Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. This blog post is from personal experience and I share it to show that you aren’t alone but you can conquer it. If you have been struggling with your menstruation cycle for some time now, it would be best to seek professional help from your general physician or gynecologist as soon as possible and not prolong it so you can get back to growing to your full potential. I wish you the best on your journey.
I was that girl in middle school who prayed to God daily to get her period. All the girls were getting theirs and my best friend and I felt so left out. We would talk about how it would feel and how grown up we would be when the time came but I definitely obsessed over mine more than she did. Then she got hers and told me all about it. I was happy for her but it just made me feel even more alone. I started to wonder if something was wrong with my body. Why was my period taking so long to make its grand entrance? While I waited, I read all the puberty books I could get my hands on. I read my older cousin’s, my big sister’s and all the ones my aunt bought for me. From front to back. Multiple times. So much that I was damn near an expert and knew what to expect and do when my period arrived. I was just waiting for my body to catch up.
A few months later, it happened and I was ecstatic. I will never forget the first time I wore a pad. My big sister assisted me with putting it on and immediately I felt 5 pounds heavier. It felt so weird having something so bulky in between my legs but I didn’t complain because this is what I prayed for. I just walked funny. It took a while to get used to it but I was too happy to complain. Now I look back at that girl and laugh! She had no clue what she was getting herself into. For the first two years or so, me and my period had a mutual understanding. She would come the second Wednesday of every month, last for three days and then make her exit. All those horror stories I heard didn’t happen to me.
Then the inevitable happened- my period got an attitude and started to do her own thing. She would come days late with a crazy flow and even crazier symptoms. Soon after, I tried tampons and life got easier. No more diaper feeling. No more being afraid to laugh or cough too hard and most importantly, no more feeling gross. I felt this was a step in the right direction and I was finally starting to have some sort of control over her. Then things got even worse.
It got even more unpredictable and painful. It got so bad that I went on birth control, or oral contraceptive pills. Also known as hormonal combination pills. Also infamously known as “the pill.” I’ll admit, I was pretty intrigued by birth control. I couldn’t believe that one pill could do so many things- help with acne, regulate my cycle, lessen my menstruation cramps, get my flow lighter, treat polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), lower my risk of anemia and cancers such as ovarian and uterus cancer (lining of the uterus) AND prevent pregnancy. I was all for it so I tried it for myself.
According to the Young Women’s Health Organization website*, the pill is a good choice if you suffer from irregular or heavy menstrual periods, menstrual cramps, acne, PMS, Primary Ovarian Insufficiency (POI), endometriosis, and hormone replacement therapy.
How does birth control work with your menstruation cycle?
During your menstrual cycle, your uterus prepares itself for a fetus. If you don’t get pregnant, it sheds its lining and you get your period. When this happens, your pituitary gland produces the follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) that….….you guessed it, stimulates follicles. Each with their own egg to develop on your ovaries. As your period concludes, all the follicles stop growing except one and that one produces the hormone estrogen which then results in your uterus lining thickening. Then comes ovulation once your estrogen levels stabilizes. It sounds the alarm for your luteinizing hormone (LH) to take over. This hormone gives your follicle the okay to release the egg in hopes of getting fertilized.
After ovulation, your follicle produces the hormone progesterone to come in and aid in the progression of the uterine lining (wow, they really try hard to get you pregnant huh?). If you don’t get pregnant, the egg breaks down and the estrogen and progesterone go away in disappointment. On queue, you shed your lining, start your period and here we go again. Birth control comes in mainly with progestin, a synthetic version of the hormone progesterone to increase cervical mucus while decreasing your uterus lining aka makes it much harder for any sperm to reach your egg. Here comes the control so many women crave!
Birth Control Options And Time Spans
“The pill” or combination hormonal pills use estrogen (to suppresses ovulation) and progestin in 21 or 28 (21 hormonal pills and seven placebo pills) day packs. You have to take one pill everyday at the same exact time.
Birth Control Intrauterine Devices (IUDs)- is a progestin-contained object that gets physically inserted as a means of menstruation suppression. Once it’s in, it starts doing its magic. Compared to the pill, you don’t have to worry about taking anything daily. Though some girls may still have to get their periods, it is of rare frequency. Most stop having theirs altogether by the six month mark*** and it can stay in place for 3-5 years.
Birth Control Patches- similar to the pill, these 2-inch patches contain both progestin and estrogen and work on a 21 day cycle so they’re a bit of maintenance. It is placed on your stomach, bottom, back, or upper arm. After the 21 days and you want to suppress your period even longer, it is a must to attach another hormone or patch.
Birth Control Vaginal Rings- they are literally rings. Flexible plastic rings that a doctor inserts into your vagina and you keep in long term. However, as a result, this makes you more susceptible to toxic shock syndrome. Similar to the combination pills, it contains the same hormones but in more consistent doses. You keep it in for three weeks and then remove it for a week (time for your period to come). If you want to suppress your period, you can put a new one in right away without waiting for a week. The amount of times you change the ring depends on the brand you use.
Birth Control Shots- these contain progestin and are taken every 90 days in your arm or butt and are one of the most effective methods of menstrustration suppression. Initially you may experience a lot of bleeding but it goes away. However, you are also at higher risk of weight gain and bone loss.
Birth Control Implants- the least effective method of stopping your period and only contain the hormone progestin. It is another psychical insertion in your arm of a plastic rod that does all the work for you.
The Cons of Taking Combination Hormonal Pills**
Each type of birth control has its own side effects. I focus on birth control pills because they’re the most popular and the only method I have personal tried. If you have read this far and am interested in the other 5 listed above, consult with your doctor.
Side effects: mood swings, blood clots (due to estrogen), pregnancy (if not taken at the same time everyday) and A.C.H.E.S.*:
Abdominal or stomach pain (severe),
Chest pain (severe), cough, shortness of breath
Headache (severe), dizziness, weakness, or numbness
Eye problems (vision loss or blurring), speech problems
Severe leg pain (calf or thigh).
My Personal Experience Taking “The Pill”
In the last seven or nine years, I have probably tried about four different hormonal combination pills by now. The thought of having something synthetic, inserted inside of me or not scared me enough to stick with the pill and keep trying different ones until I found the one. One made me gain so much weight that it forced me to stop. One made me so nauseous that I couldn’t sleep or do anything for that matter. One was good with no side effects but hell to get refilled because of my insurance and this month, I’m trying another since my period hasn’t let up in the past month and I need a break (meaning I want it regulated with a lighter flow as opposed to suppression)!
In my experience, I’ve learned that when it comes to birth control, you’ll never know unless you try because everyone’s body is different but in the end, you either love birth control or you hate it. There are some women who are completely for it and believe it’s a Godsent. Then there are women completely against it because they believe it results in a disconnect with your body and the long term effects outweigh the good. Though I’ve had good and bad experiences, my usage of birth control was spread quite far apart and never longer than a few months. To me, it’s worth a try because it does help regulate my period and I had a long conversation with my doctor every single time before I tried each one.
I probably sound like a broken record by now but please make sure to do your own research and talk to your physician before making a final decision. If you are thinking about having a long-term break from your period for a specific event or occasion, plan ahead and talk to your doctor sooner than later. You only have one body so treat it right. Don’t rush it. I hope this post was helpful. I am wishing you all the best.
**everyone’s body is different and will react to “the pill” differently. Consult a doctor to find the best one for you.