If your cycle has been harder to keep up with than a spin class, you have intolerable menstrual cramps, or you are trying to prevent unwanted pregnancies… chances are you’re no stranger to birth control! For many women, birth control plays a leading role in their bodies’ performance– whether for pain or pleasure.
So, what is there to know about birth control concerning menopause?? Should women stop taking contraceptives? Is the birth control you are currently taking still beneficial once we’re in the menopause transition? We know we have arrived in menopause if we have not had a period for twelve consecutive months with no breakthrough bleeding along the way. One wonders how we can confidently track 12 consecutive months of no period if our birth control already sends us mixed signals before menopause looms near. We are talking about the stage before you reach menopause – menopause’s opening act, perimenopause. Birth control can mask menopause symptoms, making it difficult to know where you are in your menopausal journey. Take a deep breath and strap in because there’s no one hard and fast rule.
The good stuff
Good news! Birth control can still alleviate a slew of symptoms during perimenopause. Want to prevent hot flashes and diaper rashes alike? Congratulations… you’re in luck! Some hormonal contraceptives will work. During perimenopause, birth control can not only keep you flirty (over) thirty, thriving with no surprise pregnancies but according to The Menopause Society, using hormonal contraceptives during perimenopause can also provide more regular menstrual cycles, reduce menstrual bleeding (and lower rates of iron deficiency anemia as a result), decrease uterine pain during a menstrual period, decrease risk of ovarian and uterine cancer, improve acne which can flare up around menopause, relieve vaginal dryness and prevent bone loss. Well, that is a mouthful!
What to Expect When You’re No Longer Expecting (a regular period)
Blood tests like a Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH) Test show our production of eggs and can reveal whether we are becoming menopausal. But they only give a snapshot of our levels at the point of time we visited our healthcare professional. An FSH Test will be invalid if you are on specific hormone therapies–like the pill! A doctor may ask you to stop taking birth control pills for a month or more before repeating an FSH test.
It seems like women are offered birth control as a one-size-fits-all solution whenever we step foot or labia in a doctor’s office! But despite its vast medical benefits, hormonal contraceptives have risks to be educated on. Here are the special considerations put out by The Menopause Society:
- The use of hormonal contraceptives by perimenopausal women has been associated with an increased risk of blood clots and may be associated with some increase in the risk of heart attack, stroke, and breast cancer.
- Perimenopausal women should not use estrogen-containing contraceptives if they smoke or have a history of estrogen-dependent cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, or blood clots. Otherwise, hormonal contraceptives appear to be safe for healthy women over age 35, provided they do not smoke.
- Taking hormonal contraceptives can mask signs of approaching menopause, including menstrual irregularities. This can make it difficult to know when perimenopause is occurring.
- Use of any combination estrogen-progestogen contraceptive will result in withdrawal bleeding (i.e., bleeding like a menstrual period) even after menopause.
- Some providers tell women to stop hormonal contraceptives at age 51 (the average age when menopause occurs), but this strategy is not always appropriate since not all women will have reached menopause by that age and will still need birth control.
If you’re struggling to determine what –pause you’re in, you’ll definitely want to pause here and review my Menopause Symptoms Chart to help guide you. You can also use it by filling out your personal symptoms over the course of a month to give tracked data to your doctor the next time you visit. Be sure to find yourself a menopause specialist! Ditch the doctors who are not trained about this time in a woman’s life and can’t provide you with real, educated care.
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*EllenDolgen.com does not recommend, endorse, or make any representation about any tests, studies, practices, procedures, treatments, services, opinions, healthcare providers, physicians, or medical institutions that may be mentioned or referenced.