Menstrual cycles are a fact of life for most women between puberty and menopause. For some individuals, these monthly periods are simply an inconvenience. For others, they can be very painful and disrupt daily activities. Many women are now choosing to suppress their menstrual cycles to avoid having a period each month.
There are a number of ways to suppress your menstrual flow and stop a period from coming. Some of these methods such as anorexia (self starvation) and excessive exercise are very harmful. They can cause long term health damage and even death. Others, such as hormonal treatments, are considered relatively safe. Views on the dangers of menstrual suppression itself are varied. At this time there is little scientific evidence to suggest that a woman must have a period each month to maintain optimum health.
Permanent solutions that can stop your periods include hysterectomy and oophorectomy (removal of the ovaries). Endometrial ablation (destruction of the lining of the uterus) can also reduce or eliminate menstrual flow in some women. There are a number of risks that accompany these procedures. Surgical options are usually not recommended unless there is an underlying medical condition that warrants the procedure. Since these surgeries render patients permanently sterile, they are not readily available to young women. Doctors are generally reluctant to sterilise women who may later wish to have children.
Fortunately, there are a number of long-term methods that can stop your period from coming. Depo-Provera is a progesterone-only hormone injection that lasts for 3 months at a time. Some women experience breakthrough or abnormally heavy bleeding with this shot. However, complete amenorrhoea (no menstruation) is a more likely outcome--especially when Depo-Provera is used consistently for over a year. The Mirena IUD and the Implanon hormonal implant are other long-term menstrual suppression options.
Birth control pills can be used to reduce the number of periods you have in a year. It is important to remember that periods experienced on hormonal birth control are not actual menstruation. Instead, they are artificially induced bleeding cycles that are designed to mimic regular monthly cycles. To accomplish this, some of the active pills in the pack are replaced with placebos that allow withdrawal bleeding to occur. If you want to suppress your menstrual cycle while taking birth control pills, discuss the details with your OBGYN. Your gynecologist can tell you the exact schedule that will work with your specific birth control brand and dosage. The nice thing about using these pills is that you can occasionally skip a specific period on fairly short notice. This allows you to plan for events like pool parties or vacations that might be less fun if you have to worry about bleeding.
You can also ask your doctor about Seasonale. This new oral contraceptive is designed to stop your period from coming for 3 months at a time and then allow 1 week of withdrawal bleeding. The Nuva-Ring and the Ortho-Evra patch can be used to create a similar effect. Replace the Nuva-Ring every 3 weeks with no ring-free week for continuous menstrual suppression. For the patch, simply replace it every week for 3 months without taking a week off. Talk to your physician before you try this. These are off-label (non-FDA approved) uses for the ring and the patch. Your doctor will need to allow extra refills on your yearly prescription since you will be using up your year's worth of rings or patches faster than normal.