Want to opt out of your monthly period? It may be possible long before menopause — while still preserving your fertility.
Increasing numbers of women are having few or no menstrual periods each year — safely! New birth control options are changing the way we think about menstruation. In the old days, women got creative about skipping a cycle by taking back-to-back packs of birth control pills (minus the sugar pills). Now there are several options designed to safely minimize or even eliminate monthly periods. Seasonale limits you to just four cycles a year, while Lybrel makes menstruation a memory. That's right — no periods. Ever.
Many researchers contend there is nothing wrong with skipping your period. Some even believe it could be protective, as the balanced hormones in the pills may lower the risk of cancers in the uterus. However, it's not yet confirmed whether skipping your period altogether has any effect on cancer risk.
Whether you choose to take a seasonal birth control pill or a traditional birth control pill, it’s important to be aware that every hormonal contraceptive comes with some risk. First, the birth control pill is not 100 percent effective, even when it is used correctly… which it often isn’t. (The fact is, abstinence is still the only way to prevent pregnancy 100 percent of the time.) Common mistakes include forgetting to take the pill, taking the pill at different times on different days, and taking antibiotics without using a backup method of contraceptive (antibiotics can interfere with the efficacy rate of birth control pills). Any of these can lead to an unexpected pregnancy.
Birth control pills can also cause some other unfortunate side effects, including a decreased libido! (Ironic, isn’t it?) Weight gain, potential blood clotting, and other risks also apply, which makes some women shy away from hormonal contraceptive use. Not to mention, the price of birth control can sometimes be prohibitive — the weight of which most likely falls on the woman, who usually bears the brunt of contraceptive responsibility in intimate relationships, both financially and logistically. Especially for singles, birth control is a woman’s territory. It comes as no surprise, then, that women spend 68 percent more on out-of-pocket healthcare expenses than men do. Much of this is on reproductive services and purchases.
So what’s a woman to do? First, I think it’s important to keep the dialogue open with your doctor. Don’t allow your visit to be a five minute Pap smear and nothing else. You should discuss birth control. The pill is often a go-to option for most women, but there are many other contraceptives out there, including IUDs and vaginal rings. Second, if you are in a long-term relationship, consider asking your partner to contribute to birth-control costs if he isn’t already. It’s only fair. If he doesn’t seem open to the idea, just have him watch A Baby Story on TLC and he’ll be throwing money at you!
Lastly, be open to switching options. If one brand of pill isn’t suiting you, talk to your doctor about trying another. You just have to find the formula or method that works best for your body, your relationship, and your pocketbook!