Painful periods are increasingly common but medication can help. Doctors have long prescribed the contraceptive pill to help regulate painful, heavy periods and a 30-year study from Scandinavia focussed on testing its effectiveness.
The research is published online in Human Reproduction. Scientists found that the symptoms of painful menstrual periods - dysmenorrhoea - were reduced by regular contraceptive pill intake, using two types of scale to assess the pain.
The researchers questioned three groups of women who reached the age of 19 in 1981, 1991 and 2001. Each group included approximately 400 to 520 women.
Stats from the US show as many as 50% to 75% of young women suffer from painful periods, to the degree of taking time off from work.
Dr Ingela Lindh, who led the study, said: “We found that combined oral contraceptive use reduced dysmenorrhoea by 0.3 units, which means that every third woman went one step down on the VMS scale, for instance from severe pain to moderate pain, and which meant that they suffered less pain, improved their working ability and there was a decrease in the need for analgesics. On the VAS scale there was a reduction in pain of nine millimetres.”