April Flowers for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
A new study led by researchers at the University of Oregon found that a surprising number of adult women ages 18 and up are opting to delay or completely skip their monthly menstruation. They are achieving this by deviating from the instructions that come with birth-control pills or other hormonal contraceptives.
The study, published in the journal Contraception, found that most women who alter bleeding cycles do so for convenience rather than to avoid menstrual symptoms. According to the team, which included researchers from the UO’s Department of Human Physiology, Portland-based Oregon Health and Sciences University and Eastern Michigan University, many women learn about the option to alter their cycle from nonmedical sources.
“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 professor of human physiology at UO.
“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.”
Women have begun to use hormonal contraceptives to alter bleeding cycles as more research becomes available indicating that reducing the occurrence of menstruation is safe and can even be beneficial. Until now, however, there has been a lack of information concerning why women do so, and where they are receiving information about this option.
The researchers surveyed undergraduate and graduate students, finding that 17 percent reported altering their scheduled bleeding pattern by deviating from the instructions of hormonal contraceptives. These types of contraceptives include birth-control pills, vaginal contraceptive rings and transdermal contraceptive patches.
Convenience and scheduling purposes are the reasons given by half of the women who alter their cycles. Other reasons include personal preference (28.9 percent) and reducing menstrual symptoms (16.7 percent). Amongst those who cited convenience or personal choice, 53 percent indicated that the knowledge was obtained from nonmedical sources such as a family member or friend.
The researchers sent out approximately 11,900 survey-linked emails to female university students and received 1,719 initial responses — a 14.4 percent return. Some 1,374 (79.9 percent) of the respondents indicated that they had used a combined hormonal contraceptive during the last six months.
The survey also examined the factors that influence a woman´s decision to alter her bleeding schedules. They found that Asian women have a 7 percent lower probability of altering their hormonal cycles, and women who exercise regularly are 5 percent less likely to do so. Another characteristic that decreases the likelihood of cycle alteration was a 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.”
The research team was surprised to find that women who said they would prefer to have no menstrual periods were less likely to alter their cycles than women who preferred having one per year. Those whose preference ran to one cycle per year had a 17 percent higher probability of modifying their hormonal contraceptive practices than those who preferred having a menstrual period every three months.
The researchers suggest that this information should be used by health care providers to improve education of the hormonal contraception regimen best-suited to a patient´s needs and desires.