According to a new study, a low dose oral contraceptive works as a treatment for the most severe form of premenstrual syndrome, premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).
Sufferers from this often quite debilitating disorder experience cyclical mood, behavioral and physical symptoms.
Although the cause of PMDD is unknown, according to Kimberly Yonkers, M.D., associate professor in the departments of Psychiatry and Epidemiology and Public Health, and lead author of the study, changes in steroid hormone levels appear to be a trigger for symptoms to appear.
The researchers at Yale School of Medicine have shown for the first time, that a low dose oral contraceptive with a unique progestin and dosing regimen is effective in treating PMDD, by suppressing ovarian activity.
In this multi-center, double-blind, randomized clinical trial, 450 women ages 18 to 40, from 64 medical centers across the country with symptoms of PMDD, were given either the oral contraceptive or a placebo.
It was found that the women who were given the oral contraceptive had significantly greater improvement, over 48 percent compared to 36 percent, of women on the placebo.
They experienced greater enjoyment of hobbies, social activities, and interpersonal relationships, and greater symptom reduction.
It seems that forty-four women from both groups withdrew from the study due to adverse effects such as nausea and intermenstrual bleeding.
The low dose oral contraceptive contained drospirenone, a new progestin, and ethinyl estradiol.
In the study it was taken for 24 days followed by four days of inactive pills, which differs from traditional courses of therapy which have seven days of inactive pills.
The new course of treatment is designed to produce greater ovarian suppression and a more stable hormonal environment.
The women were evaluated over the course of two menstrual cycles.
According to Yonkers the results show the contraceptive is roughly as effective as serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which are commonly used as anti-depressants, and though not necessarily better, for women who need contraception in addition to control of PMDD, it offers a more efficient treatment.