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Treatments for Menstrual Cycle Disorders

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Updated July 17, 2014

Young woman holding 'the pill' on her lap
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Menstrual cycle disorders include a number of types of abnormal bleeding patterns, as well as premenstrual syndrome or PMS, premenstrual dysphoric disorder or PMDD, and dysmenorrhea or menstrual cramps.

Treatments for menstrual cycle disorders range from things as simple as starting an exercise program to help relieve menstrual cramps or the symptoms of PMS or PMDD, or taking over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen for dysmenorrhea, to something as life changing as having a hysterectomy for uterine fibroid tumors.

Abnormal Uterine Bleeding

If you’re experiencing abnormal uterine bleeding or AUB, several factors play a role in determining the appropriate treatment. These factors include the type of abnormal uterine bleeding you’re experiencing, the underlying cause, your age, and whether you desire future pregnancies.

See: Types of Abnormal Uterine Bleeding

Treatments for abnormal uterine bleeding include high doses of conjugated equine estrogens for severe, acute bleeding; hormonal contraceptives such as The Pill, the patch, and the vaginal ring for amenorrhea, menorrhagia, and other types of abnormal uterine bleeding; and surgical procedures such as dilation and curettage or D&C for severe, acute bleeding, endometrial ablation; and hysterectomy when other treatments have failed to provide effective relief of symptoms and future childbearing is not an issue.

Hormonal Treatments for Menstrual Cycle Disorders

Hormonal contraceptives including The Pill, the patch, the vaginal ring, and the Mirena IUD offer effective relief for many women from menstrual cycle disorders including PMS, PMDD, dysmenorrhea, anovulatory bleeding, and women who experience heavy menstrual bleeding, as well as other types of abnormal bleeding patterns.

The Pill provides almost 100-percent relief from amenorrhea or absence of menstruation and helps to regulate hormonal fluctuations that occur in several types of abnormal uterine bleeding, as well as reducing the symptoms associated with PMS and PMDD. Other hormonal contraceptives including the patch and the vaginal ring can also help regulate the hormonal fluctuations associated with abnormal uterine bleeding patterns.

The Mirena IUD is particularly effective for women experiencing heavy bleeding and may provide relief for as long as five years. In fact, studies have reported a reduction in the amount of blood loss during menstruation by as much as 97% after one year of treatment. This is because this type of IUD slowly releases a progestin called levonorgestrel into the uterus which reduces blood loss.

Menstrual Cramps

While ibuprofen is often effective for reducing menstrual cramps, you may not be aware that ibuprofen can also help to reduce blood loss as much as 20% to 50%. Other NSAIDS or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as naproxen also provide effective relief of menstrual cramps.

Alternative self-help measures that may relieve menstrual cramps include heat in the pelvic region and regular exercise.

PMS and PMDD

Oral contraceptives are the preferred treatment for PMS among most physicians. However, several other therapies can provide effective relief from the symptoms of PMS and PMDD. These include:

  • Eating a diet rich in complex carbohydrates
  • Cutting out things that can make symptoms worse such as caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, salt, and refined sugar
  • Taking supplements and / or increasing dietary sources of vitamins and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, B6, and vitamin E
  • Antidepressants such as fluoxetine or sertraline
  • Anti-anxiety medication
  • Diuretics such as spironolactone for fluid retention and / or bloating
  • Short-term therapy that lasts no longer than six months with GnRH agonists such as Lupron in combination with estrogen or estrogen-progestin therapy.

While some women claim to get relief from the symptoms of PMS by using herbal supplements and natural hormones such as evening primrose oil and natural progesterone, the bulk of current scientific evidence does not support the use of either of these commonly used products.

See also: Self Help and Medical Treatments for PMS and PMDD

Finally, while exercise is not a treatment for abnormal uterine bleeding, it often effectively relieves the symptoms of PMS and / or PMDD, as well as helping to reduce menstrual cramping as previously mentioned. In fact, taking a 20- to 30-minute walk just three times weekly provides several other benefits to your health such as:

  • Increasing the chemicals in your brain which are responsible for mood and energy
  • Decreasing levels of stress and anxiety
  • Improving sleep quality
  • Reducing your risk for a number of diseases including heart disease and several types of cancer.

Sources:

Menstrual Disorders; Healthy Women.org, NWHRC; accessed 09/15/07.

Management of anovulatory bleeding; American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists – ACOG; 2000 Mar. 9 p.; ACOG practice bulletin; no. 14; accessed 09/22/07.

Premenstrual syndrome American College of Obstetricians and – ACOG practice bulletin; no. 15; accessed 09/22/07.

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