Many women alter menstruation cycles

iStock
A surprisingly large number of women 18 or older choose to delay or skip monthly menstruation by deviating from the instructions of birth-control pills and other hormonal contraceptives, a team of University of Oregon researchers and others found in a study of female students at the university.

Most women who alter bleeding cycles do so for convenience rather than to avoid menstrual symptoms, and many learn about the option from nonmedical sources, according to research by the university's Department of Human Physiology, Portland-based Oregon Health and Sciences University and Eastern Michigan University. The study is published in Contraception, the official journal of the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals and the Society of Family Planning.

"These findings emphasize the need for health care providers to carefully interview combined hormonal contraceptive users on how they are using their method – for example, many women may be skipping pills to extend their cycles," said researcher Christopher Minson, a human physiology professor at the University of Oregon. "With a greater understanding of the issues, health care providers may be able to more effectively engage in conversations with college-aged women and educate them about available options."

Reducing the occurrence of menstruation

As research indicates that reducing the occurrence of menstruation is safe and can even be beneficial, women are increasingly using hormonal contraceptives to alter bleeding cycles. But there has been a lack of information concerning why women do so and from whom they receive information regarding this option.

In a survey of undergraduate and graduate students, 17% reported altering their scheduled bleeding pattern by deviating from the instructions of hormonal contraceptives, which include birth-control pills, vaginal contraceptive rings and transdermal contraceptive patches.

Half of these women reported that they did so for convenience or scheduling purposes. Others cited personal preference (28.9 %) or reducing menstrual symptoms (16.7%) as reasons they altered menstruation patterns.

Among the women who delayed or skipped a scheduled bleeding for convenience or personal choice, a comparatively large number – 53% – indicated the knowledge was obtained from nonmedical sources, such as a family member or friend, researchers said.

Women and their cycles

The survey also provides new insights on the factors that influence a woman's decision whether to alter bleeding schedules. Asians have a 7% lower probability of altering hormonal cycles and women who exercise regularly have a 5% lower probability of doing so; another characteristic that decreased the likelihood of the practice was preference for a monthly cycle.

"We found that it is possible to identify some of the specific characteristics of women in a college population who may be more or less likely to practice scheduled bleeding manipulation," said Dr Paul Kaplan, of the University Health Center and Oregon Health and Sciences University. "This study provides information about the motives, beliefs and influences relating to this practice."

In a finding that surprised researchers, women who said they would prefer no menstrual periods were less likely to alter their cycles than those who would prefer one per year. A woman who would prefer one cycle per year had a 17% higher probability of modifying her hormonal contraceptive regimen than one who preferred a menstrual period every three months or never.

This suggests that health care providers could improve education of the hormonal contraception regimen best-suited to a patient's needs and desires, researchers said.

From an estimated 11 900 survey-linked emails sent to female university students, 1 719 (14.4%) initial responses were received and 1 374 (79.9% of respondents) indicated that they had used a combined hormonal contraceptive during the last six months.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
The ANC's leadership race is heating up. Who do you think will be elected party president at Nasrec in December?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has got it in the bag
7% - 838 votes
I foresee a second term for Cyril Ramaphosa
83% - 9650 votes
Don’t discount a Zweli Mkhize win
10% - 1131 votes
Vote
Rand - Dollar
17.99
+0.1%
Rand - Pound
20.17
-0.4%
Rand - Euro
17.64
-0.1%
Rand - Aus dollar
11.56
-0.1%
Rand - Yen
0.12
-0.1%
Gold
1,712.25
-0.0%
Silver
20.73
+0.4%
Palladium
2,273.50
+0.5%
Platinum
932.50
+0.8%
Brent Crude
94.42
+1.1%
Top 40
59,409
-0.0%
All Share
65,795
-0.1%
Resource 10
63,678
+0.6%
Industrial 25
79,661
-0.5%
Financial 15
14,044
+0.3%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.

LEARN MORE