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Home / Health

Delaying your period: What you need to know

 Sometimes the timing and accompanying symptoms can make periods quite uncomfortable (Shutterstock)

Despite all new products in the market that are engineered to help women cope with menses better, we sometimes cannot help but wish we could postpone menses for our convenience.

Yes, periods are part of normal reproductive events for women; but sometimes the timing and accompanying symptoms can make periods quite uncomfortable.

Our social, cultural and to some extent, religious events can make menstruation feel quite “ill-timed” or too much to deal with.

In the previous years, doctors have reserved recommending menstrual suppression mainly for management of serious medical conditions. However, women are becoming increasingly aware of such therapies.

Why some women opt to postpone menses

  • Religious activities

In Islam, women should not participate in religious activities or have sexual intercourse during their menses. This means that the onset of menses during pilgrimage prevents women from participating in Hajj.

It goes without saying that this makes many women whose periods might coincide with the annual event anxious.

According to research published in the International Journal of Travel Medicine and Global Health, suppressing menstruation in Muslim women is allowed to enable their full participation in pilgrimage.

  • Social activities

Symptoms that accompany menstruation can get uncomfortable or even painful. The bloating, breast tenderness and painful cramps; who would want to experience all that during honeymoon, travelling, vacation or sporting event?

It is a matter of utmost importance for marriage to be consummated on the wedding night in some Christian denominations and Judaism; brides would most definitely want to be “stress free” during the wedding and shortly after.

In addition, sportswomen desire to comfortably participate in sport tournaments in their best form.

Menstrual suppression becomes a valid reason for them to delay their periods until such a time when it is convenient.

  • Medical reasons

Menstruation can be suppressed for medical reasons to improve a woman’s quality of life and stabilise their hormones. Women who suffer from menorrhagia—the medical term for heavy, prolonged periods—have a serious monthly burden to carry.

Menorrhagia poses a significant impact on the social and psychological lives of those living with it. They always feel like their lives are dictated by their abnormally heavy menses.

Women struggle to manage heavy periods at work and during social events. Some even miss out of important events for fear of embarrassment.

According to the Kenya Laparoscopic Surgery Services, KLASS, menorrhagia can be due to;

  • Endometriosis and uterine fibroids
  • Cancer of the cervix, uterus or ovary
  • Hormone imbalances such as in the case of polycystic ovarian syndrome.
  • Benign growths in the walls of the uterus or cervix--endometrial polyps
  • Also, intrauterine contraceptive device insertion can cause heavier bleeding in the first few months after insertion in some women.

    In addition, medications such as anticoagulants, chemotherapy and herbal supplements may interfere with hormones and consequently cause heavy menstrual bleeding.

    Doctors at KLASS highlight signs of menorrhagia as;

  • Menstrual periods lasting for more than seven days
  • Soaking pads or tampons every hour for consecutive hours
  • Blood clots
  • Bleeding that causes lack of energy and interferes with normal activities
  • “Flooding” that cannot be contained within a pad or tampon. One may bleed through clothes and bedding
  •  You could postpone your menses for your convenience (Shutterstock)
    • Remedies applied in   menstrual suppression

    One of the recommended minimally invasive treatments in menstrual suppression includes progesterone treatment.

    Heavy menses are associated with elevated oestrogen levels and too low levels of progesterone. Estrogen makes the wall of the uterus thick and fragile leading to heavy flow.

    Therapy with progesterone antagonizes the action of estrogen and instead, makes the endometrium thin and mature to lessen blood loss.

    Surgery to remove uterine fibroids or removal of the uterus may be recommended by your doctor in case medications fail to arrest heavy periods.

    How do period delay medications work?

    Normally, your period begins when the lining of the uterus is shed, leaving your body as blood.

    During this time, the levels of progesterone in the body decline. This decline causes the shedding of the uterus.

    However, if synthetic progesterone is introduced into the body, it mimics the action of the natural one by maintaining the lining of the uterus.

    This postpones the shedding and keeps periods at bay until when it is no longer administered. Such drugs come with different instructions; however, most of them can be administered three days to the possible date of period onset.

    They are to be taken up to 10 to 20 days after. It is expected that your period should begin not long after.

    Concerns over period delay medicines

    Period delay tablets are to be used on occasional basis; they are not intended for long-term suppression of menstruation. This also means that their ability to delay menstruation does not translate to an alternative for birth control.

    Additionally, how effective they are at delaying menstruation varies from one woman to another. Some individuals may experience high rates of unexpected, irregular bleeding and side effects such as low libido, breast tenderness, skin breakouts and low mood.

    Prof Joachim Osur, a reproductive and sexual health expert, warns that the more one uses medicines to postpone periods, the more unstable they become.

    Bleeding may become heavier, increasing blood loss and destabilization of the body.

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