For a majority of women, their monthly menstrual cycle more or less follows a regular pattern, which is often accompanied by cramping, severe pain, and other such side effects.

While many of us would like to be spared of this monthly horror, the fact is postponing or stopping your period can be detrimental to your health. However, experts say that there has been an increase in the number of women choosing to suppress their monthly period by taking hormonal tablets, hormonal IUDs, birth control pills and vaginal rings.

While it might be a right choice for those suffering from a severe health condition such as endometriosis, it can have serious repercussions if done just to escape the pain.

“My patients want to delay menstruation for many reasons. For some, it is a matter of avoiding physical symptoms such as headaches that occur during the “placebo” week of pills. For others, it is simply a matter of convenience–they just don’t like bleeding every month. In fact, there is no medical reason why a woman has to bleed every month,” says Dr Alexandra Sowa, medical internist and member of the clinical faculty at Cornell University.

But is this good for the body and your overall health? We try to find out.

Menstrual Suppression: Is It Really Safe?
The long-term safety and side effects of using hormonal contraception hasn’t yet been researched in depth. Most of these methods, say doctors, are safe and reliable and can be used for a long term if done under medical supervision.

“There is no evidence that suppressing menstruation is harmful to a woman’s health. The major downside to skipping your period is an increase in breakthrough bleeding during the first few months. Additionally, when you aren’t getting a regular period, it can be difficult to tell if you are pregnant,” says Dr Sowa.

So if you’re healthy, most doctors consider menstrual suppression a reasonable option, especially for those already on birth control pills. Using continuous oral contraceptives, IUD, or Implanon to delay and decrease menstruation doesn’t affect fertility or even menopause. In addition, there is no age restriction on using these medications to delay menstruation.

However, oral contraceptives have their own side effects including blood clots, nausea, headaches, stroke and breast tenderness among others. Recent reports have found that the newer oral contraceptives could increase the risk of osteoporosis and loss of bone density.

What Is The Best Method?
Dr Sowa says that the primary method of delaying your period is by taking continuous or extended-cycle birth control pills. She adds that there are pill formulations that allow a woman to go between 12 weeks to 12 months without a period.

Other options include a hormonal intrauterine device (or IUD), which can significantly reduce bleeding–one year after insertion, a hormone injection such as Depo-Provera or an implantable device such as Implanon).

The most important thing to consider is that all of these methods require consultation with a physician. “Hormonal contraception is not right for everyone. All patients should talk to their doctor about their medical and family history before starting any new medication,” she concludes.

For more interesting stories, visit our Health page. Read more about Women’s Health here.

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