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11/11/2005

Pills! Thrills! Spills! Chills!

Hey, did you know that if you're on the pill, you can stop your periods entirely by simply skipping the placebos at the end of the pack and starting a new pack without a break?

I used to do this in college when I wanted to shift the timing of my period — you know, when I was at the outset of yet another meaningful relationship and didn't want to crawl out of my tumbled twin bed long enough to grab a fistful of Advil.

Um, I mean, like when I was next up to take the ice in the Olympic figure skating trials.

Shining dreams of glory aside, this is an interesting bit of information for women with endometriosis (though not for infertile women with endometriosis, for whom it is merely another scrap of evidence in the mounting case against the existence of a just and merciful God). Although many women experience pain throughout their menstrual cycle, I am in agony only for the day or so of ovulation, and then for three days at the beginning of my period. No ovulation, no period, no pain. The pill was the perfect solution, so when my period returned after I stopped pumping, it was the obvious choice — not for its contraceptive properties, because hahahahaha, but for the ability to turn my period on and off with the ingestion (or not) of a tiny pink lozenge.

When my OB told me to stop taking the pill immediately, it was with great trepidation that I stocked up on tampons, lined up six ibuprofen on my nightstand in a well-disciplined phalanx, and braced myself for the carnage to come.

But, you know, it wasn't that bad. Maybe it was because I'd had breakthrough bleeding the whole time I was on this particular pill. Maybe my endometriosis abated a bit during the long months without a period. Maybe I was too harried from the demands of taking care of Charlie to be able to notice much else. Whatever the cause, I suddenly understood how all those healthy-looking women on maxi-pad commercials can afford to look so resolutely gay and carefree as they canter on their ponies...whirr past on their bicycles...snatch the gold from a pouting Russian sprite in an upset that knocks the figure skating world back on its bladed heels while a Zamboni growls mournfully in the background...

Shining dreams of glory aside, I don't feel I can count on another month like this one. Even if my endometriosis has receded, the nature of the disease is progressive; with every additional period it grows worse. There's an IUD whose manufacturer claims that it reduces the duration and severity — an appropriate word for women with endometriosis — of periods, in some cases ceasing menstrual bleeding entirely. It should be safe for women with clotting problems because it contains no estrogen, relying instead on levonorgestrel to thin the uterine lining.

Have any of you tried the Mirena IUD? How did it affect your period? And have any of you had it removed? How long after removal did it take your period to re-establish itself? If you had it removed and then later attempted to conceive, did you encounter any difficulty — or, if you're infertile, any more difficulty than usual?

I am strongly considering this option. That Russian sprite isn't gonna snatch herself, if you know what I mean.

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