormone function.
*Sanders SA, Graham CA, Bass JL, Bancroft J. A prospective study of the effects of oral contraceptives on sexuality and well-being and their relationship to discontinuation. Contraception. 2001 Jul;64(1):51-8. doi: 10.1016/s0010-7824(01)00218-9. PMID: 11535214.
**Rapkin AJ, Korotkaya Y, Taylor KC. Contraception counseling for women with premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD): current perspectives . Open Access J Contracept . 2019;10:27–39. doi:10.2147/OAJC.S183193
*** Mohebbi Dehnavi Z, Jafarnejad F, Sadeghi Goghary S. The effect of 8 weeks aerobic exercise on severity of physical symptoms of premenstrual syndrome: a clinical trial study. BMC Womens Health. 2018 31;18(1):80.
I’m not the only one I know that has tried all the natural ways to get to the root cause of hormone problems and the life destroying symptoms, without relief. Doctors that support these methods are unaffordable, out of pocket naturopaths and functional medicine practitioners. 12 years and thousands of dollars later, I’m back on the pill to deal with symptoms so that I can hold down a job and relationships. Hormones can be a nightmare for some of us. I also feel like we can’t escape the toxins in the air, water and food….and in this economy you have to be rich to buy all organic. Just some considerations to think about.