Although all hormonal birth control methods have an effect on menstrual bleeding, some contraceptives are better than others when it comes to heavy periods.

If you get periods, any bleeding can feel like too much.

Losing 2 to 3 tablespoons of blood is typical, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If you’re someone who loses more than 5 or 6 tablespoons of menstrual blood each month, your periods are heavy by clinical standards. This is known as menorrhagia.

Birth control pills are basically a staple in the management of heavy periods and other menstrual problems.

Learning about the options — and there are quite a few — can help you narrow down the best birth control for your individual needs and preferences.

A 2016 review shows that hormonal birth control can help manage heavy periods. It can work when used alone or in combination with other menorrhagia treatments.

While each type can help, they aren’t all exactly the same. They differ in cost, scheduling, and potential side effects.

Here are a few key factors to consider when making your choice.

Some methods might require a pelvic exam

Some birth control methods require a pelvic exam, including intrauterine devices (IUDs). These are often prescribed to people with heavy or prolonged periods.

Pelvic exams can be traumatic for survivors of sexual abuse or trigger gender dysphoria in transgender people. This may affect your decision when reviewing different methods and any associated prerequisites.

You don’t have to stick to the same method forever

Fortunately, there are plenty of methods to choose from, making it easy to find an option that works for you.

If the method you initially choose doesn’t give you the results you want or causes too many side effects, you can switch to another one.

Some methods may require a guardian’s consent

Though you can access birth control in most states without a guardian’s consent, that isn’t the case with all healthcare professionals.

Before making an appointment, contact a local clinic or your healthcare professional to learn more about your state’s laws. What you talk about stays between you and them, thanks to confidentiality laws.

Keep in mind that if you’re covered by a guardian’s health insurance, it’s a good idea to call the insurance provider to ask if the services you access will show up on your guardian’s statement.

Your other option is to pay out of pocket or see if you can access low cost or free birth control pills in your area.

Cost can range from free to big bucks, depending on the type

Birth control options for heavy periods range in price from free to over $1,000. How much you’ll pay — if anything — depends on where you are, your annual income, and whether you have health insurance.

Many health centers and family planning clinics offer programs that help subsidize the cost.

We considered several factors when deciding which types of birth control to feature in this article, including:

  • Effectiveness. Each form of birth control has been shown to help decrease heavy bleeding during menstruation. Some may also ease other symptoms, such as cramps or acne.
  • Accessibility. Most birth control options are easily accessible. Some can even be purchased online or over the counter, depending on where you live.
  • Convenience. We included options that can vary in terms of convenience and frequency of use to help you find a method that fits your needs.
  • Price. All of the birth control methods selected are generally covered by insurance. However, other options can also make these birth control methods more affordable if you don’t have insurance, including programs from family planning clinics or health centers.

Every type of birth control has its merits. Some are easier to access, some are more effective, and some are just plain popular for various reasons.

Here’s how they measure up.

Most accessible

If accessibility is at the top of your list, these options are the easiest to get your hands on. In some states, they may be available at pharmacies or online. In some cases, you may not even need a prescription, depending on where you are.

These options include:

Like other birth control methods, these options are covered by insurance. They are also generally more affordable than some other methods, such as IUDs, if you don’t have insurance.

Birth control pills like combination birth control or the minipill are usually taken daily. Meanwhile, the Depo-Provera shot is only administered once every 3 months, which may be ideal for those who prefer a lower maintenance option.

Most effective

All hormonal birth control pills have some effect on flow, but these are some of the best options when it comes to heavy periods. They make periods lighter or stop the bleeding altogether.

  • hormonal IUD
  • minipill, when used correctly
  • extended- or continuous-cycle birth control pill, when used correctly

Unlike many other birth control methods, hormonal IUDs can last between 3 and 6 years, according to the CDC. This makes them one of the most convenient choices for preventing pregnancy and managing heavy periods.

On the other hand, birth control pills are more easily accessible. They can be a cost-effective option for people who don’t have health insurance.

The minipill, or progestin-only pill, takes the top spot as the most popular birth control option for people with heavy periods.

In fact, according to research from 2017, people who cite heavy periods as their primary reason for going on birth control usually choose the minipill.

Extended- or continuous-dose birth control pills are pretty popular, too. This is because of the long period-free intervals, which can be 3 or 4 months to a full year.

This type of birth control also contains a combination of estrogen and progestin. According to 2022 research, this combo may help ease other conditions that often accompany menstruation, such as acne, menstrual pain, and migraine.

Both birth control methods are easily accessible and affordable options for those with or without health insurance.

If you’re not sold and looking for more options, here are some honorable mentions for reducing heavy flow.

The patch

The patch can make your periods lighter and reduce cramping to boot. It contains a combination of progestin and estrogen, which are released from the skin into the bloodstream to prevent pregnancy.

You just need to remember to change it once per week, which is nice if you’d rather not have to fuss with a daily pill. After 3 weeks, you can remove the patch for 1 week before starting a new cycle.

Keep in mind that the patch may be visible, depending on where you place it. The National Health Service (NHS) says it can cause skin irritation or itching for some people.

You also need a prescription for it. However, depending on where you live, you might be able to get several patches at once and even order them online.

The ring

If you’re cool with birth control that’s inserted vaginally, the ring offers a few perks. It can make your periods shorter and lighter or let you skip periods altogether by keeping it in for 3 to 5 weeks.

In fact, a small, older study even found the ring to be as effective in treating heavy periods as progesterone pills.

Additionally, you can still have vaginal sex and use tampons while the ring is inserted.

While this can be a very effective birth control method if used correctly, some people may not be comfortable inserting it or removing it on their own.

It also requires you to remember to change and replace it regularly, which may be inconvenient for some people.

Progesterone pills

Progesterone pills aren’t birth control, but they can help with heavy periods by inhibiting the growth of your uterine lining.

Depending on how they’re prescribed to you, you might take them daily or only during days 7 to 21 of your cycle. If a healthcare professional recommends the latter method, you should have a lighter period during your “off days.”

Asking yourself these questions before choosing a type of birth control for heavy periods can help you narrow down your choices for the best pick.

How well does it work for this purpose?

Birth control’s number one job is to prevent pregnancy. If you have penis-in-vagina sex and don’t want to get pregnant, effectiveness in this area definitely matters.

If slowing your flow is just as or even more important for you, then you need to consider that, too, since not all methods will have the same effect.

Is it easy to use?

Ease of use matters when it comes to birth control. The easier it is to use, the more likely you are to take it as directed for the best results.

For instance, if you aren’t good at remembering to take meds or have a busy schedule, you’d likely benefit from a method you don’t need to use every day.

How comfortable are you with using it?

Your comfort matters. Birth control for your heavy periods shouldn’t come with a side of anxiety or trauma.

If the thought of needles makes you weak in the knees, the shot may not be right for you.

Similarly, if you’re not comfortable touching yourself or have a hard time inserting anything into your vagina, then you might prefer to rule out an insertable method like the ring or IUD.

What are the potential side effects?

Like any medication, hormonal birth control can cause side effects. Some types are more likely to do this than others.

Be sure to do your homework and consider the potential side effects when weighing your options.

Will it affect any preexisting health conditions?

It’s a good idea to talk with a healthcare professional about birth control for your periods if you have a preexisting medical condition, as some methods may not be right for your individual situation.

Hormonal birth control can increase the risk of blood clots. And some types can either worsen or improve premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).

Does it have any other benefits?

Reading up on the other benefits that the method has to offer will help you get the most bang for your buck.

Lighter periods may be your main goal, but some birth control can also help with cramps, PMS, and acne as well.

How much does it cost?

When budgeting for birth control, be sure to factor in the cost of the drug or device, along with any related doctor’s appointments.

You might be able to get your birth control for a lot less — or even for free — depending on:

  • where you live
  • whether you have health insurance
  • if you qualify for Medicaid or another government program

If you already have a healthcare professional you’re comfortable with, they might be a good place to start.

But you have other options, too:

How it worksFrequency of useRequires procedure?
Combination birth controlpill taken by mouthdailyno
Minipillpill taken by mouthdailyno
Depo-Provera shotinjection3 monthsyes
Hormonal IUDinserted into uterus3–6 yearsyes
Extended- or continuous-cycle birth control pillpill taken by mouthdailyno
Birth control patchattaches to skin1 weekno
Vaginal ringinserted into vagina3–5 weeksno
Progesterone pillspill taken by mouthdailyno

Can birth control help with a heavy menstrual flow?

Hormonal birth control can be helpful for people with heavy menstrual flows. According to 2017 research, it blocks the growth of the lining of the womb before menstruation, which can decrease bleeding.

Can birth control make your period lighter?

Some types of birth control can make your period lighter by reducing bleeding during menstruation. This includes hormone-based birth control methods like hormonal IUDs, birth control pills, and the Depo-Provera shot.

Can birth control make your period worse?

Starting any new form of birth control can cause changes to your menstrual cycle, including changes in the length or flow of your period.

Though birth control is unlikely to cause heavier bleeding during your period, you may notice changes if you are switching from a hormone-based birth control to a nonhormonal birth control method.

If you do experience heavier bleeding after starting a new form of birth control, be sure to talk with your doctor. They can help determine if other factors may be involved or if another birth control option may work better for you.

Adrienne Santos-Longhurst is a Canada-based freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and lifestyle for more than a decade. When she’s not holed up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking around her beach town with husband and dogs in tow, or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddleboard.