I used to listen to my friends' period woes with the kind of removed sympathy of someone who had only experienced consistently mild symptoms her entire post-pubescent life. That all changed two years ago when suddenly, my body decided to make up for all that easy living in one fell swoop. Over the course of just a few cycles, my cramps suddenly became unbearably painful and my skin went haywire. But the most debilitating side effect of all was a heavy flow that made me self-conscious enough to go running to my ob-gyn for answers. She recommended that I get an IUD to help mitigate it all, and I've been virtually symptom-free ever since.
While it was ultimately the right one for me, the decision to go on hormonal birth control is highly personal and doesn't necessarily breed universally positive results. Our bodies are all different, after all. But if you do suffer from a heavy flow, it's definitely an option worth discussing with your doctor.
"When taking hormonal birth control, a woman's endometrial lining is often thinner, and as a result, some women may bleed less when menstruating," explains Lakeisha Richardson, MD, a noted ob-gyn who works as a consultant for Allergan's Know Your Birth Control campaign. Still, it's important to remember that this common side effect shouldn't be construed as a cure-all. "Most oral contraception is approved for pregnancy prevention—not heavy periods—and may not be for everyone, and so women should speak with their healthcare providers to determine what birth control option may be right for them," she says.