What is useless, obnoxious and forces me to stock up on tampons?
June 30, 2014 12:30 AM   Subscribe

Every month for about a week, my quality of life depreciates. My breasts hurt. My normally-clear skin breaks out. My bowel function goes haywire. Sometimes my back and thighs hurt. Sometimes I get cranky. I have to deal with the gross reality that blood is pouring out of my body. Um... No thank you. I'd like to stop this, please.

I generally enjoy being a lady, but I don't want my period anymore. It sucks and I fucking hate it. I've had my period since I was 12. I'm 30. That's been long enough. I'm ready to end my period. Questions: Can I stop it? How would I do that? Is it safe? Are there side effects? Are there health risks not related to my ability to have kids? What do I need to know and how can I do this?

And to answer the responses I know I will get: I don't want kids. I have absolutely no desire. And for all the people who are going to say "But you might change your mind one day" -- first of all, no. Second of all, I'm gay so if I do change my mind, my wife can be the one who gets pregnant or we'll adopt. I will absolutely never, ever allow myself to be pregnant, ever. I don't care if stopping my periods would make it impossible for me to have kids. That is a non-factor here and I really don't want to hear about it.

Thank you in advance!
posted by AppleTurnover to Health & Fitness (59 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

I know. Periods are horrible.

I'm pretty sure that you can take the pill without having off-days and it will stop your period.

Other people have used the mirena coil and their periods all but stopped.

I had the birth control injection and it stopped my periods.... but it also made me nutty and it sucks to have to be injected every 3 months.

I wouldn't go the hysterectomy route, not because of kids, but because I believe you then would need hormone replacement etc. and/or have a host of new yucky physical problems. (someone else might chime in here)
posted by misspony at 12:41 AM on June 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

You can get hormonal contraception that you take continuously, or you can try an IUD that usually leads to very light periods (a small portion have the reverse, heavier periods so you may need to remove it and switch to something else), and if it's really driving you nuts, you can get your uterus removed and leave your ovaries behind so you don't go into menapause.

The hormonal stuff varies. Taking it continuously will make you a little more high risk, but if you tolerate hormonal birth control fine and you don't have a stroke history, it's still really safe. Lots of women use continuous coverage to cut out periods for a long time. The IUDs are probably safer, but not always as effective for reducing periods.

A hysterectomy is a big step compared to tubal ligation (which won't change your periods). It's invasive major surgery with risks, and your doctor is going to need a really big justification like endometriosis to do that ethically. They will probably want you to try the IUD/pill first.

I think there's also ablation where they basically scour your uterus so you get very light periods for a while - some women get helped by this, but your description sounds like the hormonal impact is the worst part for you.

No-one knows if having periods helps or harms you really. Having a child and breastfeeding does seem to offer health benefits, but you balance that against the risk of pregnancy and it's all pretty minor.
posted by viggorlijah at 12:42 AM on June 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah, the injection sucks if you are sensitive to hormones because it's a sudden peak and then slow decline. If you don't want to take a daily pill, ask about the patch or the arm implants - they release much more evenly over time so the effect of the hormones is less crash and burn. The arm implant very often makes periods cease and is so no-fuss and straightforward.
posted by viggorlijah at 12:44 AM on June 30, 2014

I would just go in and tell your doctor exactly this and see what they say. Because I did look into it myself (although mine's gotten better in recent years) I will say that I agree that while just removing the relevant bits sounds like a TERRIFIC PLAN when you feel like that, it's pretty complicated in reality and basically a last resort. So I'd just ask your doctor and if your doctor doesn't take it seriously, get another doctor. This is not such a rare thing that they won't know how to handle such a request.
posted by Sequence at 1:05 AM on June 30, 2014 [5 favorites]

The Mirena stopped my period completely. It did not work out for me, hormonally speaking, but it would be the first thing I'd try in your shoes.
posted by lydhre at 1:10 AM on June 30, 2014 [7 favorites]

IANAD, but I think hysterectomy would put you into very early menopause. In other words you would be trading one set of problems for another set. Please discuss this with a doctor, preferably a gynecologist, preferably a female gyno.
posted by Cranberry at 1:13 AM on June 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

It generally seems to involve messing about with hormones in the form of birth control. Side effects can vary a lot. I know women who only get one or two periods a year because they just keep taking the pill, skipping the period days and starting the ones for the next month. I tried this a couple of times (convenience mostly; I hate having my period while travelling) and I felt sick and nauseated. So that was no go for me. But there are different types of the pill (different amounts of hormones, different combinations of hormones) so if you try one and it isn't working well for you, there may be another one that would work better.

Side effects of the pill in general range from weight gain, bloating, increased risk of blood clots etc. There's heaps of info about this. Again, these can vary a lot between individuals and also between types of the pill. I am on the pill not for birth control but so that I have a degree of control and predictability over my period and I've found that since being on the pill, periods have gotten much less obnoxious. Though I do have the "off days" and get my period every month, cramps are lighter, flow is lighter, general side effects of period are reduced. Oh, and it really only lasts 3-4 days. Vast improvement for me, YMMV.

The Mirena (mentioned above) can also be a good one; a friend got one put in because, like you, she was sick of having periods and hers were getting increasingly obnoxious. She spotted for a while (6 months-ish?) but eventually settled down into only having a period about 3-4 times a year. Obvious advantage is that you don't need to remember to take pills, it's just there.

This is all anecdotal. Talk to your doctor if you trust them. If you don't, find a new doctor. They should be able to help you find a solution. Much as I share the temptation to sometimes want to get rid of it all (it's useless to me too!) I think the hormonal options are probably less disruptive overall, even if it takes a little while to find the right one.
posted by Athanassiel at 1:14 AM on June 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

Sorry to threadsit, but re sequence: I did ask the PA who did my last pap smear and she said it was really only something that came up when women had health problems and basically didn't have an answer for me as someone without health problems. I could try to meet with the actual doctor to discuss it, but the sense I get is they worry about treating specific problems/abnormalities and they are very busy, so they probably aren't willing to indulge such requests to explore a period-termination plan.

I obviously can't do anything until I speak to a doctor anyway. I thought maybe some people had researched this or tried it themselves that could offer some insight. I'm not on any sort of birth control at the moment (for obvious reasons) but I did take Ortho Tri-Cyclen for a few years in grade school/high school to regulate my period.

lydhre, I'd be curious to know what you mean by "hormonally speaking" it didn't work out for you?

Thanks for the answers so far. The thought of injecting myself with anything is pretty unpleasant. I'd rather not do that if there's another way.
posted by AppleTurnover at 1:15 AM on June 30, 2014

I would start with trying the Mirena. If it works, great, if it doesn't, you can try more invasive measures. It doesn't immediately stop periods for everyone, but it does work really well for most and is a very common, routine procedure with minimal risk and hormonal interference.

If it doesn't work for you, there's always more invasive surgical things, but invasive surgical procedures always carry a degree of risk.
posted by chiquitita at 1:26 AM on June 30, 2014

I have a hormonal contraceptive implant in my arm. It lasts three years and has exactly the effect you are looking for. Works well enough for me that I am on my fourth one now.

I had been on daily hormonal BC for a long time beforehand so I was happy that it didn't cause any of the unpleasant side effects that hormonal BC sometimes has.

The procedure to put it in there is super quick and easy and doesn't hurt more than any other injection IMO.

Being as you don't need it for birth control it's possible that you could run one substantially longer than three years, YMMV, talk to your doctor, etc.
posted by emilyw at 1:28 AM on June 30, 2014

I take Zovia continuously to block the effects of very, very bad PMDD. Aside from one day a month where I become batshit insane for 24 hrs, I enjoy decently clear skin, reasonably better bodily functions, and, best of all, no period. Playing around with HBC types can be like Russian Roulette, so don't do it unless you're really prepared to try some until you find the right fit (Yaz, Loestrin, and Ortho all did horrible things to me). I hope you find something that works for you. None of us deserve the lousiness that is having a period.
posted by Hermione Granger at 1:28 AM on June 30, 2014

I'm another user who stopped having periods on the Mirena. They eventually came back, but that was due to a fibroid. If I did not have a partner who'd had the snip, as I do now, I would probably still be using Mirena today. I had no bad side effects except for increased acne on my back.

I used to hate my periods a lot more before I started using a menstrual cup, which pretty much ended my cramps as well as the need to stock up on tampons. But since you are expressing that you want to stop your periods altogether, not just make them easier to deal with, the Mirena may be your best bet.

Your doctor should definitely be willing to spend time on helping you find the right option for you. That's not at all too much to ask. Yes, they are busy: busy doing things like this.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:30 AM on June 30, 2014


I haven't had my period since I was 19 for Reasons, and I'll be 39 in a few days. My doctor told me that there were things we could try to restart my period, but if I wasn't interested in having children and didn't mind not having it, there was no medical reason to attempt to induce it. (Elective periods have only become a thing recently, and I've found that female physicians are less concerned with getting my period going than male physicians are. There doesn't seem to be a general consensus about the issue yet.) I consider it a feature, not a bug, so I elected to not bother with it.

There are many women who take birth control continuously in order to avoid side effects related to medical conditions associated with menstruation, so I see no reason why you shouldn't be able to get a doctor to help you with this. However, hormonal birth control has its own side effects, so you may find it to be something of a wash, symptom wise. I wouldn't do a hysterectomy, though. To eliminate all of the monthly annoyances, you would need to remove the ovaries, which would induce menopause. The side effects of menopause are not particularly enjoyable.
posted by xyzzy at 1:31 AM on June 30, 2014

I used to work with a pharmacist who felt the exact same way as you about her periods and having kids. She just took birth control, skipping the off week. Fortunately, she'd had the same doctor for most of her life (she's about 30), so she was usually just able to ask the doc for a new year's worth of scripts at her annual check-up. No health problems that she ever mentioned, not that she would have to me, I suppose.

If you've taken birth control in the past, there's no reason you can't start again. As xyzzy said above, many women do this. There's always the possibility of side effects, but that's true of any drug treatment.
posted by themanwho at 1:43 AM on June 30, 2014

I've been on my Mirena IUD for about seven years now and I love it with a burning passion. I wish I could high-five it so we both could go IN YOUR FACE, NATURE! and celebrate the triumph of medical science (and luck, since I know it doesn't work for everyone) over monthly harassment by my own organs. If you have the opportunity, do try it - I hope it works for you.

Disclaimers: I got it courtesy of the Swedish health care system, and the fact that it was cheap and easy for me might have influenced my feelings for it. It took about 6+ months for the IUD to vanquish monthly periods and way longer for occasional spotting to disappear. I needed to switch mine after 4.5 years (rather than 5), and experienced another bit of non-painful but bloody readjustment after that. Also, I still notice a few symptoms of my hormonal cycle - nothing too bad, but if I pay attention I can tell (tiny pimples, a bit of weight gain, minuscule cramping) when the monthly non-action happens.
posted by harujion at 2:35 AM on June 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

There are birth control pills that are designed for fewer periods (seasonale used to be one, I think). I am on continuous birth control, so if I remember to take it every day, I don't even have spotting. My doctor was pretty easy going in giving this to me, although we started with the seasonale.

I don't have any side effects that I can think of, really. I went off it for a couple months, but ultimately, just really like not having a period.

I tried the depo provera shot, and until my body got used to it, I bled for two months straight, several injections. I also tried the nuva ring, but my body didn't like it.
posted by needlegrrl at 2:50 AM on June 30, 2014

The Mirena stopped my period but also turned me into a weepy mess. A lot of women love it, though.

Hysterectomy, even if you left your ovaries in, has potential sexual side effects. When a woman is aroused, these muscles called the "round ligaments" pull the uterus up and towards the pelvic bone, which in turn lengthens the vaginal canal. They also say that the uterus moves during orgasm. Both of these things can contribute to sexual feeling, and both are erased or endangered by hysterectomy.
posted by hungrytiger at 2:56 AM on June 30, 2014 [4 favorites]

You do not, not, NOT need to use hormonal birth control or an IUD for this if you know you don't want kids in the future. What you want is called an endometrial ablation. It's an outpatient procedure, they basically use heat or lasers to cauterize the lining of your uterus. About 15% of women find it stops their periods entirely; for basically all of the rest it makes them significantly lighter and less crampy and awful. (It will also make it much more difficult to carry a pregnancy to term, so you may have to make it *very clear* to the gynecologist that you know that and don't care.) This will probably be covered by insurance, if you have it. I had one, along with a tubal ligation, at 28. I had MUCH MUCH lighter (but not nonexistent) periods afterward.
posted by adrienneleigh at 3:13 AM on June 30, 2014 [6 favorites]

I'm only repeating what others have said above but this was my experience in making my periods stop being so annoying: birth control pill and skipping the sugar pills - this would work for about three months before I got some breakthrough bleeding but it was usually much lighter or at the very least much shorter than a regular period (that was before I had children) and after it was the Mirena IUD which effectively stopped my periods altogether (with the occasional spotting).
posted by h00py at 3:14 AM on June 30, 2014

While all personal stories are useful to understand what can work, I would recommend doing the research into different options, which doesn't have to just be talking to a doctor about it. Most medical interventions will involve side effects of different levels of rarity. It sounds like you are at a point that you want to do it anyway, but its worth being aware. For a very simple "fer instance", the birth control pill which can reduce or eilminate periods can also lead to a reduction in libido which may be concerning to you and your partner.

In your additional informaiton in thread you indicated that you think doctors would be too busy to deal with this. I would recommend trying them at the very least: if this is a big enough problem for you it is worth at least asking. If you find them to be unhelpful, then you have lost nothing but your time.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 3:20 AM on June 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have an IUD with I got for birth control purposes. It has all but stopped my periods. I still find myself experiencing occasional bloating, breast pain, and cramping, but my bleeding is so minimal that I can basically ignore it most of the time. I'm kind of concerned about what that means for when I do want to start trying to have kids since I could not tell you the date of my last period, but that's not something you're concerned with so that might work well for you.
posted by kat518 at 3:51 AM on June 30, 2014

I use NuvaRing continously (inserting a new ring instead of taking a week off). Doctors basically would not treat my pain without hormones, which had bad side effects for me, when I had tried them in high school. After almost calling 911 one month, because I couldn't get up from the bathroom floor, and it really felt like something was wrong, I gave up and gave NuvaRing a try. I still resent the fuck out of the doctors (also because for 15 years, no one had mentioned I could take HBC continously, to skip periods altogether, which definitely would have made it worth my while to try different kinds), but I would never go back. I would (and did) pay large sums of money to keep my NuvaRing prescription. Luckily, it's free for me now (thanks, Obama! )
posted by unknowncommand at 4:08 AM on June 30, 2014

This is purely my story, and may or may not work for you, but for birth control I got an Implanon arm implant (different name where you live perhaps, I dunno - one of those slow-release hormone tubes injected just below the skin in your upper arm). And my periods stopped, just completely stopped, as did the mood swings and hormonal murderousness and tantrums and zits.

I got a 'refill' when the original implant expired, I bled lightly for 11 days, and then they stopped for good, as did all the other pre-menstrual symptoms. No other side-effects whatsoever - just no menstrual or pre-menstrual drama.

(Luckily for me, I also appear to have gone through early menopause during the second implant when I was 40-something years old, and since then I have not felt like going on a murderous rampage every four weeks, and I pray that my daughter inherited the early menopause post-prime-childbearing-years gene.)
posted by malibustacey9999 at 4:10 AM on June 30, 2014

Sorry, I should probably clarify that this continuous usage is okay with my doctor. I did not go rogue or anything. Also, I know NuvaRing makes some people moody/angry, and of course is not right for everyone. Feel free to MeMail me if you have any questions.
posted by unknowncommand at 4:15 AM on June 30, 2014

I have the implant and it has stopped my periods. I didn't have PMT before, but I did have a lot of problems with heavy bleeding when I had a copper coil, and not having to deal with this each month is amazing.

I have gained weight since I had it put in, but I'm not sure how much of this is the implant (which they told me would be very likely to make it happen) and how much of it has been other lifestyle factors.
posted by mippy at 4:15 AM on June 30, 2014

I have been taking monophasic birth control continuously for about six years, throughout most of my 20s. I've changed brands a few times for various reasons, but the basic idea stays the same: I take the active pills, when I get to the inactive pills, I open a new pack.

This means that I need an extra ~4 packs of birth control per year, so my gynecologist writes my prescription to say "Take pills continuously," which is the magical insurance term that lets me get packs of birth control every 21 days instead of every 28.

I have not experienced any side effects due to this (as compared to when I was taking birth control pills and still having a period). I do still need to "have a period" about once or twice per year -- generally after many consecutive months of birth control pills I will start spotting lightly, and I know from experience that the spotting will continue indefinitely unless I suspend the pills and "have a period" for a week. That period is indistinguishable from my periods in the past, it's not some mutant "super period." After a week of that, I go back to the pills, the spotting is gone, and I'm good for another 6-12 months.

I can't have an IUD for anatomical reasons, I have no desire to permanently alter my body or my fertility, and I think the side effects of Depo outweigh the benefits, so this is the method I've arrived at and I'm pretty happy with it.
posted by telegraph at 4:29 AM on June 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Just be aware, taking birth control continuously doesn't work for everyone, on every product.

I haven't bothered switching around because it works well otherwise with no side effects, but on Alesse, I often get my period on my last week of active pills. Incredibly annoying, and it just gets worse if I try to take pills continously. :(

I'd love an IUD, but my backwards insurance only covered pills and they're $400 up here in Canada.
posted by aggyface at 5:02 AM on June 30, 2014

I am another 'continuous pill user', and would recommend that as a first solution. telegraph's description of the "take continuously" line for the insurance is exactly right. i have gotten zero gruff about doing this from most doctors, except the (non-gyn) ones who themselves had just never heard of it (?!??). i had basically your scenario of symptoms. even if these symptoms are not technically a sign of a health problem, i was taking piles of ibuprofen every month to get through them -- ibuprofen this way was very effective, but my stomach was getting more and more bothered. i would much rather take a pack or two extra of the hormones than down a bottle of ibuprofen every month. the only downsides for me to this method is that i suspect it has made me a little plumper over the years than i would be otherwise, and i'm sure my sex drive is not as high as it would be. i am ok with both of these things, especially because regular (non-continuous) HBC was already doing that. you'd have to give it a try and see for yourself. as others have said, it doesn't work for everybody -- i take alesse like aggyface and it works perfectly. for a while i took topomax and found it interfered a little -- i had to up the hormones from a 1/20 pill to 1/30 -- so it's important your doctors all know all your drugs.

from what i understand, taking hbc this way causes no more risk than the 'regular' way and the sugar pill week was a 'feature' designed to make women more comfortable with the method -- so that it would more resemble life without the pill.
posted by Tandem Affinity at 5:06 AM on June 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Depo-Provera stopped my period completely, as did taking the pill continuously. Implanon gave me longer, lighter, less frequent and annoyingly unpredictable bleeding.
posted by Catseye at 5:22 AM on June 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

[A couple of comments deleted. Answering people, try to be careful with phrasing so it doesn't sound like you are saying, "Hey, dummy..."; OP, you can just contact us or flag if you feel like an answer crosses a line.]
posted by taz at 5:24 AM on June 30, 2014

The suggestions above cover everything I was going to say and more in terms of the options.

I would suggest, though, that this is a perfect issue for evaluating first your current doctor, and then if they fail, interviewing replacement doctors. A good doctor (of which there are regrettably comparatively few) will take this seriously, be open to systematically working with you to try options (probably starting with the least intrusive, like pills formulated for continuous use, before trying anything permanent like ablation), and be sensitive to the context you have described here (not interested in having biological children, etc).

Crappy doctors, of which there are many, can be noticed by how they dismiss your requests, ignore your context, and don't welcome you back to a follow up appointment to keep working on a complicated issue.

You already feel dismissed by the PA, but maybe your doctor is better. If that turns out not to be the case, don't give up on what is a legitimate health care and quality of life issue, but instead work on finding a doctor that takes your individual situation seriously.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:02 AM on June 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

AppleTurnover: "I could try to meet with the actual doctor to discuss it, but the sense I get is they worry about treating specific problems/abnormalities and they are very busy, so they probably aren't willing to indulge such requests to explore a period-termination plan. "

Man, if your doctor won't talk about this with you, get a different doctor. At the very least there's Seasonale, which reduces your periods to 4 a year and is a totally normal BCP option. But my doctor is totally willing to discussion helping me skip or re-time my period even for totally frivolous reasons like I have to go to a wedding and I don't want to have my period at the wedding. "Continuous" BCP use is totally normal and lots of people do it. Breakthrough bleeding is a problem for a lot of people, but it's possible you'd be willing to put up with some light breakthrough bleeding if it comes without the bloating and nausea and aches and cramping (which is often the case).

(FWIW, my ob/gyn is male; I don't think the gender of the doctor matters that much, I think you just have to find one who considers terrible periods an actual problem and not just an annoyance.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:07 AM on June 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you can't shop for a doctor who will listen, doctors in my experience respond to lost days at work well because it's a specific harm. If you can cope with basic painkillers, then going to a more invasive, expensive or riskier intervention seems wrong to some doctors. You need to emphasize that you are not coping and this is costing you sick leave and making daily activities difficult.
posted by viggorlijah at 6:14 AM on June 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Mirena stopped my periods too but I took it out because of bad mood swings and depression. I am so much better now it's like night and day, but the periods are back again. I think the mood issues are what people referred to above when they said Mirena didn't work out for them hormonally-wise.

I was told by my GYN that it can exacerbate any existing depression, but things should stabilize within four months. I stuck it out for six and it was so bad I literally pulled it out myself one night. (A non-event, as it turned out, although it really should be done by a medical professional.)
posted by Dragonness at 6:18 AM on June 30, 2014

Oh, I can relate.

I had the most horrible, painful, heavy periods from the age of 10. For a stint in my 20's I was on Depo Provera, and while my periods stopped completely, I became severely depressed.

Every year I'd ask my gyno for solutions. I told him I never wanted kids. Over the years he prescribed me different types of birth control and pain relievers. I had a tubal at 26 and my periods actually got worse - heavier and more painful. I was miserable the week leading up to my period, for the full 7-8 days of bleeding, always checking for leaks because the tampon and pads could hardly keep up, and the week following I'd still have spotting. I approached my gyno again when I was 29 and begged him to give me a hysterectomy, and he relented.

Surgery was simple. They went in through my vagina and took the cervix and uterus, and left both ovaries. I was kept 3 days in the hospital. The residual pain wasn't as bad as the crippling cramps I'd get every month. It's been 3 years now and my quality of life has increased dramatically. I have no regrets. No sexual side effects either as mentioned above.

Of course, every woman is different. For me, it was well worth the risk.
posted by stealthy_hippo at 6:23 AM on June 30, 2014 [4 favorites]

I'm here to tell you, the Pill was intended to be taken continuously. You need 18 packets of pills to do it, and as long as your doc/PA is on-board, you can get them on your Rx plan.

Seasonale is an Oral BC meant so that you only have a period 4 times a year.

I will say, I had my hysterectomy when I was 41 and I haven't looked back since. I take a nice hormone cocktail, Estradiol, Progesterone and Testosterone, it's compounded for me in Colorado. I feel fabulous every day of the month.

It's something to think about. I had robotic surgery and they took it all out through my belly button. Tiny scar, I was only out for two weeks. In the hospital overnight.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:39 AM on June 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

Mirena user here. I could not tolerate BC pills, but I have been period free for more than two years using Mirena and would not trade it for the world.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:54 AM on June 30, 2014

I'm one of those who takes Seasonale year-round. (I was on Ortho for a while, but then switched to Seasonale because I had super heavy periods and then eventually I talked to my doctor and he said switching to year round would be fine.)

Definitely find a doctor who will actually listen to you about how much periods suck. I see a male OBGYN now and he was much more understanding than a female one. (I've also been with the same practice since I started having pap smears and whatnot, so they know me fairly well.)
posted by sperose at 7:15 AM on June 30, 2014

but I think hysterectomy would put you into very early menopause

Wrong, ridiculous, omg. You (presumably) have nothing wrong with your ovaries, a hysterectomy would leave them behind. At least half your symptoms are caused by your uterus (physical pain, stomach/bowel problems, etc) and will likely go away when your uterus goes away. The only thing that causes menopause is removal of your ovaries or the natural passage of time.

I would look into an endometrial ablation if I were you, that was my first choice for hellish periods. It turned out that I had really bad adenomyosis (endometriosis which attacks the muscle of the uterus itself) and an ablation would have made that worse.

I ended up with a hysterectomy that went in through the navel and 3 other incisions, and cut out the uterus, fallopian tubes, and cervix, all of which then came out vaginally. I walked out of the hospital a few hours later and went home to eat ice cream. The worst part was the gas they use to inflate you coming out of every possible orifice for the next 3 days and the epic constipation.

Go to as many doctors as you need to until someone takes your request for an ablation seriously. Do not believe them if they say they can't do it because "you're too young and the lining will just grow back" and ignore all their whingeing about how they can't do it unless you've had children, how can you know for sure, blah blah blah patriarchal fucking bullshit. The only denial of an endometrial ablation you should accept is "it will actually make your periods worse and you should have a hysterectomy instead".

For me this was 4 doctors but the 4th one saved my sanity and prolly my life.

Thus far I've had mild hormonal PMS w/migraines that are far milder than they used to be. I've had 2 days of regular cyclical which were probably due to some minor endometriosis that was not removed. No heinous explosive period shits, my boobs haven't ached like they were going to explode, no agonizing lower back pain which left me hunched over like an angry troll for 5 days, and of course no endless gushing of chunky, smelly, horrible blood.

So far the only downside was the 6 weeks during which I was not allowed to take a bath because of stitches.

Of course the Mirena IUD is also another option but if you are already having severe hormonal issues wrt depression, wild mood swings, etc, then it may exacerbate these symptoms to an unacceptable degree. I was personally really squicked out by the thought of a piece of plastic stabbing me gently internally at all times while releasing crazymaking (for me) hormones constantly, and I also hate the very idea of kids, so hysterectomy was the best way to go.

The Mirena also may make your periods worse and you won't know until you try it for a few months. It may cause constant low-level aching and spotting, and you will get caught up in the sunken cost fallacy of "but it's already in and some women have excellent results" stuff and end up with a year of unnecessary bleeding and pain.

in conclusion ablation ablation ablation do the thing do it
posted by elizardbits at 7:17 AM on June 30, 2014 [13 favorites]

Have you tried regular, intense exercise? As someone who has had the worst hormonal imbalance known to the human race since age 12, becoming physically fit reduced the severity of my PMS symptoms significantly (including the regular weight gain, moodiness, fatigue, etc.) and improved my overall well-being dramatically. It also lightened my period, which was also a plus. It's not an easy fix because it requires a lot of dedication. Once I stopped exercising my hormonal issues returned with war-like vengeance but I'd definitely try this over medication or surgeries.
posted by Young Kullervo at 7:18 AM on June 30, 2014

I had an ablation about 5 years ago. It fixed the bleeding, but I still have all the cramps. It was a very easy surgery though - I didn't need any pain medicine after - so it was worth it but it didn't fix everything.
posted by artychoke at 7:21 AM on June 30, 2014

I would marry my Mirena IUD if I could. It pretty much made my periods nonexistant. I have friends on it who report the same. The ones with the copper IUD mostly have heavier periods than they did before. I paid $325 for the Mirena at Costco and it was $400+ at all the other pharmacies. My insurance now covers it but it didn't at the time I had it inserted, but it was still cheaper (spread out over 5 years) than oral contraceptives. I'm pretty set on not having kids ever so the Mirena has been a godsend.

I used to be on Tricylclen-Lo 21 and it made me a weepy, unstable mess emotionally, so I was apprehensive about trying another hormonal BC method. But it worked perfectly.
posted by futureisunwritten at 7:42 AM on June 30, 2014 [4 favorites]

I used Depo Provera for a few years and loved it for stopping my periods. The hormones agreed with me.

I was on the Nuvaring for 6 months and I loved the mechanics of it and the flexibility, but the hormones made me anxious as fuck.

I'm on my second Mirena IUD now and after I have a kid I will get a third Mirena IUD. This is the hormonal IUD, not the copper one, and most people find that their periods stop or are minimized. I still get breast tenderness, mood variation, and some other things, but I rarely ever bleed at all and if I do it is minimal and only lasts a day. Who knows if those things would get worse if I went natural again? It's been 10 years since I had a regular period (thank the science gods).
posted by heatherann at 7:47 AM on June 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

I had terrible periods and over the years did take continuous birth control that really helped (not taking the week off).

I had an early and full hysterectomy because if my severe issues, but if I didn't have some of them (I had severe endometriosis, cysts, fibroids, and polyps), I would have had a partial hysterectomy that kept my ovaries and cervix, hence keeping a hormonal cycle without the period.

Again, I'd talk to your doctor, and get a second (even third) opinion. My second opinion was the one that did an ultrasound and found all of my problems.

You have so many options that range from nothing to meds to naturopathy to surgery to acupuncture and beyond. I'd ask about them all.

Sorry you go through this every month. Good luck!
posted by mamabear at 8:00 AM on June 30, 2014

I know others have already mentioned this, but when I told my OB/GYN I wanted to skip my periods, she just told me "Sure, you can skip your periods by taking birth control pills continuously. Just don't take the placebo pills and start a new pack." I personally opt to have my period four times a year and there has never been any problem with it. I've been doing this for several years. Good luck!

P.S. I did Depo Provera and it just made me bleed continuously for over 6 months. The explanation I was given was that I didn't weigh enough (I'm a totally healthy weight for my height). So, tread carefully with that and talk through your options with your doctor thoroughly.
posted by pinetree at 8:23 AM on June 30, 2014

Birth control pills would be the easiest way to control this. Depending on your side effects of course. Just skip the 7 days of sugar/placebo pills and keep taking the hormones. My doctor recomended this as I used to hate having my periods, he did suggest I have a period every six months so that's what I did. I did have to try two different "blends" of hormones/brands before finding one that didn't make me feel depressed and kill my sex drive though. A Minera like product was offered but my mother was one of the unlucky ones that got PID & had a nightmare of a time from copper 7's back in the day so I wasn't brave enough, but I have a friend that swears by it.
posted by wwax at 8:35 AM on June 30, 2014

I'm on continuous HBC (to control endometriosis), and the one problem I've run into is that if I miss a pill after several months, my body will immediately leap at the chance to have a period. I've been considering switching to the Mirena so I only have to remember to do something every four or five years (and because more-continuous hormone levels are supposed to control the endometriosis better).
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 8:41 AM on June 30, 2014

Came to add my 2 cents. I was in a similar situation as you in that I was utterly sick of getting my period and all the unpleasantness that came with it. I've had my Mirena for 6 months now, and I'm VERY happy with it.

- 2 day, super light (I don't even use a tampon) periods
- significantly less boob pain, cramping, and mood swings. I still get about 1 day/month of these symptoms, but that sure beats what life was like before Mirena.
- not getting pregnant
- "set it and forget it" type of BC that's good for 5 years

- insertion was painful but those 1st 2 weeks were pretty hellish for me.
- I was REAAAAAAAALLY moody/sad for the first two months, which I partly blame on the Mirena. That's gone away now and everything is grrrrrrreat!
posted by gumtree at 9:43 AM on June 30, 2014

My #1 tip: find an extremely supportive gynecologist.

You might have better luck specifically looking for one that works with queer populations, as they tend to be more open and receptive to working with the patient on a variety of issues. Note, this doesn't mean the doctor herself needs to be queer or LGBG, just that they have worked with a variety of types of patients and are open to thinking through how to solve the problem.

You can google "LGBT gynecologist YOURCITY" or try to find some boards where folks talk about these sorts of issues. Ask all of your friends if they have a recommendation for a pro-woman and/or feminist physician.

Make the next 6 months about "finding the right doctor" where you can discuss your options -- it will make figuring out the correct procedure and/or meds a million times better, and they will work with you on options for years to come.
posted by barnone at 10:07 AM on June 30, 2014 [6 favorites]

I'm on LoLoestrin and have been happily period-free for almost two years. I take it as directed (26 active pills, 2 iron pills) and have only had spotting maybe 3 times.
posted by Nolechick11 at 10:14 AM on June 30, 2014

I was on the Depo shot for five years and had no period for four of those years. The first year, however, was non-stop periodfest. There are so many more options (with better side effects) that knowing what I know now, I would not recommend that one.

I took a generic version of the three-month pill (quasense? I think), and had only four periods a year. That was nice, and I had no side effects from the hormones. That is now my birth control method of choice when I'm not trying to conceive or nursing, and I expect I'll continue to use that forever. I'm not a candidate for an IUD but I know it works really well for some people.

Most important, though, is that you find a doctor who will listen to you. Your complaints are not trivial, and your deserve to be listened to and treated with respect regarding this issue. The PA isn't really in a position to make recommendations on addressing this with you, so you should make an appointment with your GYN to discuss it. If your GYN blows you off too, find a new one. I'm serious. You are not wasting their time by having these discussions - they are getting paid for the appointment time, so don't feel like you're taking time away from more deserving patients or anything like that. They probably won't leap to recommending a hysterectomy or a tubal ligation to start with, but they should offer you options and be willing to work with you to find something that works for your body chemistry. Improving your quality of life is a valid request to make of your doctor, and you deserve to find someone who will help you achieve that.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 10:58 AM on June 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

While you're mulling things over and discussing your options for long-term solutions with your healthcare provider, consider taking zinc supplements in the meantime.
posted by Iris Gambol at 10:59 AM on June 30, 2014

Seconding elizardbits, whose experience with adenomyosis and hysterectomy mirrors my own. I am not advocating a surgical solution to the OP per se, but offering more anecdata about what it's like if you do go down that route.

I had my uterus, fallopian tubes, and cervix removed at age 40. I still have my ovaries. I am not in menopause. I still have mild hormonal changes (cravings, mild moodiness etc) monthly.

One doctor would not consider my request for a hysterectomy, saying I might change my mind about having children (at AGE 40!). Despite the fact I was heavily bleeding 24/7/365 for a year. I tried the Mirena but it didn't help. The Mirena was removed along with my uterus. My cervix came out because of a couple of abnormal pap smears several years ago.

When a woman is aroused, these muscles called the "round ligaments" pull the uterus up and towards the pelvic bone, which in turn lengthens the vaginal canal. They also say that the uterus moves during orgasm. Both of these things can contribute to sexual feeling, and both are erased or endangered by hysterectomy.

This can be prophylactially addressed (or diagnosed and remediated) by a urogynecologic surgeon at the time of hysterectomy. Ask me how I know.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 12:14 PM on June 30, 2014 [4 favorites]

I feel for you: my periods were painful and heavy and no tampon, cup or pad could contain them well enough to let me get through a work day without bleeding on my clothes. A couple years ago I started having pain in my lower left abdomen that got much worse around my period, and I spent a lot of time and money visiting doctors of various specialties and having all kinds of tests to diagnose it. Finally one gyno found an "abnormal thickening" of my uterine lining, and he suggested a number of invasive procedures that would leave my uterus intact and maybe make the pain get better. I asked if I could just have a hysterectomy, since I'm in my late 30s and do not want kids.

I had my fallopian tubes and uterus removed, along with some endometriosis on my abdominal wall that appears to have caused the lower left quadrant pain. Recovery was surprisingly fast (I was back on my bike after 2 weeks and back to work in 4), the scars are tiny thanks to the procedure being laparoscopic, and my life has improved dramatically. Zero side effects, zero regret.

My $.02!
posted by hollisimo at 4:06 PM on June 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

I take Loestrin FE as prescribed (7 placebo pills) and my period virtually disappeared after a year or so, although the awful period symptoms like cramping and GI distress went away within 2 months. Now my period is so minimal I generally only use pantyliners for 3 or 4 days, although it can be a little heavier if I'm late with too many pills. I took Minastrin for a while (4 placebo pills) and I barely had my period for more than a day, but I switched back when I changed insurances because the amount I was charged for it went way up.

I'm not sure whether your end goal is no periods whatsoever or just bringing the severity of the cramping/bleeding/pooping/etc. way down, but if it's the latter I would say that just regular old birth control pills will do the trick sooner or later.
posted by fox problems at 5:29 PM on June 30, 2014

So, if there was a hormone scale: shots, implants and patches release more hormones than the pill, and the Mirena IUD releases about 1/10th the lowest dose pill.

So, if you're completely fine with the Pill, you'll probably be find with shots etc (but of course, you could suddenly react at a higher dose), if you're fine with the pill you'll probably be fine with the Mirena, and if you're only a little sensitive to the pill you may... still be fine with the Mirena.

Myself, I had mild bad reactions to the types of the Pill I tried. Depression, big loss of sex drive, and it still took me a while to notice.
Mirena has been amazing. No side effects, and after a few months, period stopped entirely (about a 1/3 chance of it stopping, and another 1/3 of being really light).
posted by Elysum at 8:59 PM on June 30, 2014

I have bipolar 2 disorder and Mirena IUD. Mirena reduces my mood swings as I no longer have a monthly cycle. Mine was inserted six weeks postpartum so no breakthrough bleeding or mood swings that couldn't be explained by my recent expulsion of a small human.

Mirena can work for people with mood disorders. I am a die hard convert. I would try it before going any surgical route.
posted by crazycanuck at 10:00 PM on July 2, 2014

Thanks again for all the replies. I have made an appointment with a gynecologist to discuss this and based on the suggestions here and my own research, low-dose birth control and skipping the "blank" week might be my best bet, at least as a first resort, especially since my body reacted well to it when I was younger.

On my end, I think working on losing weight and integrating regular exercise into my life might help ease my period symptoms a bit, so I've been working on that too.

My fear, of course, is that birth control will make me gain weight. I don't recall running into that when I took the pill as a teen, but being older may change that. I will definitely bring up this concern with the doctor.

If my doctor isn't taking it seriously, I'll look for another one. Thanks again!
posted by AppleTurnover at 4:26 PM on August 1, 2014

One more follow-up in case anyone turns to this thread for help - been on birth control for a couple months and it's been great. I haven't even been skipping the blanks, just letting myself have a regular cycle, but my pre-menstrual symptoms are significantly reduced, I get almost no blemishes and the periods themselves are lighter too. Yay! I am paranoid about blood clots now, but I just try to make sure I don't sit for too long without a walk. So far, so good.
posted by AppleTurnover at 3:03 PM on December 13, 2014

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