Contrary to popular belief, new research has found that oral contraceptives may not mitigate the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), specifically in terms of preventing depressive feelings.
The findings of the research were recently published in Obstetrics and Gynecology. The researchers sought to determine the efficacy of oral contraceptives in “managing premenstrual depressive symptoms and overall premenstrual symptomatology.”
Despite having similar acronyms, PMS and PMDD are importantly distinct. PMDD is considered a more severe form of PMS that can affect the quality of a person’s life. Though they share many of the same symptoms – like mood swings, bloating, and cravings – the symptoms associated with PMDD are often exacerbated and more intense.
For instance, people with PMDD may experience anger, irritability, internal tensions, and feelings of hopelessness or depression. A small number of people also report experiencing suicidal ideations.
The researchers noted that there’s limited information on the effects of and treatment for PMS, and even less for PMDD. But with the pill being one of the most well-known ways to combat premenstrual symptoms, they wanted to conduct a mass review of existing literature.
Using a variety of sources, the researchers analyzed the existing literature on the impact of oral contraceptives on premenstrual symptoms. Though they considered over 3,300 records, only nine trials were deemed eligible. The studies they considered analyzed 1,205 women in total who suffered from premenstrual syndrome of premenstrual dysphoric disorder. The average age of the women was between 24-36 years old.
Interestingly, the researchers observed that oral contraceptives did seem to have a positive effect on mitigating the symptoms of PMS and PMDD, in general. But it doesn’t have an equal effect on all symptoms, as the researchers also concluded that the pill does not reduce the risk or severity of premenstrual depressive symptoms.
In addition, they also determined that the brand of oral contraceptive didn’t seem to impact its ability to reduce PMS or PMDD symptoms.
In conclusion, the researchers agreed that prescribing oral contraceptives to women with PMS or PMDD symptoms can be effective. But not in cases in which they express premenstrual depressive symptoms. In such instances, alternative treatments should be considered to treat depression.
They emphasized this is especially important in people diagnosed with the premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), as feelings of depressions are often one of the main symptoms reported. The researchers note that some studies have found success in treating premenstrual depressive symptoms with “serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and cognitive behavioral therapy,” Healio reports. More research is needed to confirm the efficacy of these treatments.
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