A common area of concern for women involves their menstrual cycle. Many women seek interventions and guidance to avoid pregnancy, while other women need support conceiving. Some women struggle with painful, long periods, while other women go months or years without a period. Needless to say, there are many physiological, anatomical and biochemical factors that contribute to a healthy menstrual cycle. Furthermore, there is variability in what is considered “normal” amongst women and an individualized approach to care is essential in determining what factors may be problematic and what type of support will create the conditions for a woman’s optimal health. Naturopathic doctors excel in helping women understand and regulate their cycles naturally, when conventional treatment options may be limited to synthetic hormonal contraceptives. The birth control pill is an effective form of contraception, however, it may not always be in line with patient preference or address the root cause of a women’s menstrual concerns.
These are some common menstrual cycle concerns and why they may be happening:
- Menorrhagia: Heavy periods, which may be caused by a relative excess in estrogen.
- Amenorrhea: No periods, which may be due to many reasons.
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome: Periods are often spaced out longer than one month, due to a combination of factors including female hormones, testosterone, and blood sugar.
- Dysmenorrhea: Painful periods, which may be caused by general inflammation and a relative excess of estrogen.
These are common contraceptive methods:
- Oral Contraceptive pill: Most contain estrogen and progestin. Placebo pills cause uterine lining to shed due to a drop in hormones.
- Transdermal Patch: Same mechanism as the pill. Patch worn for 3 weeks, taken off for one week.
- Nuva Ring: Same mechanism as the pill. Ring in put in for 3 weeks, taken out for one week.
- Mirena IUS/ Jaydess IUD: Secretion of continuous low dose progestin, and the implanted device also makes the uterus inhospitable to fertilization and implantation.
- Copper IUD: No hormones. Implanted device makes the uterus inhospitable to fertilization and implantation.
- Barrier methods: Prevent entry of sperm.
- Fertility awareness: Track menstrual cycle, basal body temperature, and cervical mucous.
Two factors that affect your cycle and contraceptive methods:
- Stress: High cortisol (stress hormone) leads to decreased sex hormone production.
- Gastrointestinal disturbances: Significant changes in gut flora (antibiotic use, infection) can shift the balance of estrogen and other hormones.
The best contraceptive method:
- is the one you use consistently.
- encourages enjoyable sex and reduces stress.
- resonates with you and has minimal side effects.