There was an article published in the New York Times in October that has seriously ruffled my feathers! It is an article written by a young woman with instructions on how to stop your period so you can enjoy “the better quality of life that comes from not having a monthly period.” (Rogers, 2016)
I must protest! If you get a period every month, you are a lucky woman. It means that you are likely healthy, have enough to eat and do not have a reproductive disease preventing you from ovulating.
Your period is like a monthly health barometer.
In 2015, even the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (Olmstead) recognized the menstrual cycle’s importance as the fifth vital sign. Assessing a woman’s menstrual cycle by asking questions about the flow, length and regularity can give vital health information about the:
- hypothalamus and pituitary glands in the brain
- autoimmune clotting conditions
- thyroid disease
- sexually transmitted infections
- malignancy in the reproductive system
- uterine lesions
- other menstrual conditions like PCOS that affect the rest of the endocrine system.
The idea of stopping your period because it is a hassle is based on misinformation. I work almost exclusively with women who are trying to get pregnant and one of the things I hear in my clinic almost everyday is “I wish I had known earlier how my body works. Why don’t they teach this stuff in school??”
The idea that you can stop your period and not have any consequences is crazy thinking.
Kind of like thinking stopping your heartbeat wouldn’t have any consequences.
The consequences of cycle suppression are showing up everyday in my clinic. Girls are put on oral contraceptive pills to manage their painful periods in their teens and then continue taking them through their 20’s and into their 30’s. I often see women who haven’t had an un-medicated cycle since they were 14! They are seeing me because they are having trouble getting their hormones balanced so they can have a baby.
When one hormone is manipulated, such as estrogen in the pill to stop your period, there is a trickle down effect to all of the other hormones and how they do their job in the body. That is why the side effects of the pill are unique to each woman and can include:
- headaches or migraines
- increased blood pressure
- vaginal infection or itching
- abdominal pain
- breast lumps or pain
- nausea and vomiting
- weight gain
- decreased sex drive
It can even change your sense of smell making it harder to detect pheromones that will help a woman choose a partner that turns them on.
And of course there was the most recent study showing evidence that the pill increases incidence of depression.
The evidence is stacking up that messing with your hormones can have significant and long lasting effects.
Perhaps the pill is not as benign as we have been led to believe.
However, I can hear your protesting that there’s still the problem of painful and inconvenient periods. I understand that periods can be painful and heavy and derail your life and you would rather not deal with that. Believe me, I had my share of days in bed with a hot water bottle.
But there is another way, the choice doesn’t have to be either pain or the pill. You can read my article here about how Chinese Medicine can help painful periods.
Painful periods are a wake up sign from our bodies saying that something is not right. It’s a call to action to get our hormones back to balance before there are more serious symptoms. Suppressing your cycle doesn’t make the underlying situation go away, it just blocks the messages between you and your body. Kind of like unfollowing someone on Facebook; they are still posting messages, but the messages are not showing up on your newsfeed.
Your monthly period is a way to take measure of your health and to celebrate your womanly body and it’s unique powers. We are not men. Supressing our periods is not reclaiming our lives and our health. It is supressing an important and significant part of what makes us, us.
Charlotte Wessel Skovlund, MSc1, PhD1 Lina Steinrud Mørch and MD, DMSc2 Lars Vedel Kessing. “Associaton of Hormonal Contraception with Depression.” JAMA Psychiatry 73.11 (2016): 1154-1162.
Micromedex. Estrogen and Progestin Oral Contraceptives (Oral Route). 1 April 2015. 10 November 2016 <http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/estrogen-and-progestin-oral-contraceptives-oral-route/side-effects/drg-20069422>.
Olmstead, Susan. ACOG: The menstrual cycle is a vital sign. 14 December 2015. 20 October 2016 <http://contemporaryobgyn.modernmedicine.com/contemporary-obgyn/news/acog-menstrual-cycle-vital-sign>.
Roberts, S. Craig. “MHC-correlated odour preferences in humans and the use of oral contraceptives.” Proceedings of the Royal Society – Biological Sciences (2008): n/a.
Rogers, Katie. How to stop your period. 18 October 2016. 18 October 2016 <http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/19/well/live/how-to-stop-your-period.html>.