Medically reviewed by Sophia Yen, MD, MPH
Research shows that while menopause is a fact of life, few women feel informed on the subject. Over 68% only begin learning about perimenopause once symptoms first develop, causing many to go through this important life stage without the necessary knowledge and medical care. Consequently, many perimenopausal women suffer in silence, which is unnecessary — especially when there are safe, practical solutions to help curb the severity of symptoms. Birth control for perimenopause is one such remedy.
What Is Perimenopause?
Perimenopause — meaning “around menopause” is the period during which your ovaries gradually stop working. This transitional period involves physical and emotional changes, often developing several years before menopause. While every woman has their own experience, most will notice menstrual cycle irregularities and then piece together the greater picture based on accompanying early signs of menopause.
As of 2020, nearly 50% of women worldwide were unaware of perimenopause and were surprised when it started. This can be overwhelming, but if you’re among these women, you’re not alone.
What are the symptoms of perimenopause?
The average age for women to enter menopause is 51 years old. However, the physical changes associated with perimenopause can begin years before your final menstrual period. While the average duration of perimenopause is three to four years, some women experience physical and emotional changes for only a few months. Others go through perimenopause for as long as a decade.
Because each woman’s experience differs, you can’t compare your symptoms to a friend’s symptoms. Some women don’t experience any symptoms besides irregular periods. Others seek support to reduce the severity of hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness/discomfort/pain during intercourse. These changes are because of low or no estrogen.
Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Sleep disturbances
- Mood symptoms (i.e., increased depression and anxiety)
- Irregular period bleeding (more, fewer, heavier, lighter)
- Vaginal dryness
- Hot flashes and night sweats
- Decreased sex drive
- Bladder infections
- Leaking urine, peeing more frequently
Some women may also experience trouble focusing or concentrating and suffer short-term memory issues, which may cause them to seek treatment.
These symptoms can last months to years.
Should You Take Birth Control During Perimenopause?
Treating symptoms of perimenopause with birth control may seem like an odd remedy. However, hormonal birth control is not exclusively used for contraception. The hormones released from birth control pills can treat acne, PCOS, and more including perimenopause — but is it right for you?
Because no two women’s experiences are identical, you must discuss the next steps with a healthcare provider. Although the hormones in birth control are safe for most women, the risks differ depending on several variables. For example, pre-existing conditions and heavy smoking can increase risks of blood clots, stroke, and thus death.
Birth Control Options for Perimenopause Symptoms
So, what types of birth control for perimenopause are available? Each option has advantages and disadvantages, and some are better suited for some women than others. Knowing what’s available helps you: weigh your options better and ask your healthcare team more specific questions based on your concerns and current health status.
Birth control pills
Taking birth control pills for perimenopause can help you reduce your hormone fluctuations. However, there are 40 different formulations of birth control pills, so it’s useful that you use a Pandia Health doctor to find out which type of birth control pill is best for your unique needs.
Hormonal intrauterine device (IUD)
Another option is a hormonal IUD, ideal for women experiencing heavy bleeding during perimenopause. Hormonal IUDs contain a synthetic progesterone that helps lessen bleeding but will not treat other perimenopausal symptoms associated with decreasing estrogen (such as hot flashes, dry vagina). The hormonal IUD can be used alongside estrogen therapy which will help relieve symptoms such as hot flashes and sleeping issues.
However, there are some potential side effects, and because IUDs can stop women from getting a monthly bleed (aka period), it can be tough to tell if you’ve entered menopause. But there are other ways to check.
Get Birth Control for Perimenopause Symptoms
The board-certified doctors at Pandia Health can prescribe birth control for perimenopause right from the comfort of your own home. Best of all, we free ship your prescription straight to your door every month.
Choosing the Right Birth Control for Perimenopause Symptoms
The right birth control for perimenopause depends on what makes the most sense for your unique needs and preferences. Consider the following.
Do you have pre-existing health conditions?
Estrogen-containing contraceptives are not recommended if you have a history of: estrogen-dependent cancer, blood clots, heart disease, etc. While most potential interactions involve physical symptoms, your doctor must also be mindful of pre-existing mental health issues. For example, if you have depression, understanding the link between hormonal contraception and mood disorders is vital when choosing the right pill for you. Progestogen-only contraceptives should be used with caution if you have a history of depression.
Do you smoke?
If you smoke, consult a doctor about your options. Taking birth control while smoking can increase the risk of cardiovascular issues like strokes and heart attacks. If you are over 35, smoke, and want to start taking birth control or change your birth control method, you must consult with a doctor.
What are your specific symptoms?
For instance, are you experiencing a flareup of acne because of perimenopause? Do you want to reduce hot flashes? If these symptoms are present, oral hormonal contraceptives may be an excellent option. Another reason many perimenopausal women choose to go on birth control pills is that this medication may help reduce vaginal dryness and prevent bone loss.
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Disclaimer: This article is for general informational purposes and is NOT a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your healthcare provider before starting or changing birth control.