No matter what you call it — your period, monthly visitor, Aunt Flo — menstruation, or menorrhea, is an experience most women have each month for several decades. Some consider it a blessing, while others find it to be more of an inconvenient curse. What all agree on, though, is that knowing how to effectively manage menstruation is imperative.
Each woman experiences her period differently. It can be light, medium or heavy. Some have irregular periods, while others can practically predict its arrival to the precise hour on the exact day of the month.
A woman’s menstrual cycle will likely vary as she progresses through stages of life and her hormone levels change or other factors — pregnancy, stress, extreme weight loss, illness — either stop or alter it.
There are two basic products women have used throughout the years to manage their periods — tampons and pads. While these products have generally worked well for generations of women, a few new products, and tactics, have gained attention in recent years.
One tactic is to skip a monthly period using hormonal birth control. Some women experience painful or extremely heavy periods and choose to skip their periods to improve their quality of life. Others might wish to skip a monthly menstruation during travel to remote locations where feminine hygiene products may not be easily accessible or they simply skip it for sake of convenience. Many appreciate that skipping periods also means they spend less money on products and reduce their monthly waste.
According to Dr. Andrea Journagin, an OBGYN with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group, there is minimal risk to skipping your period. This can be done by not taking the placebo, or “inactive,” pills in your birth control pill pack, or using progestin-releasing IUDs or injections. The NuvaRing — a small, plastic ring inserted in the vagina to prevent pregnancy — can also reduce or eliminate bleeding.
“Skipping a period can be beneficial to women with heavy periods or who experience migraines during their cycle,” says Dr. Journagin. “There really is no risk other than breakthrough bleeding, and many of the complaints women have with their periods can be mitigated.”
Dr. Journagin says she has patients who have purposely gone as long as a year without having a period, though she doesn't recommend going longer than three or four months. “It can be hard to get back on track if you go too long,” she says.
However, Dr. Journagin reports that some of her patients like having their periods, especially if they are regular and pain free. These patients may use the traditional pads and tampons or have found they prefer newer products, such as reusable, silicone menstrual cups that are inserted low in the vaginal canal to collect the menstrual flow and can be left in place for up to 12 hours.
Additional menstrual products new to the market include “period panties” — moisture-wicking, super absorbent underwear — and reusable cloth pads. A fitness apparel company has even created yoga pants meant to be worn during a woman’s period that are breathable, absorbent and leak-resistant.
“My main concern with the new products would be forgetting that a menstrual cup is in place, which could cause a vaginal infection,” says Dr. Journagin. “People have different comfort levels and if they’re comfortable and the products are effective, then I’d say they’re worth a try.”