Menstrual & Reproductive Health

PERIOD FACTS

Menstruation may be inconvenient but it’s a fact of life, and it’s not always regular or predictable. Keep reading for some explanations and tips to keep your period in check.

WHY ISN’T MY PERIOD THE SAME LENGTH EVERY MONTH?

There is no such thing as a “normal” period. Menstrual cycles can vary from woman to woman and from month to month, and there isn’t always a particular reason. However, stress, weight loss or gain, a new birth control prescription, exercise, travel, changes in routine or diet, or more serious issues like a thyroid condition, anorexia or ovarian cysts can all affect your period’s duration.

WHY DOES THE COLOR OF MY PERIOD BLOOD CHANGE?

Menstrual blood may become dark brown or almost black as you near the end of your period. Totally normal. It has been in your uterus longer than your first day flow, and it changes color over time.

WHAT’S WITH THE CRAMPS?

Many women experience cramps during their periods. You may feel pain in your lower abdomen, back, or upper legs. Cramps are usually caused by hormone-like substances called prostaglandins that trigger the uterus to contract and expel its lining every month. Higher levels of prostaglandins are associated with more severe menstrual cramps. Other monthly symptoms include bloating, tender breasts, headaches, nausea and fatigue.

Exercise, warm baths, a heating pad or an over-the-counter pain reliever containing ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) or naproxen sodium (Aleve) can help ease discomfort.

CAN I GET PREGNANT IF I HAVE SEX DURING MY PERIOD?

You are less likely to become pregnant while menstruating, but it’s still a possibility, especially without any contraception. It’s always recommended to use some form of contraception at any time in your cycle. Condoms are a great choice, and they also protect you from STIs.

I’VE BEEN REALLY STRESSED OUT LATELY. CAN THAT TAKE A TOLL ON MY PERIOD?

Stress can temporarily alter the functioning of your hypothalamus — an area of your brain that controls the hormones that regulate your menstrual cycle. Ovulation and menstruation may slow down or even stop as a result. Regular periods usually resume after your stress decreases. Being a student can be stressful. Try these stress management techniques.

WHEN SHOULD I SEE A HEALTHCARE PROVIDER ABOUT MY PERIOD?

  • Your periods suddenly stop for more than 90 days
  • Your periods are less than 21 days or more than 35 days apart
  • Your periods become erratic after having been regular
  • You bleed for more than 7days
  • You bleed more heavily than usual or soak through more than one pad or tampon every hour or two
  • You bleed between periods
  • You bleed during sexual activity but do not have your period
  • You develop severe pain during your period
  • You spike a fever and feel sick after using tampons

ARE THERE ANY ALTERNATIVE MENSTRUAL PRODUCTS BESIDES PADS AND TAMPONS?
There are many safe and eco-friendly products that you can use for your period. The products listed below are manufactured with a minimum of harsh chemicals, create less trash than traditional products, and are budget friendly.

  • DivaCup – reusable menstrual cup
  • SoftCups – offer both reusable and disposable menstrual cups
  • Lunette  – reusable menstrual cup                     
  • GladRags – reusable cloth pads & menstrual sea sponges

THE BIRTH CONTROL PILL

Birth control pills are a simple, safe and effective way to prevent pregnancy. Take one pill a day, at the same time every day, and you are protected against unplanned pregnancy. The pill uses hormones to prevent ovulation and thicken your cervical mucus lining. Once you stop taking the pill, you will return to fertility—the pill has no effect on your ability to get pregnant in the future.

While taking the pill, many women feel about the same. Your period should become very predictable, coming in the last week of the pill pack. If you have bleeding at other times of the month, continue taking the pills as usual. Over time, your periods will be lighter, shorter, and less painful. The pill also lowers your risk of getting cancer of the uterus and ovaries. In the first two to three months of use, some women experience nausea, bleeding between periods, weight change, and/or breast tenderness or swelling. These problems often go away after those first few months. If they do not, reach out to your medical provider to find a birth control method that is right for you.

The pill does not protect against the spread of STIs, so condoms are still recommended. If you stop taking the pill and have unprotected sex, take Emergency Contraception (EC) right away. EC can prevent pregnancy up to five days after unprotected sex. The sooner you take it, the better it works.

How do I start the pill?

  • There are two ways to start the pill:
    • Quick Start: Take your first pill as soon as you get the pack.
    • Next period: Take your first pill within the first 5 days of your next period.
  • If you take your first pill up to 5 days after the start of your period, you are protected against pregnancy right away. If more than 5 daysuse condoms as back-up for the first 7 days.

What if I miss pills?

  • I forgot ONE pill: Take your pill as soon as you can.
  • I forgot TWO pills or more: Take the most recent missed pill as soon as you can and discard any other missed pills. Take your next pill at the usual time. Use condoms for 7 days. Use Emergency Contraception (EC) if you have unprotected sex in the first week of the pill pack.
  • No method of birth control is 100% effective. If you take all of your birth control pills on time, they are up to 99% effective. If you miss or delay some pills, they are 91-94% effective.

Call your health provider if you experience these RARE symptoms:

  • Leg pain, swelling, and redness
  • Weakness or numbness on one side of your body
  • Bad headache
  • Vision problems
  • Chest pain and/or unusual shortness of breath

THE BIRTH CONTROL PATCH

The birth control patch is a simple, safe and effective way to prevent pregnancy. The patch is a thin, beige piece of plastic that looks like a square Band-Aid, less than two inches across. The patch is placed on certain parts of your body, once a week. The patch uses hormones to prevent ovulation and thicken your cervical mucus lining. Once you stop taking the patch, you will return to fertility—the patch has no effect on your ability to get pregnant in the future.

While taking the patch, many women feel about the same. Your period should become very predictable, coming in the week where you do not wear a patch. If you have bleeding at other times of the month, continue using the patch as usual. Over time, your periods will be lighter, shorter, and less painful. The patch also lowers your risk of getting cancer of the uterus and ovaries. In the first two to three months of use, some women experience nausea, bleeding between periods, weight change, and/or breast tenderness or swelling. These problems often go away after those first few months. If they do not, reach out to your medical provider to find a birth control method that is right for you.

The patch does not protect against the spread of STIs, so condoms are still recommended. If you stop taking the patch and have unprotected sex, take Emergency Contraception (EC) right away. EC can prevent pregnancy up to five days after unprotected sex. The sooner you take it, the better it works.

How do I use the patch?

  • You can put the patch on your butt, stomach, upper outer arm, or upper torso. Never place the patch on your breasts, your genitals, or soles of your feet and hands.
  • Place a new patch on once a week—wearing each new patch 7 days at a time, for three weeks in a row. You will not wear a patch the fourth week.
  • You will start a new box of patches at the end of the fourth week.
  • You can shower, swim, and do all normal activities with the patch on your body.

How do I start the patch?

  • There are two ways to start the patch:
    • Quick Start: Place the first patch on your body as soon as you get the pack.
    • Next period: Place the first patch on your body within the first 5 days of your next period.
  • If you place the patch up to 5 days after the start of your period, you are protected against pregnancy right away. If more than 5 daysuse condoms as back-up for the first 7 days.

What if the patch comes off?

  • If the patch comes off, put it back on right away. If it does not stick, use a new patch.
  • If the patch falls off for more than a day, put on a new patch and use condoms for the next 7 days.
  • Put on your next patch a week from the date of this new patch.

What if I forget to change the patch after 7 days?

  • The patch has enough hormones for 9 days. If you leave the patch on for 9 days or less, just put on a new patch.
  • If you leave the patch on for more than 9 days, put on a new patch and use condoms for the next 7 days.
  • No method of birth control is 100% effective. If you correctly use the patch, it is up to 99% effective. If you miss or delay some patches, effectiveness decreases to 91-94%.

Call your health care provider if you experience these RARE symptoms:

  • Leg pain, swelling, and redness
  • Weakness or numbness on one side of your body
  • Bad headache
  • Vision problems
  • Chest pain and/or unusual shortness of breath

THE INTRAUTERINE DEVICE (IUD)

An IUD is a small T-shaped device that is inserted into the uterus by a medical provider as a form of birth control. IUDs use either hormones or copper to affect the way sperm cells move, preventing fertilization of an egg. Hormonal IUDs promote the thickening of cervical mucus, which blocks sperm and prevents it from joining an egg. The copper IUD may also be used as emergency contraception.

IUDs are a long acting reversible contraceptive method, and one of the most effective. Once the IUD is inserted you are protected for three to ten years, depending on the specific IUD.

While the IUD is a great form of birth control, it does not protect against the spread of STIs, so condoms are still recommended.

Consultation

  • Start the process by scheduling a consultation with a health care provider, who will issue an IUD e-prescription to the appropriate pharmacy.

Scheduling an insertion appointment

  • Speak with a nurse to schedule an insertion appointment on a day you anticipate having your period.
  • Keep in mind that the preferred time for insertion is on the heaviest day of your period.
  • We will schedule you as soon as possible, but cannot guarantee a same-day appointment.

Before your insertion appointment

  • Avoid unprotected intercourse for 2 weeks prior to your insertion.

On the day of your insertion appointment

  • Make sure you’ve eaten something 1-2 hours before your appointment. An empty stomach or eating right before the procedure may make you feel nauseated.
  • To manage pain, take 600mg of Ibuprofen 30 minutes before your appointment. If you are using over-the-counter Ibuprofen (200mg), take three (3) tablets.
  • Come with a full bladder for a urine pregnancy test, and expect to stay at least one hour.
  • If you would like to bring a friend, please do so. If it feels helpful, they may be able to join you during or after the procedure. Please discuss with your provider that day.

After your insertion appointment

  • Plan for 3 hours of rest or only light activity after insertion.
  • Do not insert anything vaginally for 1 week, this includes intercourse and tampons.
  • While showers are ok, do not take baths or swim for 72 hours.

THE VAGINAL RING

The Vaginal Ring is a simple, safe and effective way to prevent pregnancy. Wear one ring a month and you are protected against unintended pregnancy. The ring uses hormones to prevent ovulation and thicken your cervical mucus lining. Once you stop using the ring, you will return to fertility—the ring has no effect on your ability to get pregnant in the future.

While using the ring, women may experience side effects, both positive and negative. In the first two to three months of use, some women experience nausea, bleeding between periods, weight change, and/or breast tenderness or swelling. These problems are common and often go away after the first few months. If they do not, reach out to your medical provider to find a birth control method that is right for you. Many women also report feeling positive side effects throughout their duration of use. Periods often become very predictable, coming in the fourth week when you are not wearing the ring. Over time, periods become lighter, shorter, and less painful. The ring also lowers your risk of getting cancer of the uterus and ovaries. If you change the ring on time and stick to your schedule, the ring is up to 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. If you miss or delay, the ring is 91-94% effective. No method of birth control is 100% effective.

The ring does not protect against the spread of STIs, so condoms are still recommended. If you stop taking the ring and have unprotected sex, take Emergency Contraception (EC) right away. EC can prevent pregnancy up to five days after unprotected sex. The sooner you take it, the better it works.

How do I use the vaginal ring?

  • To insert the ring, wash your hands, squeeze it between your thumb and index finger, and insert like a tampon. The ring will sit against the side of your vaginal wall. The exact position doesn’t really matter, as long as you’re comfortable.
  • Leave the ring in for 3 weeks and remove it the 4th week (or as directed by your provider).
  • Remove the ring by hooking your finger on the lower edge and pulling. Discard in the trash. Do not flush the ring.
  • Most women get their period during the ring-free week.
  • Insert a new ring at the end of the 4th week.
  • You can store the ring at room temperature up to four months. In the refrigerator, the ring lasts much longer.

How do I start the ring?

  • There are two ways to start the ring:
       Quick Start: Insert the ring as soon as you get the pack.
       Next period: Insert the ring within the first 5 days of your next period.
  • If you insert the ring up to 5 days after the start of your period, you are protected against pregnancy right away. If more than 5 days, use condoms as back-up for the first 7 days.

What if the ring comes out or I forget?

  • The ring can be outside of your body for 3 hours and still remain effective at preventing pregnancy. If more than 3 hours, and you had unprotected sex, use condoms for 7 days.
  • The ring has enough hormones for 35 days. Therefore, you are still protected for a short window period if you forget to remove the ring at 3 weeks.
  • If you completely stop using the ring and have unprotected sex, use Emergency Contraception (EC) right away.

Call your healthcare provider if you experience these RARE symptoms:

  • Leg pain, swelling, and redness
  • Weakness or numbness on one side of your body
  • Bad headache
  • Vision problems
  • Chest pain and/or unusual shortness of breath

Insurance Information

Please consult with your insurance carrier to cover costs for devices that support your reproductive health

Source: http://www.reproductiveaccess.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/factsheet_p...