Whatever reason you have for using birth control and whatever brand of birth control pill you take, you’re no doubt familiar with the placebo pill. Continuing to take the placebo pill helps users stick to taking their pill and makes it easier to remember when it’s time to crack open a new packet.
So, for one week each month, during your expected period, you’ll take a placebo pill with literally no useful ingredients. But... why? TikToker Kate Swisher (@kateswisher) not only recently posed that question but took it a step further: She came up with a brilliant idea for replacing placebos.
For many period-havers, the week you take the placebo pills is plagued by classic period symptoms like moodiness, cramps, headaches, and generally feeling sh*tty. The placebo pill might help you keep your pill poppin’ routine, but it does absolutely nothing to help you feel better during your period. Such inspired Swisher's big idea — and, oh boy, is her suggestion valid and relatable.
“I woke up from a dead sleep last night wondering why aren’t the placebo pills in a pack of birth control ibuprofen?” she shares. “Like, if you know that starting the placebo pills is going to trigger menstruation, can’t a bitch get a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory, please?”
Can we get an amen?! After all, ibuprofen is the preferred OTC pain reliever for period pain due to its anti-inflammatory properties. According to Northwestern, it also slows prostaglandin production, leading to less uterine shedding and, thus, less bleeding. Then again, since you can rotate between ibuprofen and acetaminophen, why wouldn’t you try both? And, of course, more importantly, why isn’t one or the other included in your birth control instead of a placebo?
One commenter has a sneaking suspicion: "I just assumed history already taught us that the pharmacy and health industries enjoy our pain. It’s like a fun experiment for them to see the limit."
Granted, that tracks, but there's probably more to it. For instance, you only take your birth control or your placebo once a day, whereas most over-the-counter pain relievers require consistent use every 4-6 hours. If you take your birth control every night at 10 p.m., including a painkiller instead of a placebo would require you to do a bit of math earlier in the day. Who TF wants to do math while bleeding and cramping?
Furthermore, just like different birth control options work better for different people, the same is true for painkillers. Plus, many people are allergic to NSAIDs and unable even to take them. All of this brings up an interesting thought, though. Wouldn't it be cool if period-havers could pick what they'd like in place of their placebo pills? Like a "choose your own adventure" for your ovaries, if you will.
As a commenter named Ashley pointed out, "I took one for a while that had iron pills instead of sugar."
Jo.Cavs would like something tailored more to her hormone-induced headaches, saying, "Can I have triptans in mine? Stopping hormones for me is an instant migraine."
Commenter Travelynn01 came in with another clutch suggestion: "Yes, or caffeine tablets."
But arguably the best and potentially safest idea? "Or an M&M," brilliantly remarked Karen Wallace. Even Swisher had to agree, "An M&M is actually a better idea than mine 😂."
So, honestly, who do we need to talk to here? Someone get the Green M&M on the phone — she seems like a broad who can make things happen. As for all of the reasons placebo pills aren't something more practical, well, it sounds a lot less like "It can't be done" and more like "It would be confusing to do." And, as uterus-having humans, we deal with confusing sh*t all the time. Why stop at birth control?