Medicines for heavy periods

Medicines are one of the treatments used for heavy periods. A number of factors are considered when working out the best medicine for you.

Heavy periods do not always need to be treated. But there are treatments that can help if they’re affecting your daily life. Read more about heavy periods. 

Which medicines help for heavy periods?

A number of medicines can help to reduce heavy periods. Some medicines use hormone therapy – progestogen only (Mirena IUD, Depo Provera injection, Provera or Primolut N tablets) or oestrogen and progestogen (the combined oral contraceptive pill), and other options are non-hormone such as NSAIDs and tranexamic acid. Sometimes the bleeding may be better controlled by a combination of medicines since the various treatments do work differently. 

Many factors are considered when working out the best medicine for you including your age, the severity of bleeding, other medical conditions you may have and the side effects of the medicine. Other factors to consider are:

  • The medicines that you only use during your period and medicines that you use regularly.
  • Your preference for tablets, an IUD (which is inserted) or an injection.
  • Contraceptive (preventing pregnancy) vs not a contraceptive.

Mirena IUD

The Mirena intra-uterine device (IUD) is a small plastic device that is inserted into your vagina and placed in your womb. It slowly releases a small amount of the progestogen hormone (as levonorgestrel) directly onto the lining of your womb. This makes the lining of your womb thinner, making you less likely to have menstrual bleeding and reducing heavy periods.

  • It can reduce menstrual (period) bleeding by up to 90%.
  • Once fitted, the Mirena lasts for up to 5 years. However, it can cause irregular bleeding when first inserted.
  • It needs a prescription and is inserted by a trained health professional (a doctor or nurse).
  • It is a contraceptive.

Read more about Mirena IUD for heavy periods

Tranexamic acid 

Tranexamic acid are tablets that work by reducing the breakdown of blood clots in your womb.

  • It can reduce the heaviness of period bleeding by almost half (40–50%).
  • Tablets are taken for 3 to 5 days during each period.
  • It needs a prescription.
  • It is not a contraceptive.

 Read more about tranexamic acid. 

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

Examples of NSAIDs include mefenamic acid and ibuprofen. They come as tablets or capsules.

  • NSAIDs can reduce period bleeding by 20–50%.
  • They also reduce period pain.
  • They work best if you start taking them on the day before your period starts (if you can, or as soon as it starts) and continue over the heavy days. You need to take them every 6 to 8 hours.
  • They don’t always need a prescription; you can buy ibuprofen from a supermarket or pharmacy and mefenamic acid from a pharmacy (chemist).
  • It is not a contraceptive.
  • Common side effects include indigestion and diarrhoea (runny poos).

Read more about NSAIDs.

Combined oral contraceptive pill (COC)

The combined oral contraceptive pill, known as ‘the pill’, contains the hormones oestrogen and progestogen.

  • They reduce period bleeding by almost a third (30%) in some women.
  • They also reduce period pain.
  • You can skip some periods altogether depending on how you take them.
  • They need a prescription.
  • They are contraceptive.

Read more about the combined oral contraceptive pill.  

Depo Provera injection

Depo Provera is an injection that is given every 13 weeks (approximately every 3 months). It is helpful in treating heavy periods; most women don't have any period bleeding after a few months, but some women can have irregular bleeding as a side effect.

  • It needs a prescription and will be given to you by your doctor or nurse.
  • It is a contraceptive.

Read more about Depo Provera.

Provera or Primolut N tablets

These tablets work by preventing the lining in your womb from growing quickly. They belong to a group of medicines called progestogens.

  • They are taken during your period.
  • They need a prescription.
  • They are a type of hormone therapy but not a contraceptive.

Read more about Provera tablets and Primolut N.

Learn more

Heavy menstrual bleeding The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists

Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist. Reviewed By: Angela Lambie, Pharmacist, Auckland Last reviewed: 24 Sep 2022