“Hot flashes, night sweats, anxiety, headaches, acne, joint pain, and a brand-new belly? Woot! BRING IT ON!” said no woman. EVER.

And yet, if we are fortunate to live long enough, many of us will endure at least some of these of these symptoms at perimenopause and menopause.

Erratic and dropping estrogen is the primary culprit behind many menopause symptoms. Before reproduction shuts down for good at around age 51, rises and dips in hormone levels are responsible for the emotional and physical roller coaster ride many women experience, starting as early as their mid-30s.

One way to manage many perimenopausal symptoms may be a treatment you thought you were done with: the Pill.*

Why pop the Pill for perimenopause?

NOTE: As Dr. Sherry told us, if you’re still having periods, erratic or otherwise, you can still get pregnant. So if you engage in intercourse with men, some sort of birth control is called for. After teens, perimenopausal women have the second highest rate of unintended pregnancies.

The Pluses: Low-dose birth control pills can help ease the perimenopause transition for many women by regulating hormones. This can reduce hot flashes, ease mood swings, lessen the menstrual flow, regulate erratic periods, and lessen the impact of endometriosis. According to Harvard Health, birth control pills may also reduce vaginal dryness and prevent bone loss, all while protecting you from endometrial and ovarian cancers and those unintended pregnancies. And, WebMD adds, low-dose birth control pills may also help stave off colorectal cancer.

Risks of low-dose birth control?

Because the amount of hormones is so low, and because current formulations of the Pill are safer than previous versions, there are fewer side effects and risks to fear. Studies show low-dose birth control doesn’t cause weight gain, and vascular issues like deep-vein thrombosis and stroke aren’t generally an issue for women over 35 who don’t smoke.

The Minuses: The risk of increased breast cancer is still a subject of some debate, particularly when it involves women who are older (possibly because they started with the riskier, higher-dose oral contraceptives that were available when they were younger) or who have a family history of breast cancer. Migraines may worsen with hormonal birth control, and the possibility of blood clots does still exist for some. Pills containing estrogen are not advised for those at risk of cardiovascular disease or hypertension or for those who smoke. Finally, research is being done to determine if birth control pills contribute to vaginal atrophy and painful sex.

[stay tuned for an upcoming podcast with Rachel Gelman, DPT, PT, of the Pelvic Health and Rehabilitation Center
on the effects of birth control]

Also, and this is a biggie: the Pill does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases such as herpes, gonorrhea, genital warts, or HIV.

When can I go off birth control?

Because the Pill can mask menopause symptoms – including causing “withdrawal bleeds” during the sugar-pill week – a woman on mixed-hormone oral contraception may not know she’s completed the transition to menopause. Getting an FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) test during the 7-day “off” period may indicate if a woman is in menopause. At that point, some research indicates, a woman can transition from oral contraceptives to HRT (hormone replacement therapy), if she decides to go that route.

There are natural ways to manage menopause symptoms that are highly effective for some women. There are lifestyle choices that can make life during this challenging time easier for others. And for some women, there are birth control pills. There are risks to oral contraceptives, higher for some women than others, so please – do your research, talk to your doctor, make sure the information you’re getting is recent and reliable.

We’d love to know what you’re doing to make perimenopause/menopause more comfortable. Fill us in in the comments below, or share on the genneve Facebook page or in Midlife & Menopause Solutions, the closed genneve Facebook group.

*The information in this blog is for educational purposes only. To understand your potential risks and benefits, talk to a doctor.


Shannon Perry

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