How to Never Have Your Period Again
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When used continuously, pills, the ring, the shot, the patch and the hormonal IUD can all substantially reduce or even eliminate menstrual bleeding and cramps. Oyer often recommends a hormonal IUD, since longer-acting methods offer better pregnancy prevention. (On the Pill about 1 in 12 women gets pregnant each year; with a hormonal IUD that number drops to 1 in 700.) But no one method is best for everyone. Ultimately you have to decide what fits your lifestyle and your body.
For example, somebody who wants the long-term freedom of an IUD has to have the time for a little self-pampering during the initial adjustment period. Short-acting methods like birth-control pills can suppress your period and related symptoms from the very first cycle. By contrast, a hormonal IUD may cause several months of spotting while the uterine wall gradually thins. The typical payoff is a 90 percent reduction in menstrual flow for up to seven years, and many women have no bleeding by the end of the first year. But you have to get through what some users call “the black panties phase.” One college-aged dancer chose to wait for a pause in her performance schedule, using rings to manage her cramps and bleeding during the school year and then getting an IUD during her summer break.
If you count on your period as a monthly pregnancy test, you may worry that with no bleeding you could end up pregnant and not know it. Oyer says there are other ways of knowing whether you are pregnant: “Most women, within a few weeks of becoming pregnant, have several symptoms that alert them that they are pregnant. These symptoms can include nausea and vomiting, breast tenderness, aversion to smells, bloating, dizziness, and needing to pee more frequently.” She warns against trusting your period as a definitive test. “It’s a little-known fact that many women continue to get periods in early pregnancy. It is always important to pay attention to your body when wondering about pregnancy. A period should be reassuring only in the absence of other symptoms.”
Making any big health decision raises an array of hopes and fears, and Oyer patiently led me through some common misconceptions. No, menstrual suppression doesn’t cause a build-up that can lead to cancer. In fact, it can help symptoms of endometriosis and may reduce the risk of some cancers. Except for the shot, there’s no evidence that menstrual suppression causes bone loss. (The shot appears to cause temporary calcium loss that is rebuilt after it is discontinued.) All research suggests that women who want to get pregnant resume regular cycles and normal fertility rates within a few months after discontinuing continuous contraception. However, suppressing your period won’t “save your eggs” and prolong your fertility or postpone menopause if that’s what you were hoping.
Thanks to the array of options available, even women with chronic health problems like migraines, diabetes, a history of blood clots or polycystic ovary symptom often find a method that is safe and effective. Oyer encourages all women to ask themselves what they want and then get the information that will let them make an informed decision:
“The studies we have about continuous contraception are limited, but they strongly suggest that reducing or even eliminating your period can be a healthy option. Long-acting methods, LARCs, may be relatively new to most American women, but hormonal IUDs have been used in Europe for over 20 years, and they have been researched since the 1960s and 1970s. That said, you need to decide what is right for you—to gather information, weigh the risks and benefits, talk to your provider, and listen to your body.”