Many methods of contraception have "no periods"* as a selling point - even the pill can be taken more or less continuously, with just a few pill free days every so often to stop irregular bleeding.
If you’re using fertility awareness as contraception there isn't a "no periods"
If it feels right for you to have periods but you aren't always thrilled to be surfing the crimson tide here's a few things that might help make the whole experience more manageable
- Periods mean you're not pregnant. Pretty fundamental. Fertility awareness doesn't have the greatest reputation (getting support helps make it more effective). Your period arriving lets you know you're doing OK. You've heard the stories about women using "no periods" methods of contraception not realising they were pregnant, well there's none of that with fertility awareness.
- Periods are a good fertility indicator. NICE Fertility Guidance says that "Women with regular monthly (sic) menstrual cycles should be informed that they are likely to be ovulating." Fertility awareness gives you some more fertility indicators but periods are a pretty good start.
- Periods are a sign of health. Not having a regular period is associated with various health conditions, so visit your doctor if this happens to you. Regular means usually every 24 to 35 days or so, and changes from one menstrual cycle to the next. Regular does NOT mean every 28 days, that’s just how it works on the pill. More about irregular periods from NHS choices.
- Periods shouldn't mean pain. Exercise, healthy eating and all that helps, but sometimes Ibuprofen is the only answer (thanks to Dr Stewart Adams and his team for inventing it). If ibuprofen doesn’t work for you, or if you need more than one or two doses per period, see your doctor. They’ll check for underlying conditions and maybe prescribe the pill or Mirena, which might help – even a few months can make a difference. See the NHS Choices website for more about handling painful periods
- Periods MIGHT mean you can have unprotected sex. Big emphasis on might. You have to be utterly sure it's your period, not some random bleeding, and it has to be early on in your period. The first 3 to 5 days will probably be fine, depending on your cycle length. You might be safe for longer than that if you always have longer cycles and have utterly sussed out your cervical fluid (and other stuff, it's complicated). Even if you're a complete mistress of your fertility signs, it's still more risky to have unprotected sex before you've confirmed ovulation, so you need to be comfortable with how you handle your fertile time and your "not sure" days.
- Mooncups. Just in case you’ve not come across this alternative to tampons. Not for everyone but they’ve got lots of fans and a pretty minimal marketing budget, unlike the competition. No more dangling strings (eww) or dry tampon removal (aargh). You can practically forget you’re even having a period. And they’ll save you a fortune. And they're good for the planet. And they have the best film. I did laugh at the Hello Flo ones, but I think this one is better! In case you're wondering, no you can't have period sex with a Mooncup- well not penis in vagina sex anyway. They sit too low in the vagina (like a tampon). If you want to use something to make period sex a slightly tidier event, I recommend a menstrual sponge (either disposable or resusable) or a softcup.
- Fertility awareness means you can predict your period. A drop in waking temperature usually means your period is coming. Also you'll know your personal time from ovulation to the first day of your period, which is usually fairly fixed, it's the time before ovulation that varies from cycle to cycle - hence that being the riskier time for unprotected sex.
Anyhow, I wish you all the best with your period/visit from Aunt Flo and leave the last words to one young woman I’ve worked with: “It is pretty epic that women basically shed the lining of a major organ every month”. Hell, yeah, epic, not a curse! Surf that crimson tide baby!
- Menstrual Hygiene Day - important international campaign for privacy, safety and dignity
- Do we really need women shouting about periods? - Dr Brooke Magnanti article, includes great quote from Chella Quint: "You don't have to shout, like the Bodyform lady. But why do we have to whisper? It should be a just be a regular everyday thing."
- Museum of Menstruation - US site - "odd, funny and well-researched"
* Strictly speaking, the periods you get on the pill aren't periods at all, they're withdrawal bleeds. Periods are what happen 10-16 days after ovulation. Withdrawal bleeds are the result of the withdrawal of artificial hormones from your body.