Can Ibuprofen make my periods lighter?
This article was medically fact-checked by Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist Dr. Shree Datta.
We’re here to address a recent topic that stirred up Twitter—can NSAIDs like Aspirin or Ibuprofen (ie Advil) make your period lighter? If they can, should you try it? Well, as it turns out, the answer depends on a few things.
How Heavy Are Your Periods?
Periods can suck. Even when you’ve got a dependable cup on your side, surprise starts, cramps, bloating and more can mean your period ends up really p*ssing you off. And, if you’re one of the many people who experience unusually heavy bleeding, that goes double!
But, is your period really as out-of-control heavy as you think it is?
The typical amount of blood menstruated each month is 30 and 40 mL (1- 1.35 fluid oz), with higher amounts being 60 to 80 mL. Anything in excess of 80 mL (2.7 fluid oz) per cycle is considered ‘menorrhagia.’ This affects some 30% of menstruators, and flow may increase with age—particularly as you enter perimenopause.
One of the benefits of using a menstrual cup is that you can more accurately measure how much you’re bleeding each month!
What Are NSAIDs?
NSAIDs are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that are commonly used for pain relief. These drugs, such as ibuprofen or naproxen, are probably already familiar to you as they are usually sold over the counter, and are used to reduce fever, treat headaches and reduce inflammation.
Research suggests that NSAIDs reduce prostaglandin levels—this hormone-like substance is present in bodily tissues and fluids, and is notably involved with uterine contractions and elevated in those who complain of heavy bleeding.
According to the Fertility Centre at USC, NSAIDs can reduce your flow by 20-40%, however…
And The Bad…
However, this doesn’t mean that you should start downing handfuls of painkillers whenever you get your period.
There are several things to consider. Firstly, remember at the beginning when we talked about what constitutes a heavy flow? If you’re within the range of 30 to 40 mL, a reduction of 40% is at most going to be 16 mL (.5 fluid oz).
That’s slightly more than what a ‘super’ tampon holds.
If you have an 80 mL flow, that’s a reduction of 32 mL (1.1 fluid oz), essentially the same as another person’s entire monthly menstruation. So, if you’re hoping that an over the counter pill can help your periods that are in the ‘annoying but very normal’ range, it probably won’t make much of a difference.
And then there’s the downside of NSAIDs. Generally, these types of medicines, while available without a prescription, can have serious negative side effects with heavy use, particularly on your stomach and kidneys.
So What’s The Verdict?
Talk to your doctor, for multiple reasons. The sooner you get help, and diagnose a potential problem, the easier it is to treat. Yes, while NSAIDs may lessen your flow, they are not the best option for every person.
Other options such as hormonal contraception may be much safer for you! As well, it’s important to investigate exactly why your periods are so heavy before tackling it on your own. Some of the causes of heavy bleeding can be quite serious. However, thankfully there are a few options out there, even if NSAIDs aren’t the easy miracle solution you hoped they’d be!
Facts checked by:
Dr. Shree Datta
Dr. Shree Datta is a Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist in London, specialising in women’s health including all menstrual problems such as fibroids and endometriosis. Dr. Shree is a keen advocate for patient choice, having written numerous articles and books to promote patient and clinician information. Her vision resonates with INTIMINA, with the common goals of demystifying periods and delivering the best possible care to her patients
Lane Baumeister is an internationally-based Canadian writer with several years’ experience creating educational and entertaining articles that discuss intimate health and sexual well-being. When not waxing profound about menstruation, she devotes herself to enjoying extremely good food and equally bad movies.