What to Know About Cramps on Birth Control

Can you still get cramps on birth control?

When most women start using birth control pills, they experience cramps, but many hormonal birth control options can help prevent cramps and other menstrual symptoms.

Cramps on birth control pill for most people are temporary. People with severe or prolonged cramps may need to see a doctor. The doctor can check for any causal medical conditions and offer advice on switching to another method of birth control.

READ ALSO: 10 Most Common Birth Control Pill Side Effects

The cramps can be unexpected, as most hormonal birth control pills contain the female hormones estrogen and progesterone, which often help to relieve cramps.

In fact, people who get severe symptoms during or around menstruation, often use birth control pills to relieve painful menstrual cramps. Cramps are not uncommon in people taking birth control pills.

The pills may ease the level of hormones called prostaglandins, which may influence the severity of cramps.

A recent study in Obstetrics & Gynecology discovered that women taking birth control pills continually or cyclically, were less likely to experience menstrual pain.

However, when a person first starts a new birth control method, it may take some time for the body to fine-tune to these hormones. Many people may temporarily experience symptoms similar to those of their period as their body tries to adjust to the pills.

If a person forgets to take their birth control pill, or takes it at the wrong time, hormone levels can fluctuate quickly and cause symptoms such as cramping, spotting, and bleeding.

Switching methods

Some people may experience cramps on birth control due to switching the type of birth control they are using.

Switching from a non-hormonal birth control method, such as a copper intrauterine device (IUD), to a hormonal method may cause cramping as the body adjusts.

READ ALSO: How Taking Birth Control Pills Affects A Woman’s Menstrual Flow

Changes between hormonal methods may cause temporary imbalances. For instance, some hormonal birth control methods contain both estrogen and synthetic progesterone. Others, such as the minipill, include only synthetic progesterone.

Working with a doctor can help a person select the most effective birth control method that does not cause extra cramps.

Other side effects of birth control

The side effects of birth control may be more pronounced during the first few months of use. Other side effects apart from cramps include:

  • breast pain and tenderness
  • irregular periods
  • missed periods
  • headachesor migraines
  • nausea and stomach pain
  • mood swings or irritability
  • changes in sex drive
  • weight changes
  • enlarged breast tissue

Serious side effects are possible but rare. These can include blood clots if the birth control contains estrogen.

Other severe side effects may include vision or speech problems, and acute pains in the body. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek immediate medical attention.

Causes of cramps

The uterus contracts to help shed the uterine lining during menstrual pain, pushing the tissue and blood out of the body. These contractions cause cramps and pain.

Cramps can also give off to the upper legs and back. While people experience cramps differently, for many they will feel like throbbing pains and tightness in the lower abdomen and pelvis. Cramps usually begin a couple of days before bleeding starts and continue through the first few days of the period when the flow is heaviest.

Severe cramps may be a sign of a more serious underlying condition, such as:

  • pelvic inflammatory disease
  • endometriosis
  • fibroidgrowths
  • cervical stenosis
  • adenomyosis


Doctors prescribe birth control pills to help reduce menstrual pain. If a person is experiencing symptoms from a specific type of birth control, a doctor may recommend trying another type.

A few home remedies may also help people find relief from cramps, including:

  • over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil)
  • exercising
  • placing a heating pad or electric blanket on the lower abdomen or lower back
  • resting
  • taking a warm bath

A person may want to see their doctor if a new birth control method causes cramps to deteriorate, or cramping does not ease within several months of introducing it.


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