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June 8, 2017

Ask the Doctor: Your Period and Birth Control Questions Answered

By Laura Byrne

Don’t go with the Flow! Your—or your daughter’s—most intimate questions answered

Summertime! Time for pool parties, short shorts and white linen. But just when you’re about to jump in the pool, you feel a cramp and a gush, and here comes your monthly BFF at the worst possible time. Cue the feelings of anger, sadness and irritability! Wondering whether there’s a solution? Absolutely! It does not have to be this way. Read on to have your period questions answered.

Is it safe to take birth control and skip your period?

Yes! Birth control is used to prevent undesired pregnancy, but it can also help regulate your menstrual cycle. New methods can lighten or even help you skip your monthly period. Taking certain types of oral contraceptive pills (birth control pills) will allow you to get a period only four times a year, and an IUD can lessen or even stop your period altogether.

In the teen years, especially, your period can be irregular, heavy and sometimes painful. Different forms of birth control can alleviate or prevent these symptoms. The birth control pill can not only give you a more predictable and lighter period, but can help with acne, decrease risk of ovarian cancer (if used  for more than 7 years), prevent menstrual migraines, decrease mood swings (PMS), help ease symptoms of premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), and ease the pain of endometriosis. New generation birth control pills are not associated with weight gain, and, as an added bonus, can help save money on tampons and pads!

Aside from the birth control pill, there are other options available.

  • Nuvaring is essentially like the birth control pill, except it is placed in your vagina instead of taken orally. The effects are the same.
  • Depo Provera is an injection given every 3 months. During the first 9 months it can actually increase your bleeding and make it irregular. Eventually it will lessen your period, and may take it away completely. Negative effects from Depo Provera include weight gain and possible worsening of depression in patients who have it. In general, Depo is not my first choice to help control your cycle.
  • A hormonal IUD such as the Mirena, and newer ones called Skyla, Kyleena and Liletta, use small amounts of progesterone to help make your period lighter and potentially completely stop your period. An IUD is a terrific option when you want something you don’t need to worry about all the time.  A small negative with the IUD is that it can be uncomfortable during placement. It is inserted directly into your uterus at your OBGYN’s office.

There are positives and negatives to all the different options out there and it is best to have a discussion with your doctor to make a decision. The method you choose should be easy and convenient so you can get the most out of it.

Are there any risks to starting on birth control medication? 

There can be. If using a combined hormonal regimen like the birth control pill, Nuvaring or the patch (which is not used very much anymore) there is a slightly increased risk of developing a blood clot. Make sure to tell your doctor about any family history of blood clots as this may change their decision on which method is best for you. There are other options available for those in this circumstance. Occasionally you don’t know of a family history and you could potentially develop a blood clot. At that point you would require treatment and stop combined hormonal contraception.

Is it safe to skip your period?

Yes, perfectly safe.

Will it affect your fertility (ability to get pregnant) in the future?

No.

Ask-the-Doctor-Dr-Jill-Hechtman-Periods-Birth-Control

What age can I start using tampons?

As soon as you are comfortable. You can use tampons your very first period.

Do tampons hurt?

Not if they are placed correctly. You should not feel the tampon if inserted correctly.

Can I use tampons if I am a virgin?

Yes.

What tampons do you recommend in the beginning?

There are “teenage” tampons available on the market. I prefer cardboard because the plastic ones can potentially pinch you on insertion. I STRONGLY recommend unscented tampons and would start with the “light” size. As you become more comfortable (and depending on your flow), you may need to choose other sizes. The most important part of using tampons is REMEMBERING TO REMOVE THEM! I also do not recommend overnight use.

Any suggestions on how to prevent leakage?

I would start with tampons because they are the most effective. Maxi or mini pads are always an option, but are not a great choice when swimming. As a backup, there is a new product on the market called the Thinx panty. It is a period panty that absorbs menstrual blood. You can use it alone, to prevent that unexpected leak at the start of your period, or use it in conjunction with your tampon or menstrual cup. I feel this is ideal for teens who may be worried about getting their period at school.

When do you recommend someone start seeing their OBGYN?

Anytime you have concerns! This is a hard topic to discuss for many people and your OB-GYN is a great person to get the conversation rolling. The most frequent reasons to see an OB-GYN before the age of 21 include abnormal discharge, irregular or heavy bleeding, cramps, concern for STI’s, prevention of pregnancy, delay starting your period or  not developing like your friends, or to learn how to place a tampon. You should be very comfortable with your OB-GYN so that you can have these difficult discussions and get the most out of your visit. I am not a fan of going to Dr. Google to get your questions answered.

For a teen who is not having any problems or concerns, I recommend a visit when you become sexually active or by the age of 21.

 

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