Contraception and your Period
My body really does not like the contraceptive pill. And when I see really, I mean REALLY REALLY. Just a week into taking that bad boy had me heaving throw up into the work toilet, suffering from a horrendous ocular migraine. The mini-pill? Same problem. A splitting migraine so painful, I feared I was having a stroke.
Luckily for me, and many women like me, there are now many options on the market for those who, for whatever reason, want and need to take control of their menstrual cycle. Not only a handy dandy tool for the prevention of pregnancy, contraception can also be used to help those who suffer from painful or irregular periods. It has even been used in the treatment of PCOS, endometriosis, acne and an array of other ailments! And luckily for you, it just so happens that in my quest to find the perfect contraception for my body, I've tried more than a few of them, with differing results. Before we dive into the contraceptive world of hoozets and woozets and gadgets aplenty, it should be said that each form of contraception will react to each individual's body differently. You should always have a good old chin wag with your doctor when considering any medications.
The contraceptive is probably the most well known and widely used (100 million women worldwide!) form of period altering contraception that stops ovulation in order to prevent pregnancy. Taken orally once daily, importantly at the same time every day, the pill uses the hormones estrogen and progestogen and was first approved in the United States in 1960, signaling the start of the women's liberation movement. The pill is to be taken over a 28 day period, with the last 7 days of the cycle being hormone-free, causing breakthrough bleeding or a period. What makes the pill so attractive to some women is that you are able to skip this 7-day window and forgo your monthly period altogether.
The Mini Pill
Super similar to its big sister in how it's taken, except the mini-pill contains progestogen-only. Because it is a lower dose of hormone being released into the body, women often go for the mini-pill if they have experienced negative side effects when taking the combined hormone contraceptive pill. The mini pill is also a safe option for women who are breastfeeding.
Depo Provera Injection
The Depo Provera injection is a hormonal form of contraception administered once every three months. It works in a similar way to the pill and is often also used in the treatment of endometriosis. Depo is thought to be 99.8% effective at preventing pregnancy when administered every three months. Your period may also be much lighter on Depo, with many women reporting no bleeding at all after two to three injections. You do have to be okay with visiting the doctor and getting the old jab every three months though!
Woah, baby! Now we're really bringing out the big guns. Dear reader, I had tried all the above forms of contraception, all of which triggered my debilitating migraines. Just when I thought I would never find the right contraception for my body, like a ray of sun through wintery clouds, my doctor suggested the Mirena. Look, I'm going to be honest and say THE MIRENA IS NOT FOR EVERYONE. While I have loved my last 5 years with it sitting snuggly inside my uterus, two of my friends had it removed shortly after insertion for two separate reasons. One experienced a lower sex drive and the other found that it flared up her inflammatory pelvic issues.
The Mirena is a bendy little plastic anchor looking device that is inserted into your uterus and releases an incredibly low dose of hormones. The insertion part is not pleasant but many women experience little discomfort similar to a pap test (I say with gritted teeth). I very much experienced more than a little discomfort during insertion but I'm also told I have a very dainty opening to my uterus. The con of a painful insertion has far been outweighed by 5 blissful years of period and pregnancy free heaven. Cramps? We don't know her! Spotting? Hardly ever! I am the envy of all my friends with my fancy, period free, footloose life.
There are many other forms of contraception that can help you take control of your period and your body. You may have to try a few different kinds before you find your perfect match, but this is a journey your GP can and should lovingly guide you in.
Words by Alicia Franceschini