To understand how birth control pills affect periods, it is helpful to understand how the normal menstrual cycle works. A menstrual period takes place when the uterus (womb) sheds its lining; this process is controlled by the hormones made by the ovary (oestrogen and progesterone). A menstrual cycle begins with the first day of the period, lasts for about one month and is divided into two halves by ovulation (the release of an egg from the ovary). During the first half of the cycle, only oestrogen is made. Under the influence of oestrogen, the uterine lining grows to prepare for a potential pregnancy. During the second half of the cycle, after ovulation, progesterone is also made. Progesterone stops the lining from growing and prepares it for implantation of an embryo. If pregnancy does not occur, progesterone and oestrogen levels fall, which triggers the shedding of the uterine lining and the next period begins.
Here are some other simple to understand facts about periods :
- Ovulation rarely occurs on cycle day 14. The day of ovulation changes from month to month and from person to person. It is affected by things like dirt, exercise, stress levels, and sleep habits.
- It’s totally normal for your periods not to come like clockwork. More often than not, your period won’t come every 28 days on the dot. Cycles ranging from 21 to 35 days long are all considered “regular”.
- An egg will die within 24 hours after ovulation, unless it is fertilised. Because of this, there’s only a small window of time when a pregnancy can occur.
- Accurately predicting your period is possible. The number of days between ovulation and your period is consistent from cycle to cycle. Monitoring your waking temperature helps you detect ovulation and predict your next period, right down to the day.
- For most of your cycle, sperm cannot survive in the vagina. Without the presence of fluid produced by the cervix, the vagina is too acidic for sperm to survive. Cervical fluid is secreted around ovulation and helps sperm live for upto 5 days.
- Tracking your cycles can help uncover problems. Hormonal imbalances and reproductive disorders often manifest in the menstrual cycle. Keeping track of cycle length, cervical fluid secretions, and waking temperature can each shed light on potential problems.
- Periods you have on the pill aren’t real periods. Bleeding on the pill is the result of your body’s withdrawal from hormones. In fact, the creators of the pill added bleeding for fear that women would find it too unnatural not to bleed.
- The colour & consistency of menstrual flow actually means something. Dark, clotted blood or conversely, blood that looks watered down can be a sign of hormone imbalance. Look before you finish.
If you have any issues with your periods, it is better to speak with a gynaecologist about them rather than asking women in your life. So make that trip to your gynaecologist today if required.