What is a period?
In the female reproductive system, the period (or the menstrual cycle) is a recurring cycle of physiologic changes that occurs in reproductive-age females. Overt menstruation (where there is blood-flow from the vagina) occurs primarily in humans and close evolutionary relatives such as chimpanzees. The menstrual cycle is under the control of the hormone system and is necessary for reproduction. Menstrual cycles are counted from the first day of menstrual flow because the onset of menstruation corresponds closely with the hormonal cycle.
Even though most women would rather do without it, it isn't healthy to never have a period. Your body needs to shed the endometrial lining once in a while. Not doing so can put you at risk for cancer. Having a period is a completely natural and normal thing. There are stories of women who only have three periods a year. That's pretty scary when you don't know what's causing it as it can turn out to be a symptom of a disease, such as endocrine system disorder, which can cause infertility. One good thing about having a regular period is that it reassures you that things down there are working like they should.
Getting Rid of Your Period
If your period starts to disrupt your everyday routine, then drastic, period-controlling measures must be implemented. Contrary to popular belief, there are lots of ways to get rid of a period, and all of them deal directly with your reproductive system. As such, birth control, menopause, hysterectomy and endometrial ablation are among your prime choices for period control and/or removal.
Birth control is one way of controlling your period. Estrogens and progesterone-like hormones make up the main active ingredients of hormonal birth control methods such as the pill. Typically, they cause regular monthly flow that roughly mimics a menstrual cycle in appearance, but suppresses ovulation. With most pills, a woman takes hormone pills for 21 days, followed by 7 days of non-functional placebo pills or no pills at all, and then the cycle starts again.
During the seven placebo days, withdrawal bleeding occurs. This differs from ordinary menstruation and skipping the placebos and continuing with the next batch of hormone pills may suppress it. There are two main versions of the pill: monophasic and triphasic. With triphasic pills, skipping placebos and continuing with the next month's dose can make a woman more likely to experience spotting or breakthrough bleeding.
In 2003, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved low-dose monophasic birth control pills that induce withdrawal bleeding every three months. Yet another version of the pill is the Loestrin Fe, that has only a four-day placebo "week" (the placebos are actually iron supplements intended to replenish iron lost by uterine shedding). The other three placebos are replaced with active hormone pills. This system is intended to help shorten periods. Mircette contains several days of estrogen-only pills in addition to the usual combination of estrogen/progestin pills, in the case of women who may have problems with low estrogen during the placebo days with other pills.
Other types of hormonal birth control that affect menstruation include the vaginal Nuvaring and the transdermal patch (like the standard pill pack, active hormones are given for three weeks, followed by a one-week break to allow blood flow) and the injection (that can eliminate all flow as long as the injections are taken every 12 weeks, although spotting is a common side effect).
Menopause is one sure way of getting rid of periods naturally. Just wait it out till you're about 40, and you'll never have to worry about your period ever again. Of course, menopause opens up a whole new set of challenges, but at least menstruation isn't one of them.
A hysterectomy can also be effective in getting rid of periods for good. It's the surgical removal of the uterus, usually performed by a gynecologist. Hysterectomy may be total (removing the body, fundus, and cervix of the uterus; often called "complete") or partial (removal of the uterine body but leaving the cervical stump, also called "supracervical").
Removal of the uterus renders the patient unable to bear children (similar to the removal of ovaries and fallopian tubes), and changes her hormonal levels considerably, so the surgery is normally recommended for only a few specific circumstances, including unbearable or extreme period symptoms.
Endometrial ablation should be a rather straightforward way of getting rid of periods once and for all. It's done under general anesthesia, and involves burning off the endometrial lining of your uterus, so that afterwards, there's nothing there to fill up with blood, so no periods.
Dealing with Periods
There are lots of things you can do to make your periods easier. You can wear panty liners right before it starts to avoid staining your underwear, and tampons are a lot easier to use than pads (Learn how to insert a tampon). As long as you change them regularly, you can do almost anything that you want while having your period.
To deal with the period itself, do the following:
Keep a pad, tampon or something similar with you always. Even if it's not that time of the month, you should still carry some with you just in case of an accident.
Try plain ibuprofen first, if you have cramps.
If ibuprofen doesn't work, try Pamprin or Midol next time.
Put a heating pad or hot water bottle on the painful spots, take a bath, or exercise. It might help to cut down on the amount of sugar and salt you eat.
Also, you can try lying on your back on the floor with your legs elevated on the couch—it forces your uterine muscles to relax and is a natural pain reliever after 10 or 15 minutes.
Warn people of your impending period and mood swings ahead of time so that they can prepare and take caution. Part of maturing into womanhood is learning to manage your moods. If you experience severe mood swings, tell your doctor—you may need some help with an imbalance.
Try not to stress out. Stress can affect your flow and/or your cycle. Relax for a little bit and don't worry about it. Other women have to go through the same so you're not the only one.
Try to keep track of how long you have your period, when it started and ended, how heavy it is, and so on. If your period lasts longer than one week to 10 days, consult your gynecologist.
Take a day off. Relieve all that stress. Get plenty of rest and eat healthfully. It will keep your body in balance, and you won't feel as bad. Be careful not to change your diet completely, as it will create more complications.
Wear comfortable clothes. Most women prefer not to wear uncomfortable clothing while having their period. Wear some sweat pants and a sweatshirt or anything else that feels comfortable, but don't make it too obvious. You can just wear black pants and keep a jacket around in case you stain your pants. When that happens - just tie it around your waist.
If you have to change for gym in school, then wear red, black or brown underwear. People will be less likely to notice you have your period. Also, try changing your pad before gym and try to wear pads without wings. It will be much harder for girls to tell that you have your period if you're wearing a pad without wings. Try changing your pants or shorts wearing a long t-shirt, if you prefer.
Getting Rid of Menstrual Pain
Apply a heat wipe to your lower tummy (below your belly button).
Take hot showers or baths.
Drink warm beverages.
Follow a diet rich in complex carbohydrates such as grain, fruits and vegetables, but low in saline, sugar, alcohol and caffeine.
Try over-the-counter anti-inflammatory tablets, such as ibuprofen. Also, use Feminax as it's a particularly good painkiller.
Practice relaxation techniques resembling meditation or yoga.
Try vitamin B-6, calcium and magnesium supplements, especially if your stress is from PMS.
Keep your legs elevated while lying down or sprawl on your side and keep knees bent.
The timing of periods was impossible to predict or to change. For the first time in human history, hormonal contraception has changed women's options, and the use of oestrogen-progestogen contraception can control whether and when a woman has a period.
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