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contraception and menstruation

(129 Posts)
falasportugues Wed 22-Jun-11 18:15:36

These days we have a choice of contraception, some of which can stop us menstruating, and some of which don't. I have preferred in the past to continue having periods, because I think it is important to be aware of my hormonal cycle. Do any ladies here have any other arguments for and against menstruating? It's renewal time, and I'd like some different perspectives to help me decide. I realise I could have put this on the family planning topic, but I would appreciate a feminist views on this issue. Thank you.

ellodarlin Wed 22-Jun-11 18:35:51

I will be stopping menstruation sometime after I have my next last dc. I didn't used to mind so much when I was younger but prolapse has made tampons uncomfortable/unreliable which stops me swimming one week out of four.

I don't like messing about with hormones but nor do I like to deal with the limitations of my 8 day long periods. Its not just the swimming, although that is the main reason, I take over the limit of painkillers for 3-4 days a month which can't be good for me and I use sea pearls/jam sponge which are great but awkward as you ideally need to change them in a toilet which has a sink in it which can mean explaining to acquaintances why you are using the disabled toilet and feeling guilty when coming out of said toilet with a toddler and getting tutted at and directed towards the baby change room.

HerBeX Wed 22-Jun-11 18:39:39

For me, I don't want anything that interferes with my body.

I don't care if that makes me a luddite, I don't want it.

But it's easy for me as I don't get bad periods and pain and stuff.

I was thinking the other day how much narrower the contraception options are than they were when I was young. Barrier methods, apart from condoms, seem to be heavily discouraged - I had to go to a FP clinic to get a diaphragm, as the doc's only do injections, IUD and the pill. All of which are methods where the medical profession, rather than women themselves, have control.

DilysPrice Wed 22-Jun-11 18:49:38

There's an argument that monthly periods for decades at a time are very far from natural, that until pretty recently (in evolutionary terms) we would have been working on a roughly 24 month pg/bf/menstruation/pg/bf/menstruation/pg "cycle".

We are, thank heavens, now liberated from this, so there's no reason not to go the whole hog and ditch the periods as well. Maybe? I'm not fully au fair with the data because I'm not allowed hormonal contraception anyway, but it's an interesting POV to throw into the mix.

falasportugues Wed 22-Jun-11 19:26:23

I am facing the swimming issue too, and have been explaining why I didn't go into the pool with them after their swimming lesson this time. I am glad that I have been explaining periods to them over the past few months, as it was something i didn't feel very open about before, but it's so good to tell them what's what.
Dilys, it's an interesting observation... I have also heard people argue for the pill that it prevents you releasing your eggs, so you still have plenty later on when you want to get pregnant.

snowmama Wed 22-Jun-11 19:28:05

I would cheerfully get rid of my periods for the rest of my life but I would caution against the hormonal treatments because their side effects can be god awful, and not easy to stop (injections implants etc).

I also found it nearly impossible to be offered a contraception that did not involve hormones.

HerBeX Wed 22-Jun-11 19:32:27

Hmm, not sure about that one. We're all born with thousands of eggs, aren't we? Releasing 12 to 16 a year isn't going to make many inroads.

I have come across that idea of women constantly menstruating not being "natural" though, on account of them being constantly pregnant or breast feeding. I suppose it depends what % of women throughout history have not conceived children and so menstruated without any pause from their first period until the end of menopause.

PrinceHumperdink Wed 22-Jun-11 19:49:19

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

falasportugues Wed 22-Jun-11 19:57:38

"Natural" is interesting for us to measure up against...I think I do want to be natural, and it has stuck in my mind that versions of the coil have been used for centuries.... sometimes in the form of small stick (can't remember where I read that!) and that makes me feel that it is a more natural method of contraception than hormonal ones. I am also interested in what you all think about the medical model of contraception being based around stopping periods, and being 'sold' to us as our natural functions being 'problematic' and so therefore 'undesirable'.

sparky246 Wed 22-Jun-11 20:02:40

i had extreem body dysphoria[dont believe in it now]
and one of the things that really bothered me was periods.
my periods were always light and ive never had a period pain or anything
however-it did remind me that i was a woman.
i took small amounts of t and got rid of them[not just for this reason]
since accepting myself-i have periods again and although i still find this a bit difficult-im getting there.
i now see menstruation as something to celebrate!

msrisotto Wed 22-Jun-11 20:07:53

I read a study (no link, s'pose I can look for it if your desperate) about how without contraception, in really rural african tribes, women didn't have half as many periods as we in the west do, because they were pregnant more often. As it is, we have more periods than we ever would have done if we let nature take its course. So there's my argument for using the pill to restrict the number of periods I have.

sunshineandbooks Wed 22-Jun-11 20:57:23

I often wonder if hormonal contraceptions are what are responsible for people having difficult periods.

I started my periods early, at age 11. By the age of 13 my mother had taken me down the Dr's and had me put on the pill (after discussing it with me obviously) because my periods were that bad I was taking a lot of time off school. I stayed on hormonal contraception of one sort and another for the next 17 years, until I started TTC. The last 6 years of that time was spent with an implant (2 of them). At the time, I thought they were great, especially the first implant because I didn't have any periods at all. However, once I stopped, I found that within two months my periods went from heavy over 6 days to light over 2-3 days and also my pre-period spots disappeared.

Since having children I am not using any hormonal contraception whatsoever and have felt the best I've ever felt about my cycle. Possibly this is due to age and having children rather than anything to do with hormonal contraception, but I do wonder. Even if I embark on another long-term relationship I will not be taking hormones ever again.

celadon Wed 22-Jun-11 22:49:30

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

TotalChaos Wed 22-Jun-11 23:12:00

I prefer not to have periods, as without hormones I'ld have the double whammy of PMT symptoms of depression and heavy, painful periods. But hormonal contraception can also cause problems, as reactions are so individual, and these injectables etc are one-dose-fits-all.

HerBeX Wed 22-Jun-11 23:15:30

That's what I don't like about them TC
If it doesn't suit you, you've got weeks to wait before the effects wear off

TotalChaos Wed 22-Jun-11 23:18:56

Completely agree HerBex. Which is why I won't touch the depo, mirena or implant with a bargepole given my history of depression. At least if I stick to tablets effects are relatively quickly reversible.

feministlurker Wed 22-Jun-11 23:29:19

There are long-term "hidden" theoretical health risks to suppressing your periods. - it suppreses your oestrogens which in the long term help to protect your bones against osteoporosis. (the combined pill, which usually makes periods lighter, is ok though).

journals.lww.com/greenjournal/Abstract/2004/05000/Effects_of_Hormonal_Contraception_on_Bone_Mineral.13.aspx

Is this a feminist issue? I don't know. It's just a theoretical risk. These methods of contraception are relatively new so we don't know enough about the effects 20+ years on, after the menopause. It should be every woman's choice as to what happens to her body, and of course every method of contraception carries a risk of some sort - as well as the adverse effects of having monthly periods, which weigh heavily in the balance for many. The "failure rate" is less with the depot contraceptives, and for many women unplanned pregnancy is the biggest health risk of all.

But perhaps it is a feminist issue that we (women) do not tend to discuss all of the theoretical long-term risks. Presenting it as purely a personal choice is convenient - because it is definitely a feminist issue that care providers are encouraged by the Govt to push the type of contraception that stops you having periods - partly because it's cheaper, partly because it is more effective at reducing unwanted (read teenage) pregnancies - although it is all still ostensibly couched within the language of "choice" - see current NICE guidelines www.nice.org.uk/nicemedia/live/10974/29911/29911.pdf

And also (a separate point) I think maybe we should be taught more in schools about our own hormonal cycle? When I was TTC and reading up about charting cycles, all this EWCM business was rather a revelation to me...

Fifis25StottieCakes Wed 22-Jun-11 23:29:28

I had always had the Depo injection which stopped my periods. I had my last one in June last year. This time it didnt stop my periods. They have become weekly, sometimes just spotting, other times very heavy. Apparently they changed the make up of it and many people are now having worse periods whilst on it. I have had a smear and swabs and everything is ok. The doctor is just putting it down to the Deop.

bucaneve Wed 22-Jun-11 23:56:35

I pretty much agree with every thing feministlurker just said. I do think, women are at times just kind of told "oh just go on the pill/implant/whatever" 'cause it's the most convenient for Dr.s as opposed to what's necessarily best for the individual woman's health. I also, definitely don't think we get told enough about the long term pros and cons of everything to one's health.

According to my German friend, if you want to go on the pill there. Before they prescribe you one, they run a blood hormone test on you to see which one would be best for you - seems a very sensible idea!

Just as an aside, a large chunk of a-level biology is about "hormonal control of reproduction" and I still remember lots about progesterone and stuff. Fair enough, its not really that much use to all those who didn't do a-level bio!

Personally, I'm not too keen on adding extra hormones to my body when there's not really any need to. I think part of my aversion to the pill/other hormonal contraceptives might be because my mum got breast cancer in her late 30s (she's fine now) so I don't want to do anything to increase my risk even a tiny bit.

feministlurker Wed 22-Jun-11 23:59:29

did they talk about EWCM in your A-level biology class bucaneve?

(impressed)

forkful Thu 23-Jun-11 00:15:54

My argument for menstruating is that I believe it is a very important indicator if a wonan's health. In Western medicine "problem periods" = "go on the pill to sort it out". In Eastern medicine you'd be treated holistically. PMS apparently unheard of in other cultures with better diets...

See Marilyn Glanville's book about PMS. Want to follow her food plan but keep making excuses to myself.

The shocking lack of education about our cycles is a feminist issue.
I learnt so much when researching TTC. Mucus/cervix position/temperature etc. I stopped taking the pill a couple of years before TTC and used a combo of Persona (testing urine to see where you are in your cycle) plus a diaphragm.

I felt weird with a Mirena (FGS read the leaflet if you're considering one). I now have a copper coil. I am considering Essure a new form of female sterilisation which doesn't require a GA.

bucaneve Thu 23-Jun-11 00:18:26

Hmmm.....I definitely knew what it was when I was a teenager (though probably not the name) but can't quite remember where I knew this from...I remember a phrase like "you may have white discharge in the middle of your cycle, this means you are ovulating. This helps the sperm." but can't remember if I learnt this in science or a sex-ed leaflet in PSE.

Right now I mainly remember going on a trip to a sheep farm and listening to the farmer talk about how they use progesterone sponges to try and make all the ewes lamb at the same time.

feministlurker Thu 23-Jun-11 00:28:27

ah now PMS another feminist issue...

GothAnneGeddes Thu 23-Jun-11 00:36:16

I don't like the idea of not having periods. It just doesn't feel right to me.

I've used the IUD on and off for years, but I removed it to TTC and then had a nasty case of PID, so I doubt I will use it again, Think I will use persona + condoms in future.

GothAnneGeddes Thu 23-Jun-11 00:37:56

Actually, now I think about it, I was on Dianette for a long time too. It worked as contraception and helped my skin, but it definitely affected my moods and ended up giving me thrush, so no more hormones for me.

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