How To Choose Birth Control For Irregular Periods
Irregular periods are characterized by infrequent or too frequent periods missed periods painful periods or a change in blood flow. Many people treat irregular periods with birth control, but what type of birth control is right for you?
Continue reading to discover various birth control options to regulate periods so that you can have a more predictable menstrual cycle from here on.
Abnormal Uterine Bleeding Associated With Hormonal Contraception
SARINA SCHRAGER, M.D., University of Wisconsin Medical School, Madison, Wisconsin
Am Fam Physician. 2002 May 15 65:2073-2081.
Abnormal uterine bleeding is a common side effect of all forms of hormonal contraception. Although this bleeding is rarely dangerous, many women find it worrisome. In fact, women frequently discontinue hormonal contraception because of irregular bleeding and other side effects.13 One study4 found that 32 percent of 1,657 women who started taking oral contraceptive pills discontinued them within six months 46 percent of the discontinuations were due to side effects.
Most women who discontinue hormonal contraception do not use another contraceptive method and are therefore at high risk for unintended pregnancy. An estimated one third of the 3 million unintended pregnancies in the United States each year are related to the misuse or discontinuation of OCPs.5
What Are The Best Birth Control Options For Teens
Different types of birth control prevent pregnancy differently. Some of the most common methods prevent against pregnancy in a few different ways, including:
- Barrier methods: Creates a barrier, usually silicone or latex, to prevent sperm from reaching the egg
- Spermicide: Foams or creams containing a chemical, usually nonoxynol-9, that kills off sperm or prevents sperm from moving
- The pill: Prevents the ovaries from releasing eggs
- Intrauterine devices :Prevents a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus
- Depo-Provera : Thickens cervical mucus to keep sperm from getting into or implanting in the uterus
Some Women Are More Likely To Experience It
Breakthrough bleeding happens more often in women who smoke cigarettes and in women who dont take their birth control pills consistently. Some medications, like emergency contraception pills, also can cause irregular bleeding. Having certain infections, such as chlamydia or gonorrhea, also can increase risk.
Its also more common when women who use birth control pills or the ring take a continuous dose of hormones to skip their periods altogether. One more factor: Benign growths such as uterine fibroids can cause irregular bleeding thats unrelated to birth control.
Birth Control Can Make Your Period Irregular At First
Hormonal contraceptives like birth control pills and the hormonal intrauterine device work to prevent pregnancy by interfering with the natural fluctuation of hormones in your cycle that form eggs and ovarian follicles. This interference is what prevents you from getting pregnant.
Some hormonal contraceptives, like the hormonal IUD, also prevent pregnancy by thinning the lining of your uterus, known as the endometrium, so an egg cant attach to it.
A thin endometrium means your body doesnt need to shed it as often or at all, so your period may become much lighter or stop altogether, Zhang says.
Spotting or bleeding between periods can happen when you start using a new method of hormonal birth control, Zhang says. Plus, some people choose to use birth control in a way that suppresses their period entirely, like taking birth control pills continuously , which can also result in spotting until your body gets used to the new routine.
But if you have spotting or bleeding between periods that doesnt go away within a few months, or if theres a sudden change in your cycle, thats worth noting, Zhang says.
If youre on an IUD and you dont get your period, if all of a sudden you have heavy bleeding or have irregular bleeding, that is something to ask your doctor about, she says.
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Rethink Your Low Carb Plan
Depending on the cause of your irregular flow, a low carb plan can be helpful or harmful. Some research suggests that low carb diets can help regulate weight and hormone levels in folks with polycystic ovary syndrome .
But in general, the health experts behind the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend getting 45 to 65 percent of your daily calories from carbs. Thats 225 to 325 grams per day if youre eating a standard 2,000-calorie diet.
Still interested in tweaking your macros to help regulate your menstrual cycle? Talk with your doctor to see how a low carb diet will affect any other health conditions you may have.
Iud May Be Best For Heavy Menstrual Bleeding
For many, monthly periods are much more than a minor annoyance. They stop life in its tracks for days each month.
Oral contraceptives and progestin hormone pills are commonly prescribed medical treatments for heavy periods in the U.S., but they arenât always effective for many women.
Now a landmark study from Europe, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, concludes that an IUD that releases progestin may be a more effective therapy.
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How Much Does It Cost
When budgeting for birth control, be sure to factor in the cost of the drug or device, along with any related doctors appointments.
You might be able to get your birth control for a lot less or even for free depending on:
- where you live
- whether you have health insurance
- if you qualify for Medicaid or another government program
What Are The Treatment Options For Heavy Periods
There are various treatment options available for women who have very heavy periods, including medication, hormonal contraceptives and surgery. Knowing about the advantages and disadvantages of each can help make it easier to choose an appropriate treatment.
If very heavy periods become too much of a problem, treatment can help you to cope better. Different types of medication can reduce the bleeding and related problems. If one medication doesnt work, it is usually possible to try out other kinds.
Hormonal contraceptives like birth control pills or intrauterine devices affect the menstrual cycle and lessen the amount of bleeding. Any fibroids or polyps that are found to be the cause can be surgically removed. If the effects of heavy periods are particularly bad, other procedures can be considered.
The choice of treatment and best time for treatment will depend on whether a woman is planning to become pregnant. The most effective treatments all limit a womans ability to get pregnant either temporarily, like the pill, or permanently, like the surgical removal of the womb .
But as long as the heavy periods arent causing anemia, they dont necessarily need to be treated. Some women learn ways to prepare as well as possible for heavier days. But its a good idea to see a doctor and try to find out what the cause is.
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Signs Of Abnormally Heavy Periods
About 1 in 5 women is living with abnormally heavy periods, but many women dont seek treatment. You might be experiencing abnormally heavy menstrual periods if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Periods lasting longer than seven days
- Passing blood clots larger than a quarter
- Needing to change pads or tampons every hour
- Needing to change pads or tampons during the night
- Missing out on daily activities due to period symptoms
These are all signs of heavy periods. Experiencing heavy bleeding can drain your energy, cause symptoms of anemia, and make you miss out on activities because youre tired or uncomfortable.
Talk to Dr. Sejour about your periods to find out if your menstrual cycle might be abnormal. If youve tried other methods of controlling your period, or you dont want to use hormones, an IUD, or other method, endometrial ablation might be a good option for you.
Risks And Side Effects
The most common side effects for all aforementioned birth control methods – pills, rings, implants, patches, and IUDs – are headaches, nausea, breast tenderness, acne, fluid retention, and spotting. The options that come in contact with the skin may cause irritation.
Also, no matter the contraceptive method, all hormonal birth control methods carry an increased risk of blood clots . Depending upon family history, the use of synthetic estrogen may increase the risk of developing hormone-dependent cancers as well, such as breast, uterine, or ovarian cancer.
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Oral Contraceptives Or Contraceptive Devices
Depending on the cause of your menstrual bleeding, you may benefit from taking oral contraceptives. The hormones in birth control pills can help regulate your periods and may reduce bleeding by limiting the buildup of the tissue in your uterine walls between periods.
An intrauterine device, or IUD, implanted in the uterus can prevent pregnancy, but it can also reduce menstrual bleeding if its the type of IUD that releases hormones.
Option #: Birth Control Pills
If youre part of the 10.6 million women currently using birth control pills , youve probably got a basic grasp on the two main types offered: combination birth control pills, which contain both estrogen and progestin hormones, and the minipill , which contains only progestin.
Its safe to say any birth control pill that contains hormones is going to help a woman have shorter, lighter periods, which, in turn, will help reduce the severity of cramps, says Dr. Amy Stoddard, an OB/GYN and assistant clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UCLA. However, when it comes to really kicking out your cramps, youre going to want to stick with the combination pill. Though Dr. Stoddard agrees that both pills are effective, progestin-only pills have a lower track record of stopping ovulation, which means theyre less proven to help relieve cramps.
As for choosing between the dozens of birth control brands on the market , doctors agree that theres no brand of birth control pill thats inherently better when it comes to relieving cramps. In reality, it comes down to picking the pill with the most added personal benefits, like a brand specifically formulated to control acne, or one designated to help with unwanted hair growth. Which is why well say it once…and then again and again: You need to work with your doctor to figure out which type of pill is best for you.
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Can Hormonal Contraceptives Be Part Of A Menorrhagia Treatment Plan
Hormonal contraceptives help to lower overall bleeding episodes. Because of this, hormonal contraception may be especially helpful as part of menorrhagia treatment.
Plus, these birth control methods are a reversible and have less serious side effects than other treatment options. The alternative menorrhagia treatment is a surgical procedure called endometrial ablation. This procedure leads to sterilization.
You may have chosen to use hormonal birth control methods because it is effective and easy of use. But hormonal birth control has non-contraceptive benefits as well, one of which is that certain formulations can be part of a menorrhagia treatment plan.
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The Most Accessible Method: Condoms
Condoms are probably the most accessible form of birth control to you. They can be bought online or at a supermarket. And, unlike most forms of contraception, you dont need a prescription.
Unless you have an allergy to latex or the lubricant commonly found on condoms, the side effects are usually pretty rare and mild.
A big advantage of using condoms is that they can also reduce your risk for contracting a STI.
They can also be used alongside other birth control methods, like an IUD and the pill, further reducing your chance of unwanted pregnancy.
However, in order for condoms to be effective, they need to be used correctly and consistently and its not always as easy as it looks. Even if you do use condoms correctly, theres a chance theyll break.
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Option #: The Implant
Surprise! The Nexplanon implant works almost identically to the Shot and hormonal IUDs. It’s a small rod that’s placed into your arm. After that, it works to slowly release progesterone into your body to increase mucus in the cervix and decrease the uterine lining.
“One thing to know about the Implant is that it is less effective than hormonal IUDs and the Shot at making your periods disappear,” explains Dr. Jackson-Bey. Your periods could also become more irregular and you may experience spotting in the first three to six months of use. But those cramps? Oh yeah, you can say goodbye.
What Are The Potential Side Effects
You cant always predict if youll experience side effects. However, its important to be aware of the potential side effects of the method you choose.
If the side effects feel too uncomfortable or unmanageable for you, you can go off that form of contraception and use another one.
Some forms of hormonal birth control arent suitable for people with certain health conditions. Be sure to tell your physician or other care provider about your full medical history, including any underlying conditions or medications you take, so they can take this into consideration.
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How Can I Find The Right Solution For Me
Different women experience their periods differently, and the amount of menstrual blood they lose can vary naturally from month to month. But the amount of stress caused by heavy periods can only be determined by the woman herself: Whereas some women who have heavy periods may not think its a big problem, others already feel very uncomfortable with less heavy periods.
Its important to first have a doctor look for possible causes of the heavy periods. In most cases you can then take your time to decide whether to start treatment and consider which of the treatment options is right for you. If you’re not sure, it may be a good idea to get a second medical opinion especially if a hysterectomy has been recommended. Our decision aid may help here. It briefly summarizes the main pros and cons of the different treatments.
Other Good Bets: Shots & Patches
The shot is a drug called medroxyprogesterone . It has a long-acting form of the hormone progestin that lasts about 3 months.
If your teen chooses this option, theyll need to visit the doctor every 11-13 weeks for an injection. Girls who use this type of birth control might have lighter periods. But they could also gain weight and lose bone density. Only about 6 in every 100 females who choose this method get pregnant in the first year. Thats a better success rate than birth control pills.
The birth control patch, ethinyl estradiol/norelgestromin , combines the hormones estrogen and progestin. It isnt as foolproof: You have to remember to apply and remove it on time. Your teen needs to stick it onto their body, usually the upper arm or their backside. TheyÃ¢â¬â¢ll wear it for 3 weeks, then take a week off. Thats when they should get their period.
It doesnt prevent pregnancy as well as other methods. About 9 in every 100 users will get pregnant during the first year. Still, itÃ¢â¬â¢s easier to use than birth control pills. Get more information on the differences between the birth control pill and the patch.
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What Is The Best Birth Control To Stop My Periods
Using birth control pills to stop periods is a common practice, and relatively safe for most women. Some birth control options are more effective than others for suppressing periods. For example, many women enjoy the freedom of using implants for birth control, and while they can help to minimize periods, cessation only occurs in around one-fourth of the women using the patch.
Menstrual Suppression Options
In addition to the implant, there are a variety of birth control options available that are effective at eliminating periods. Among these options are pills, patches, shots, and even an IUD. With any method of period suppression, however, you can experience breakthrough bleeding, mood swing, and other PMS-like symptoms.
Birth Control Pills and Patches
Both birth control pills and patches are designed to run 28 days, with the last seven days being a placebo during your cycle. However, if you replace the patch or start the new batch of birth control pills after 21 days, you will prevent ovulation and stop your period from happening. To be most effective, you need to remember to take your pill daily around the same time or replace your patch on schedule.
IUDs and Period Cessation
If you are interested in learning more about menstrual suppression or birth control from Dr. Katayoun Motlagh, please contact our office today or schedule an appointment by filling out the appointment request form right on this page.
Study May Be A Game Changer
Cleveland Clinic gynecologic surgeon Linda Bradley, MD, has been using the Mirena IUD to treat patients with heavy periods for many years.
She says the study has the potential to be a game changer if it brings the treatment to the attention of more women with heavy menstrual bleeding and their doctors.
Bradley is vice chair of the Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Womenâs Health Institute at the Cleveland Clinic as well as the director of The Fibroid and Menstrual Disorders Center and Hysteroscopic Services.
âWomen with this condition will embrace this treatment if they know about it,â she says. âI have used it for years, and my patients love it.â
Espey agrees. She says a majority of patients that she treats with the IUD have significant improvement in their heavy bleeding.