Periods suck. If you’ve had one, you know what’s up. If you haven’t, you’ve probably heard someone in your life complain about how crippling they can be. One tweet has gone viral claiming everyday hero, ibuprofen, can supposedly reduce your period’s flow by “50 per cent”, which would be life-changing for some. Let’s fact check this claim.
The tweet, by user @girlziplocked, has since been re-tweeted nearly 20,000 times and liked more than 100,000 times. Clearly, it’s resonated with anyone having periods out there.
I learned that ibuprofen reduces menstrual flow BY 50% and the only reason I can come up with for why no one else knows about this is that we’re such a fucking misogynist culture, we can’t talk about something that women have to deal with every four weeks for 30 years.
— holly (@girlziplocked) January 19, 2020
The tweet claims the stats come from a book called the Period Repair Manual by Lara Briden, a Sydney naturopathic doctor. We’ve contacted Briden to confirm where the magical 50 per cent number is from and she directed us to a 2019 review conducted by Cochrane that suggested ibuprogen, considered nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), when compared with placebo, but are less effective than other stronger measures, which are usually prescribed.
“Levels of prostaglandin (a naturally occurring hormone) are higher in women with HMB [heavy menstrual bleeding] and are reduced by NSAIDs. The review of trials found that NSAIDs were modestly effective in reducing HMB, but other medicines, such as danazol, tranexamic acid and levonorgestrel-releasing intrauterine system (LNG IUS), are more effective,” the review found.
“These results were based on a small number of low-to moderate-quality trials.”
Elsewhere though, the information on how helpful ibuprofen can be in reducing your flow is quite thin. Cleveland Clinic’s Rebecca Russell, a doctor in obstetrics and gynecology, wrote in a blog post anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and alternative period-crunching favourite, naproxen, do have the ability to slow down or reduce period flows but only by 10 to 20 per cent.
“They have some potential to help in the short term,” Russell wrote. “While we recommend ibuprofen a lot for women with significant cramping, most of them don’t notice major changes in their flow.”
A US gynecologist, Dr Lauren Streicher, did tell Insider it was a method she’d been advising her patients for years.
“I’ve been advising this for years as a gynecologist,” Dr Streicher told Insider. “We know that ibuprofen can reduce menstrual cramps as well as menstrual flow.”
Ibuprofen does help with cramping and period pain
The evidence might not be able to confirm definitively whether flows can be reduced but the science agrees the drugs aid with reducing period pain, called Dysmenorrhoea, thanks to their ability to inhibit prostaglandins — that’s one of the main culprits behind period cramping.
“The uterine lining produces hormone-like substances (prostaglandins) that cause the muscle of the uterus to contract strongly, causing pain and reducing blood flow to the uterus,” BetterHealth Victoria’s site reads.
“There are different types of prostaglandins produced throughout the body, but prostaglandin F2X is responsible for the pain with periods.”
So while the verdict still seems to be out on how to cut down that heavy flow (RIP you all out there, I feel you), you can at least subdue the pain some of us feel.
There are so many different period tracking apps because there are so many different reasons to use one: maybe you want to watch out for fertile days so you can get pregnant, or maybe you want to track your moods and symptoms every day so you can figure out if you get headaches or feel cranky in sync with your cycle. So we’re not going to declare a winner today, but instead tell you about the pros and cons of what are, in our opinion, three of the best period trackers.