I, like every other woman I know, have never been a big fan of my period. Mine is long (at least a week), is heavy, and comes with quite a few of those stereotypical, oh-so-fun side effects like bloating, irritability, and generally wanting to eat every carb in my house. Since I started my period at age 12, there have only been a few times when I've been happy to see it: when I was really, really hoping not to be pregnant (we've all been there, right?) and when I started tracking my cycles because I was ready for a baby.
While my two pregnancies disagreed with me more than my periods ever did, on the positive side, they gave me a welcome break from my former monthly misery. Even better, breastfeeding my babies delayed my period's return for 10 months with my now-4-year-old daughter and a full year with my son, who's 16 months old. And then, four months ago, with a vengeance, the flow returned. My postbaby periods were as heavy and long as ever, and as an added bonus, my formerly long cycles had shortened from about 32 days to about 28, meaning I gained an extra period every year. Yay!!
To me, the most frustrating part of my recent periods is that they serve absolutely zero practical purpose. I had a tubal ligation after my son was born, meaning my baby-making days are officially over. Strangely, my periods didn't get the memo that their services are no longer needed, and I felt helpless to do anything beyond stock up on Playtex and endure the next 15 or so years. Is it normal for a 36-year-old woman to look forward to menopause?
And then I went to see my wonderful ob-gyn for my yearly checkup. At the end of our appointment, she asked me if I had questions or concerns, and almost as an afterthought, I mentioned how annoyed I was with my superfluous flow. Much to my surprise, she gave me not one but two options that could potentially make my periods a thing of the past.
The first was an endometrial ablation, a procedure that destroys the uterine lining using high heat. Essentially, by ablating the layer of your uterus that builds up, then sheds, during your monthly period, you're likely to never have a period again. The outpatient procedure is done in the doctor's office and requires local anesthesia and, according to my doc, about a day of recovery. Cramping and spotting are the common side effects. About 50 percent of patients never have a period again, and those who do continue to bleed usually just lightly spot a few times a year. Sold!
I was all set to sign up (after two C-sections, I can surely handle a crampy day or two if it means no more periods for life) when she gave me option two: an IUD. She told me that she has had an IUD for more than 10 years and hasn't had a true period since shortly after the first one was placed (IUDs need to be replaced about every five years). While I don't need the birth control the IUD provides, I could still potentially enjoy the period-free side effect that about 50 percent of users experience. Again, those who do continue to have a period usually find that they're very light and irregular.
When compared to the ablation, the disadvantage of the IUD was that most people find that their periods take about six months to disappear. However, on the positive side, the placement of an IUD is far less invasive than the ablation procedure. I would come in during my next period, and it would take just a few minutes for my doctor to put it in my uterus. And if I experienced any of the side effects (headaches, discomfort, frequent spotting) that I had heard from friends who had tried and abandoned the IUD, my doctor could remove it at any time.
Because, with two young kids, I barely have time to pee, let alone be sidelined for a day or two for the ablation, I decided to try the IUD first. I'm scheduled to have it placed in about 10 days, when my period will surely arrive right on time and heavier than ever. Fingers crossed, it will be one of my last. For me, Aunt Flow has got to go.