Low Dose Estrogen Birth Control Pills and PMS?

Low Dose Estrogen Birth Control Pills and PMS?

For women who suffer from PMS or premenstrual syndrome, new research compares the efficacy of low-dose estrogen oral contraceptives vs. a similar contraceptive with higher doses of estrogen–specifically pertaining to PMS mood symptoms.

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) is a term that’s often tossed around casually, but for many women, it’s a very real and sometimes debilitating part of their monthly cycle. Understanding PMS, its symptoms, causes, and potential treatments is essential for anyone looking to manage it effectively.

What is PMS?

Premenstrual Syndrome refers to a group of symptoms that many women experience in the days leading up to their menstrual period. These symptoms can be physical, emotional, or behavioral, and they typically start 5 to 11 days before menstruation and usually stop once menstruation begins.

Symptoms: A Wide Range

The symptoms of PMS can vary widely in both type and severity, and they can change from month to month. Common physical symptoms include:

  • Bloating
  • Breast tenderness
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in appetite or food cravings

Emotional or behavioral symptoms are also common and can include:

  • Mood swings
  • Irritability or anger
  • Depression or feelings of sadness
  • Anxiety
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Social withdrawal

For some women, these symptoms can be severe, impacting their daily lives, relationships, and work.

Causes: A Complex Interplay

The exact cause of PMS is not fully understood, but it’s believed to be related to the fluctuating levels of hormones, including estrogen and progesterone, during the menstrual cycle. These hormonal changes may affect neurotransmitters in the brain, like serotonin, which could explain some of the mood swings associated with PMS.

Managing PMS

While there’s no outright cure for PMS, there are ways to manage the symptoms:

  1. Lifestyle Changes: Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and sufficient sleep can help. Reducing caffeine, alcohol, and salt intake may also alleviate some symptoms.
  2. Stress Management: Techniques like yoga, meditation, or deep breathing can help manage the emotional symptoms of PMS.
  3. Medications: For some women, over-the-counter pain relievers can alleviate physical symptoms. In more severe cases, doctors may prescribe hormonal treatments like birth control pills or antidepressants.
  4. Supplements: Some women find relief with supplements like calcium, magnesium, Vitex Agnus Castus, or Vitamin B6. However, it’s important to consult a healthcare provider before starting any supplements.

When to See a Doctor

If PMS symptoms are interfering with your life, it’s important to talk to a healthcare provider. In some cases, severe PMS might be a sign of a more serious condition like Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD).


PMS is a complex condition that affects each woman differently. Understanding your body and the changes it goes through can be empowering. By recognizing the symptoms and finding effective coping strategies, many women can manage PMS and reduce its impact on their lives. Remember, if PMS is becoming a serious concern, seeking medical advice is always a wise step.

Low Dose Estrogen Birth Control Pills and Premenstrual Syndrome:

A recent study compared two oral contraceptives with the same quantity of progestin, but differing amounts of estrogen on the effect on premenstrual mood symptoms (Greco et al, 2007).

For women who suffer from PMS related mood symptoms, the low estrogen BCP seems to be a better option.

“This study compared two oral contraceptives (OCs) with the same triphasic regimen of progestin (norgestimate 0.18, 0.215 and 0.25 mg) but differing doses of ethinyl estradiol (EE) – 25 and 35 microg EE – in their effects on androgens, mood and sexual interest in women starting on OCs” (Greco et al, 2007).

“The lower EE pill reduced FT less and was associated with greater improvement in premenstrual mood. A causal relation between these two effects is uncertain” (Greco et al, 2007).

The results of these studies suggest that low-dose estrogen contraceptives are better for mood symptoms in women with premenstrual syndrome.


  1. Greco T, Graham CA, Bancroft J, Tanner A, Doll HA. The effects of oral contraceptives on androgen levels and their relevance to premenstrual mood and sexual interest: a comparison of two triphasic formulations containing norgestimate and either 35 or 25 microg of ethinyl estradiol. Contraception. 2007 Jul;76(1):8-17. Epub 2007 May 23.
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