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Contraceptive Options – Know Before You Act! (Birth Control)

Options of Preventing Pregnancy

So you may wonder why I have such an odd “non-related” topic on my blog – but in reality, the likelihood is if you’re pregnant, that you’re not going to be getting your period, so I guess in a way, it IS a related matter, lol. What inspired me to write this little blog post (and yes it will be “little” because there is just way too much to cover) is that I was listening on the radio on the drive to work and one of the hosts mentioned that in Canada, they found that many women are actually unaware of the many contraceptive choices that are available to them. I would dare wager that the 2 most well-known contraceptive methods are the pill and condoms. I have done my best to do proper research, but feel free to correct me if mistakes are found as I am more than happy to learn, particularly from those with anecdotal experiences. I have yet to be with a girl who uses such contraception, particularly with a lack of knowledge about the pill and administering techniques other than by hearsay, so my knowledge may be iffy on that.

So many contraceptive choices!! What do you do?

So many contraceptive choices!! What do you do?

Suffice to say, while those two methods are well-known and used by many who choose not to have children at the moment (or never), they are not the only options available at this day in age. In this entry, I hope to gain some insight myself and also help open the world of contraceptive options to men and women. Where do men come into play? Well obviously contraceptive choices between couples or consenting adults is recommended when there is no intention to cause pregnancy. I should mention before I start this post that I’ll be concentrating on avoiding pregnancy in this posting, but should point out that most contraception forms do not protect against Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) and Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD).

Birth Control Pill (or “the pill”):

The basis of “the pill” is to prevent ovulation through a mixture of hormones, estrogen and progesterone. By suppressing ovulation, there is no egg released by the ovaries to to be fertilized by male sperm, therefore eliminating the risk of becoming pregnant. In addition to inhibiting the ovulation process, the pill also works by thickening the mucus around the cervix, reducing the likelihood that sperm is able to enter the uterus in the event that a female egg has already been released. Due to the combination of hormones present in the pill, even if fertilization does occur, the changes to the uterus lining much harder for the fertilized egg to attach to the uterus wall.

Most of “the pill” packages come in a 21 or 28 day-use cycle. The pill is administered orally (I should make that clear that “orally” means through the MOUTH) daily and at the same time every day. Users of the 21-day pack is taken 21 days continuously where the user will then stop for 7 days before starting the next 21-day pack. Users of the 28-day pack will continue to take all the pills in the package, but the last 7 pills of the cycle are actually hormone-less, usually called a placebo, which really has no effect on the body other than maintaining regularity and familiarity in maintaining the habit of taking the pill daily. If a single dose is missed (other than the placebo pills), then the chances of contraceptive protection drops considerably, so it is imperative that the pill be taken effectively. For women who start using “the pill” – it takes up to 7 days for it to take effect, therefore those who are sexually active within that 7-day window should continue to use alternate contraceptive methods such as a condom.

There are variants of “the pill” (such as progesterone-only), and your health-care professional will be able to give you the best advice on which suits you the best. There are of course benefits and risks for using “the pill” and making it important for you to consult a professional and to research what is in your best interest to use as contraception. For some women, the use of “the pill” is highly discouraged if they have certain medical conditions, so “the pill” is not recommended for everyone. There are also emergency contraceptives, such as “Plan B” for those “oopsies, we had unprotected sex” scenarios that prevent an embryo from attaching the the uterus wall after fertilization. “The pill” requires a prescription to acquire, but “Plan B” is available over-the-counter.

Birth Control Pills

Birth Control Pills

Contraceptive Patch

The contraceptive patch works similarly to “the pill” by delivering the combined hormones through the skin. A “bandage-like” adhesive is applied to the abdomen, buttocks, upper arm or upper torso. The scheduled usage of the product is like “the pill” and carries generally the same benefits and negative side effects, only that the method of which the hormones enter the body is different.

Contraceptive Patch

Contraceptive Patch

Intrauterine Devices

IUD’s are devices implanted into the uterus to prevent pregnancy by preventing sperm from fertilizing an egg. These “T-shaped” devices can be left in the uterus for several years and are usually composed from plastic and copper. Recent ‘enhancements’ to IUD’s also allow them to be loaded with a hormone-containing device which slowly release hormones over time to help alter the menstrual cycle and suppress conception. The IUD acts as a “physical barrier” which hinders the ability for sperm to meet with an egg and also due to a foreign object (the IUD) irritating the uterus lining, it prevents an embryo from implanting onto the uterus wall. This device is not suitable for those who have reactions to copper as it may cause increase menstrual cramps and flow. On the contrary, hormone-releasing variations of the IUD have been known to reduce menstrual flow and regulate periods. Nevertheless IUD’s have the potential of being pushed out of the vagina due to natural contractions. IUD’s are a great contraceptive choice if a user wants to be able to quickly become fertile again (assuming one was fertile in the first place). IUD’s should be implanted with the skills of an expert practitioner.

Intrauterine Device

Intrauterine Device

Vaginal Ring

The vaginal ring works similarly to “the pill” by delivering the combined hormones through the vagina. A “ring-like” device is inserted into the vaginal which stops ovulation, thickens cervical mucus and creates a barrier to prevent sperm from fertilizing an egg. The scheduled usage of the product is like “the pill” and carries generally the same benefits and negative side effects, only that the method of which the hormones enter the body is different. It is possible for the ring to fall out and may cause vaginal irritation. If the ring is left outside the body for more than 3 hours, pregnancy once against becomes a risk and requires a 7-day window to become effective again. The vaginal ring can be inserted/removed without professional intervention.

Vaginal Ring

Vaginal Ring

Contraceptive Injections

Contraceptive injections containing synthetic hormones can be absorbed into the body via intramuscular injection. The hormones contained within prevent ovulation, thickens the mucus in the cervix and also makes the womb lining thinner to prevent an embryo from attaching to the uterus wall. Initial injections prevented pregnancy from 8 to 12 weeks, however, newer shots are said to last up to several months. Unfortunately, because hormones are injected directly into the body, they may stay resident in the body for up to 2 years, therefore resuming fertility is not as fast as other methods. Also, there have been riskier “aftermaths” even after discontinued use of contraceptive injections. With the use of contraceptive injections, menstrual periods completely stop (other than spot-bleeding) and do not become regular until a year or more of discontinued use of the product.

Contraceptive Injection

Contraceptive Injection

Implants

Capsules which release fertility-inhibiting hormones were implanted into a woman’s arm which could prevent pregnancy for up to 5 years. It was highly effective, however, side-effects were not properly communicated to customers which resulted in several class-action lawsuits. I’m not going to talk a lot about this method since it has been pulled off the shelves in North America.

Contraceptive Implants

Contraceptive Implants

Diaphragm

A diaphragm is the “female equivalent” of a condom, a barrier contraceptive method. A diaphragm is a latex or silicon device shaped in a dome which is inserted into the vagina to “block off” the contact of sperm and a released egg. Just like a condom, a diaphragm is inserted prior to sexual intercourse, however, unlike a condom, the device should be left in the vagina for another 6 to 8 hours (although debated due to lack of evidence/conclusion) from the last male ejaculation within the vagina. It is common that spermicide be applied to the rim and/or dome of the diaphragm prior to insertion. Diaphragms can be reused as long as they are properly cleansed and can be reused immediately if required. Care should be taken to avoid contact with oil, whether it is oil-based vaginal medication of lube as it causes the deterioration of the diaphragm. Depending on the material used to make the diaphragm, it may be used from anywhere between 1 to 10 years.

A fitting appointment is recommended with your health-care professional to assist in finding a diaphragm that fits each woman’s size and needs. Whether a diaphragm is too large or too small may affect the woman’s health and may increase the risk of pregnancy if a seal is not properly formed. The diaphragm covers the cervix and physically prevents sperm from entering the uterus. It should be noted that like tampons, diaphragms are susceptible to causing TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome) when it is worn for periods of greater than 24 hours. A diaphragm does not affect future fertility opportunity and does not affect hormones or regular menstrual cycle in any way.

Diaphragm

Diaphragm

Closing

I hope this helps shed some light on the various birth-control options for everyone. For those of us who are in relationships, please be reminded that birth-control is not a one-sided decision and it’s best made with both parties involved. If you are having sex outside of a monogamous relationship, then it’s a totally different story. While it is rightful and legal for a woman to make a sole decision on birth-control methods, please do be considerate and include or at least consult with her partner on his/her feelings and objectives.

Your choice of birth-control may have irreversible or long-term effects, thus, it is advisable to also seek the opinion of your health-care professional. Also, some medical conditions you may have may exempt you from the opportunity to safely utilize some of these methods. There are many risks and rewards to using the above options and I have hardly even touched on the advantages and side-effects of the choices. It is also in your best interest to do prior research and then consult your medical specialist to help make the best decision, fitting to your scenario.

Post-Pregnancy Information for Men

Hi Again,

Time again for another round of period-related information… or maybe rather, it’s not exactly menstruation, but you may call it a “related-topic.” Today’s topic is on post-pregnancy. This is probably one of the topics that I do not have a large knowledge-base on, however, I always try to do research before making a post, so I hope this information will be accurate and informative. As usual, if there are any mistakes or considerations you would like me to make for this post, please let me know!

After child-birth, it is especially important for men to become involved in your partner’s health. After all, pregnancy is a very body-intensive process and therefore, you should definitely be a man and spoil your girl as if there’s no tomorrow. After all, the creation of this baby should be a testament to your loving relationship and your child is a production of your commitment to each other for life. Holy, do I sound like an old fart with an old mentality or what?! Of course for us flow-lovers, what joy is there to hope that your partner’s period returns soon as we’ve been missing the fun of it for 9 months already! (Although I doubt your partner misses it, lol) – Following pregnancy, resuming regular periods are a mystery for every woman.

It’s important for men to understand that after a normal delivery of a child, your partner will go through post-natal bleeding (or discharge) known as Lochia. Lochia generally lasts for 3 to 6 weeks and contains mucus, blood and placental tissue. There are 3 stages of lochia, each respective stage with a corresponding medical-name. Following 3 to 5 days after childbirth, your partner will go through Lochia rubra (cruenta) typically red to brownish-red due to the large amount of blood being expelled (expect heavy-flow) and contains a “fleshy odour.” After lochia rubra has taken place and up to approximately the 10th day post-delivery, she will undergo Lochia serosa where thinning of lochia occurs and where it usually becomes brownish or pink and is lochia flow is lessened compared to before. Finally for the remainder of discharge turns to a whitish or yellow-white colour lasting anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 weeks post-delivery referred to as Lochia alba (purulenta).

During this time, it is advisable to use maternity pads to deal with lochia as post-natal bleeding is generally a lot more than your average menstrual period. The first 6 to 12 hours after delivery is generally when most women expect the heaviest lochia discharge but it’s hard to say how often a woman will need to change her pad as the lochia flow is change based on the “phase” it is at, physical movement/position and bodily changes. At first, most women should expect to change their pad at least once every 1-2 hours and later, every 3-4 hours as lochia lessens – similar to managing ‘light’ and ‘heavy’ flow days of her regular period. In general, maternity pads are longer, softer, thicker and thus, more absorbent than the common maxi pad. Most maxi pads will not stand up well against lochia flow, therefore it is suggested that you purchase (or expect to purchase) 2-3 packs of “12’s” which should last for the duration of the heavier lochia discharge days.

In general, lochia should have the same odour as regular menstrual flow. If there is a foul or offensive smell from the lochia, the best practice would be to contact your medical professional as it may indicate a vaginal contamination. This contamination by organisms (thus the smell) may result in lochioschesis (spelled lochiostasis by some) which is the retention of lochia that should normally be expelled from the body.

Picture of a maternity pad

For convenience, you may also want to buy disposable panties for the first 2 weeks post-pregnancy as leaks may occur frequently and certainly you would not want to stain both of your favourite panties! Using well-fitting underwear is important as maternity pads require a large area on the crotch to support it. It is horribly uncomfortable and embarrassing to wear small, tight panties while harbouring a gigantic pad underneath! This is especially important if your partner has required stitches or undergone bruising to use comfortable-fitting underwear. By the end of the first and second week, it is likely your partner will be able to return using common maxi pads so maternity pads are no longer required.

As you may have noticed (sorry to the guys n’ girls who love them :|) that I have made no mention of tampons for lochia. Most medical practiontioners recommend that women do not use tampons while lochia is still present or flowing. As I’ve mentioned over and over again, the female anatomy is a beautiful and wonderful thing (much more exciting than us guy’s, har har). After pregnancy, the female body goes into a state of of involution where the uterus attempts to return to its pre-pregnancy size and condition. This process is to ensure that (under normal circumstances) allow pregnancy to occur again and thus an intricate process occurs which results in the above mentioned, lochia. During the first 6-8 weeks after delivery, consider the uterus as a recovering wound and therefore using tampons may introduce foreign bacteria into the reproductive system, heightening the risk of infection. It is suggested that resuming tampon use not be done until a postnatal check-up is performed and receiving the OK from your medical practitioner – after all, they are the experts and will know whether your body is prepared to have a tampon inserted.

It is normal for your partner to not have irregular or absent menstrual periods for a while after pregnancy. Other than your partner’s body to return regular menstrual activities, carrying out breastfeeding may interrupt the menstrual-cycle to return to normal. Breastfeeding may interfere with the ovulation process, thereby causing periods to be irregular or completely missing. Even for women who resume their normal menstrual cycle will experience more unusual period patterns which is pretty typical and there should be an expectation of heavier flow, more pain/discomfort and more lethargic than usual. Now’s the time to show some love to your woman who have spent 9 months bearing your beautiful child (or children)!!!

As a general guideline, your partner should expect to resume her regular menstrual-cycle within 9 months post-delivery. Many women do not go through regular menstruation until they cease to breastfeed. Apparently this is your body’s attempt to disallow conception of another child while your just-born child is still in his/her infancy – however, this is not to say that this is the case for ALL women. In fact, I must make a note that it does not mean your partner cannot get pregnant soon post-delivery! A lot of people make the assumption that if their partner does not show signs of menstruation that equates to a period (haha, what a great pun) of infertility. Oddly enough, your partner may actually be even more fertile than when she becomes “regular” again. You and your partner should both be aware that unprotected sex may lead to another pregnancy (if that’s not your plan). Necessary precautions should be taken if pregnancy is not your intent and the use of a condom with spermicide is recommended. Birth control or other hormonal-altering drug should not be used at this time, unless specifically authorized by a health professional. On that note, my Dad and his younger brother is only apart by 9 months and few days – so it’s quite possible to get pregnancy VERY SOON after delivery!

Here are some cases where you should contact your medical practitioner or emergency assistance immediately if your partner experiences:

  • lochia has an unpleasant smell
  • fever and/or chills
  • bleeding stays heavy and bright red after the first week
  • feel faint or dizzy
  • heartbeat starts to race or become irregular
  • soaking through a pad more than once per hour
  • large clots (> 28mm)
  • tummy feels tender low down on one or both sides

So there you guys go, hopefully this will give you some menstrual facts post-pregnancy! It’s such an exciting time so enjoy it. Think about how great it is to see your partner have to put on a pad or tampon again 😛 Hrm… maybe I’m having that flow-loving side in me kick in again! If you’re reading this for your partner, then I want to congratulate you on the new life you’ve brought to this world! I’m sure he/she really appreciates it 🙂

Addenum to PMS/Menstruation Differences Post

I decided to plop some pictures into my previous post regarding PMS and Menstruation, added a bit more content and a bit of humour! As promised, the picture of what 9 tablespoons of menstrual flow looks like (lol, don’t worry – it’s just water) has been added. I’ve also had a spark of ingenuitiy (which rarely happens) to calculate how many tampons it would actually take to absorb one period worth of fluid! Cheers.

https://meninmenstruation.wordpress.com/2010/06/03/be-informed-know-the-difference-pms-and-periodmenstruation/ (Updated Jun 4/10 @ 5:46PM EST)

[Commenting has been disabled on this post since there’s no point]

Be Informed: Know the Difference! PMS and Period/Menstruation

Hi Everyone,

Today, I’d like to take this opportunity to demystify the difference between PMS and menstruation. Often, both males and females use these two terms interchangeably, but not knowing that they mean a completely different thing. Rather than throw medical terminology or a dictionary definition to you, let me convey to you my understanding of PMS and menstruation, from a lay-person’s perspective. PMS is said to affect approx. 30% of menstruating women.

PMS 24/7!

PMS, or Pre-Menstrual Syndrome covers a large scope of physical or emotional disturbances in a female before the arrival of menses. Symptoms of PMS include, but aren’t limited to, depression, irritability, crying, oversensitivity, and mood swings.Insomnia, fatigue, aches, breast tenderness, bloating, cramps, constipation and headaches are common physical conditions which PMS-affected females may undergo. It should be known that not all women are affected by PMS. I should highlight that the “P” in “PMS” being pre means that these symptoms happen before menstruation, so therefore, the terms PMS and menstruation should not be used interchangeably.

PMS generally occurs after a female ovulates and ends either shortly before or when menstrual flow begins. More specifically, PMS symptoms are attributed to large fluctuations of hormones, most notably, progesterone released during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle. As this phase comes to end, progesterone drops-off and the menstrual cycle comes to an end, resulting in menstruation (us flow-lover’s favourite time!!!) where endometrial blood is expelled from the body via the vagina. There is a more severe form of PMS called Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder or PMDD, affecting approx. 3-8% of women. In general, both PMS and PMDD affect a woman’s quality-of-life, however, certain nutrition consumptions, stress-levels and predisposed factors may make PMS/PMDD more severe from one woman to another.

Menstruation is used to describe the beginning of a new menstrual cycle and usually lasts from 3 to 5 days. Menstruation is considered to fall under the “normal” range anywhere from 2 to 7 days. The uterine lining is formed upon every menstrual cycle and needs to be expelled from the body when conception has not occurred. At the start of every menstrual cycle, the uterine lining and decomposed egg exits the cervix, into the vagina and out of the female body. The flow which comes out of the body is often in the visible form of blood and/or clots (may or may not indicate health-issues). The amount of menstrual flow throughout actively menstruating days vary from woman-to-woman although the average loss of blood per period is only 3 tablespoons with an average fluid loss of 6-9 tablespoons since tissue and mucus from the endometrium also comes out with menstrual blood.

This is 9 tbsp or ~133mL of liquid looks like - the "upper end" of what the average menstrual flow of one period consists

Let’s do some quick math! According to the FDA, tampons fall under 5 classifications based on absorbency. “Ultra” tampons are rated for 15-18 grams of menstrual flow. (Note: Mind you, these are VERY rough calculations since conversions between volume/weight is always a nasty thing to do, but it will give you a light concept.) 5 grams is approximately 1 teaspoon. 3 teaspoons is equivalent to 1 tablespoon. Assuming we use the “lowest end” of an Ultra-absorbency tampon absorbing 15 grams of flow, that is 3 teaspoons which is equivalent to 1 tablespoon. If the average menstrual fluid loss per period on the highest end is 9 tablespoons, 9 Ultra-absorbency tampons are enough to absorb all of your period. Please take due caution as I am not recommending this as tampons should be used according to the instructions in the leaflet as well as hygienic practices. Unfortunately, I don’t have an Ultra O.B. tampon so I can’t display the size of it, so the box will have to suffice (as shown below). Maybe I can borrow one from my ex next time I see her… HAH… hope it make her happy that I didn’t post another brand instead 😛

O.B. Tampons Ultra

Menstrual flow is not only expelled by force of gravity, but also the contraction of the uterus which helps force decomposed waste/menstrual flow out the body and thus, may results in abdominal discomfort in menstruating women commonly referred to as cramps. The menstrual cycle may not be very accurate for women who have recently reached sexual maturation, the age of menarche. Usually it takes 1-3 years before a woman reaches the stage where the menstrual cycle becomes regular. It is not unusual even for women who have had their menstrual cycle for many years who are not regular or may fall outside of their regular schedule.

I certainly hope in the future this is not the way I find out my wife is pregnant. There are much better ways of congratulations... LOL.

Most notably, sexually-active women may fear pregnancy (unless they want a child) when their period is late or perhaps may signal underlying health issues. Nevertheless, periods are rarely 100% accurate and flow will vary even from one menstrual cycle to another.

As you can see guys (and girls I suppose), PMS and menstruation are two different things and although both are “related” since PMS happens prior to menstruation, menstruation CAN exist without PMS-related symptopms. So the next time, when someone talks to you about PMS and menstruation, make sure they are using the right term to describe the right thing! Don’t you think you’d impress your significant other more when you use the right word to describe what she’s going through? I think so 😀 Hopefully this will also provide you with a working-knowledge of PMS and menstruation and to demystify misinformation that often gets injected into male minds about what-is-what!

Cheers. 🙂

[This post will be checked by one of my ex’s due to her medical expertise for accuracy :P]

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