Contraception and Period
There are a wide range of choices when it comes to choosing the right contraception for you and your body. Three of the main reasons why women use contraception is to either prevent pregnancy, regulate periods, or manage period-related symptoms such as heavy bleeding and pain.
There are two categories that most contraceptives fall under, either oestrogen and progesterone or progesterone-only. Oestrogen and progesterone are known as combined contraception.
Types of combined contraception are:
- Combined oral contraceptive pill
- Vaginal ring
Progesterone-only contraception ensures that hormone levels are similar to that of a ‘natural’ cycle.
Types of progesterone contraceptives are:
- Hormonal Intrauterine System (IUS)
- Progesterone-only pill
Taking combined contraception means that an egg is not released from your ovary. However, because the lining of your womb still builds up over the three weeks, on the fourth week during your break from taking pills, inserting a ring, or wearing a patch, your hormone levels are lowered. Therefore, rather than having a period, you will experience a withdrawal bleed.
The combined pill consists of unnatural oestrogen and progesterone. The pill prevents the ovaries from releasing an egg, thins the lining of the womb, and thickens the mucus at the neck of the womb to stop sperm from entering through the cervix.
When taking the oestrogen and progesterone pill, monthly bleeds can become,
- Less painful
Women can take two pill packets together to delay their bleed. It’s advised to plan ahead and start taking the combined pill a few weeks before you want to pause your bleed. It can take a while for your body to settle down on the pill, for example, the combined pill can cause you to have breakthrough bleeding or spotting during the first 1-3 months of taking it.
The vaginal ring can be inserted by you. It’s small, plastic, and soft and releases a consistent amount of oestrogen and progesterone into your bloodstream. The ring works by stopping an egg from being released and thickening the cervical mucus, making it difficult for the sperm to go through the cervix. It also thins the lining of the womb to ensure that a fertilised egg will be less likely to implant. The ring may cause you to experience spotting and bleeding during the first few months of wearing it and can also cause vaginal discharge.
Effects on your monthly bleed,
- Less painful
The patch contains oestrogen and progesterone and is usually worn on the upper leg or arm. The patch works by preventing an egg from being released from the ovary, thickens the cervical mucus, as well as thinning the lining of the womb.
The patch is worn for one week and then replaced for a total of three weeks. During the fourth week, no patch is worn and a bleed occurs.
The patch can help reduce,
- Painful cramps
- Heavy bleeding
Some women may not bleed during their patch-free week, however, if you miss more than 2 bleeds it is advised to speak to your doctor.
The progesterone-only pill works by thickening the mucus to stop the sperm from entering the cervix. The pill is taken daily at the same time, and there are no breaks between packs. You cannot run two packs of the progesterone pill together to stop a bleed from occurring.
Women have often been prescribed the pill who have experienced bleeding inbetween periods or after sex.
- Stop all together
- Become lighter
- Become irregular
- Become more frequent
After you stop taking the pill, your periods may return to your natural cycle in a couple of weeks. For other women it may take around 3 months. However, for some, it may be that their period takes longer and this is known as post-pill amenorrhea.
Hormonal Intrauterine System (IUS)
The IUS is a small, T-shaped, plastic device that releases progesterone and can last between 3-5 years. It can be fitted at any point in your cycle and works by thickening cervical mucus and thins the lining of the womb. The IUS can stop ovulation but most women will continue to ovulate once a month.
Periods can become,
- Or may stop altogether after approximately 12 months
The IUS may help women who have heavy or painful periods. However, most women stop using the IUS due to the inconvenience and unpleasantness of bleeding and pain.
The injection releases the hormone progesterone into the blood and prevents an egg being released from the ovary. It also thickens the cervical mucus making it difficult for sperm to pass through the cervix.
The injection may cause periods to become,
- Or may stop altogether
It can take your periods a while to go back to ‘normal’ and a year for fertility to return after having the contraceptive injection.
Contraceptive Implant (Nexplanon)
The implant is a small flexible rod that is fitted under your skin in the upper inside of your arm. It allows progesterone to enter your blood supply which stops an egg from being released, thickens the cervical mucus, and thins the lining of the womb. The implant can last up to three years.
Your periods may become,
- You may bleed for a longer period of time
- Periods may stop
The implant can help reduce heavy or painful periods.
There are many contraceptives available. In this post we have focused on contraceptives that contain oestrogen and/ or progesterone, how they can be used to help menstrual-related symptoms, and how contraceptives can affect your cycle.
Contraception can help regulate cycles, stop irregular bleeding, lighten bleeding, and reduce menstrual cramps and heavy bleeding.
It’s always a good idea to speak to your doctor or nurse when choosing a contraceptive to either protect against pregnancy or to manage your period-related symptoms. It’s important to know the advantages and disadvantages of all the options available to you.