The information provided here is meant to give you a general idea about each of the medications listed below. Only the most general side effects are included, so ask your doctor if you need to take any special precautions. Use each of these medications as advised by your doctor, or according to the instructions provided. If you have further questions about usage or side effects, contact your doctor.
Menstrual disorders, such as heavy bleeding or lack of menstruation, may be treated with hormonal and nonhormonal agents and therapies. These may include the following:
This type of medication may be prescribed to lessen menstrual flow and cramps.
Possible side effects include: HeadacheSinus and nasal symptomsAbdominal painMuscle and joint painMuscle crampsAnemiaFatigue
Common names include: MedroxyprogesteroneNorethindrone acetateNorgestrel/estradiol
Oral synthetic progestins are taken during the premenstrual phase of the menstrual cycle and help prevent heavy bleeding. They are most effective when taken for 21 days of each cycle.
Possible side effects include: Weight gainMood changesBreast tendernessHeadachesAcneUnpredictable spotting
Natural progestins may be helpful in reducing heavy bleeding with fewer side effects. They may be taken orally or as a vaginal gel.
levonorgestrel-releasing intrauterine system
An IUD may be used for up to 5 years. This treatment helps to reduce heavy bleeding. It releases progestin mainly into the uterus and cervix.
Possible side effects include: Irregular bleeding during the first six monthsNauseaBloating
Common names include: IbuprofenNaproxen sodium
Certain NSAIDs can reduce heavy bleeding by blocking prostaglandins (substances that increase uterine contractions) and reducing inflammation.
Possible side effects include: Stomach pain, cramps, or discomfortHeartburnIndigestionNausea and vomiting
If medications are prescribed to treat amenorrhea, they will be used to treat the underlying causes. If the cause of amenorrhea relates to lack of both estrogen and progesterone, it may be treated with hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Amenorrhea related to
polycystic ovary syndrome
is usually treated with birth control pills. If the underlying cause is a
, it may be treated with a drug that reduces the secretion of the hormone prolactin.
Common names include: Desogestrel/estradiolEthynodiol/estradiolGestodene/estradiolLevonorgestrel/estradiolNorethindrone acetate/estradiolNorethindrone/estradiolNorethindrone/mestranolNorgestimate/estradiolNorgestrel/estradiol
Birth control pills are often used to treat
polycystic ovary syndrome
(PCOS). PCOS may be an underlying cause of amenorrhea or oligomenorrhea (too few periods). The pills are intended to slow down ovarian function because the ovaries are over-producing male hormones.
Possible side effects include: Abdominal painNauseaSwellingWeight gainMood changesBreast tendernessSpotting between periods
Progestogen is available in many forms, including oral pills, injections, IUD, and vaginal gel. Examples of common names include: Oral pills—medroxyprogesterone acetate, norethindrone,
levonorgestrel, megestrol acetateInjection—medroxyprogesterone acetateIUD—levonorgestrelVaginal gel—progesterone
If your ovaries are producing estrogen, your doctor may prescribe progestogen.
In addition, if you choose estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) and have an intact uterus, progesterone must also be taken to reduce the increased risk of
from taking ERT alone. Progesterone or progestin (synthetic progesterone) is available as replacement therapy.
Possible side effects include: Fluid retentionWeight gainHeadacheMood changes
Common brand names include: Oral pills—conjugated equine estrogens and medroxyprogesterone acetate, conjugated equine estrogens and medroxyprogesterone acetate, ethinyl estradiol and norethindrone acetate, 17-beta estradiol and norethindrone acetateSkin patch—17-beta-estradiol and norethindrone acetate
While birth control pills are the most common treatment, your doctor may recommend HRT—progesterone and estrogen—if you have certain conditions, like premature ovarian failure.
Possible side effects include: Uterine bleeding or “spotting”Fluid retentionSore breastsHeadacheMood changes
Common names include: BromocriptineCabergoline
Anti-hyperprolactinemics are used to treat amenorrhea that relates to excessive secretions of the hormone prolactin, a hormone related to pituitary tumors. You should use some form of birth control while taking this medication.
Possible side effects include: Lightheadedness, especially upon standingNausea
If you are taking medications, follow these general guidelines: Take your medication as directed. Do not change the amount or the schedule.Do not stop taking prescription medication without talking to your doctor.Do not share prescription medication. Ask what results and side effects to expect. Report them to your doctor.Talk to a doctor or pharmacist if you are taking more than one medication. Some medications can be dangerous when mixed. This includes over-the-counter medication and herb or dietary supplements.Plan ahead for refills so you don’t run out.
Abnormal uterine bleeding. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T361089/Abnormal-uterine-bleeding. Updated May 6, 2016. Accessed September 15, 2016.
Amenorrhea. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116009/Amenorrhea. Updated March 14, 2016. Accessed September 15, 2016.
Menstruation and the menstrual cycle fact sheet. Women's Health—US Department of Health and Human Services website. Available at:
http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/menstruation.html. Updated December 23, 2014. Accessed September 15, 2016.
11/20/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance:
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php. FDA approves Lysteda to treat heavy menstrual bleeding. United States Food and Drug Administration website. Available at:
http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm190551.htm. Accessed August 20, 2012.
Last reviewed September 2016 by Marcie Sidman, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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