Birth Control

 There are many different types of birth control methods and choosing the one that works best for you can be a challenging task. There are many pros and cons of birth control, so here we have outlined some of the pros and cons and misconceptions about two forms of birth control: the pill and the IUD.

Pros

  • Birth Control costs can vary depending on the type and health insurance plan, however the birth control pill typically costs between $0-50 a month.
  • An IUD can cost anywhere between $0-1,000 depending on type and insurance plan
  • An IUD may cost more up front, but may save you money in the future because of how long they last (hormonal options last between 3-6 years, and non-hormonal options last up to 12 years)
  • Positive birth control side affects can include: lighter periods and less menstrual cramps from both the birth control pill and the IUD.

Cons

  • Negative birth control side affects from the pill can include: irregular menstrual bleeding, mood changes, nausea, headaches, dizziness and breast tenderness.
  • Negative birth control side affects from an IUD can include: irregular menstrual bleeding and heavier menstrual bleeding during the first few weeks after it has been inserted
  • Not all women should use the birth control pill: women who experience migraine headaches and blood clots should not be on it.
  • Missed birth control pills can decrease the effectiveness of the pill because birth control pills work best when taken at the same time every day

Misconceptions

  • Birth control will cause weight gain: “In 2011, researchers at the Cochran Database System Review analyzed 49 studies that compared a variety of birth control methods with placebos and found no evidence that birth control causes weight gain.” (Women’s Health)
  • Being on the pill will cause fertility problems: “The pill isn’t going to cause any problems with infertility even if you are on it for 20 years,” says Mills. After going off the pill, “your body is going to do what your body is going to do.” (Self Magazine)

What is PMS? 

PMS. Those famous three letters we hear so often. PMS is often spoken with references to chocolate cravings, the feeling of unwanted crying and the feeling of sharp stabs in the stomach. Most women, especially because of PMS, dread that time of month. PMS (premenstrual syndrome) occurs during a woman’s period. PMS or period symptoms include emotional and physical symptoms. Period cramps are one of the most common symptoms of menstruation we hear about.    

During PMS, a woman can experience a variety of PMS symptoms. Emotional symptoms can include mood swings, irritability, anxiety and change in appetite. Physical symptoms can include headaches, painful cramps and period bloating. A number of women can also experience menstrual cycle back pain. Back pain during your period “is typically muscular in nature and thought to be caused by hormone changes. Prostaglandins (hormones released during a menstrual cycle to promote uterine contraction to shed the uterine lining) can affect the lower back muscles.” (Virginia Spine Institute)    

What are cramps and what causes them? 

Period cramps are a sign of PMS and is a PMS symptom that can occur before menstruation. Menstrual cramps are caused by contractions in the uterus. They can cause an aching pain in the belly and pain in the hips and lower back.     

How much blood is too much?

Ever wondered the amount of normal menstrual blood loss a woman will experience during her period?

I am sure every woman at some point in her life has wondered how much blood she actually loses during her menstrual period and if it is too much blood loss. Those pad commercials with the blue liquid aren’t exactly the most helpful either! The amount of blood lost during menstruation may be less than you think. The average premenopausal woman will lose between 10 to 35 ml of period blood per period, and “the usual length of menstrual bleeding is four to six days.” (Dr. Jerilynn C. Prior, Centre for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research, 2013) Period blood may vary in colour, brown menstrual blood near the beginning or end of your period is normal. Blood loss during menstruation can vary among different women depending on certain factors. For example, “women who are taller, have had children and are in perimenopause have the heaviest flow.” (Dr. Jerilynn C. Prior, Centre for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research, 2013) Perimenopause occurs shortly before the stage of menopause, and during this time approximately 25% of women will have at least one heavy period.

So what happens if you think you are bleeding a lot during your period?

Very heavy menstrual bleeding or passing period blood clots, which is referred to as Menorrhagia, is when a woman’s period flow is more than 80 ml per menstrual period. Many women can experience heavy periods, and too much bleeding during her period. However, it is not always easy to determine exactly what causes a woman to have Menorrhagia. “Heavy flow is most common in the teens and in perimenopause—both are times of the lifecycle when estrogen levels tend to be higher and progesterone levels to be lower.” (Dr. Jerilynn C. Prior, Centre for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research, 2013) In order to help determine if you have heavy menstrual bleeding, you can use the following as a guideline; one soaked, normal-sized sanitary product holds about 5 ml of blood, and then keep a record of how many normal-sized sanitary products you soak a day. “Very heavy menstrual bleeding means soaking 12 or more regular sanitary products in one period.” (Dr. Jerilynn C. Prior, Centre for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research, 2013)

What can you do if you have heavy menstrual bleeding?

Women who experience Menorrhagia can take some simple steps to help ease the effects of a heavy period.

Some tips to keep in mind!Increase Your Iron Intake from Foods

Some examples of high iron foods are: red meat, liver, egg yolks, deep green vegetables and dried fruits like raisins and prunes. These types of foods can help increase your iron intake!

Increase Salty Fluids and Drink More

If blood volume is low in your body you may feel dizzy, to help that “drink more and increase the salty fluids you drink such as tomato or other vegetable juices or salty broths (like bouillon).” (Dr. Jerilynn C. Prior, Centre for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research, 2013) 

Your discharge is unique (just like you) 

 Vaginal discharge is one of the most common symptoms of a healthy vagina and almost every girl/woman/lady will experience discharge at some point. But it’s also one of the tabooest subjects, ever (but why).  

How often does vaginal discharge come up in conversation with you and your friends? Probably never. Well we’re here to let you know that it is normal to experience discharge and it shouldn’t be anything to be embarrassed about. First of all, what is vaginal discharge? The discharge your vagina produces is its way of self-cleaning. The vaginal fluid helps maintain the pH balance and clears away bacteria and dead cells, to ensure everything is A-ok. You don’t need any fancy floral scented washes to keep clean, your vagina does takes care of it itself (another reason why women are basically superhero’s amirite). 

Discharge is usually clear/white/kinda yellow and it may even smell a little. The texture can also change and it might be sticky/stretchy/kinda pasty. Discharge changes throughout different parts of your cycle too, let’s learn more.  

Your discharge probably follows a pretty repetitive cycle.  

The first few days post period: If your period just finished, you might notice from dark red, or brown spotting. This is normal, it’s just your uterus shedding the last of its lining.  

The time between the end of your period and ovulation is when you’ll notice very light or almost non-existent discharge. If you do have white discharge after your period, during this time, it’s likely thinner than during the rest of your cycle.  

Mid-point of your cycle and around ovulation, vaginal discharge will probably increase for a day or two, as estrogen rises It will probably be a similar color to an egg white and a sticky texture. If you’re trying to get pregnant, this is a sign that your fertile. If you’re trying to avoid pregnancy, double check your birth control method.  

Post-ovulation and the days leading up to your period, the discharge will be thicker and clear.  You can expect thick, white discharge before your period as a signal that you will  

The few days before you period, you can expect your discharge to become even thicker and whiter. This is a signal your period is starting soon. If you’re pregnant, you can expect to see this type of discharge throughout your entire cycle.  

Now that we know what to expect, let’s talk about what not to expect. Your vaginal discharge can tell you a lot about your health and it’s important to be aware and pay attention so you can see your doctor if you need to.  

Look out for the following 

- Lumpy or frothy texture

 - Greenish/greyish colour 

- Cottage cheesish, curdly discharge

 - Vaginal burning, itching and irritation 

- A lot of vaginal discharge  

- A change in smell  

Everything you want to know about Plan B

The world of birth control can be a confusing place especially when you find yourself in an emergency situation where a pregnancy could be the outcome. 


The Plan B pill is an emergency contraceptive readily available at most pharmacies, but just like any other medication it is important to be fully informed about how it works.

What is Plan B?

Plan B pill is a single dose of the Levonorgestrel hormone that when used in a 72-hour window after sexual activity can prevent a potential pregnancy. In the sex health world, it is referred to as “emergency contraception”. This just means you do not take this pill regularly like your daily birth control pills but only when needed.

When would you use Plan B/ How soon does Plan B work?

Plan B should be taken as a back-up method when you are fearful the first contraceptive you used did not work or there was no contraceptive used during sex. This can mean, you forgot to take your birth control pill several times, had unprotected sex, the condom broke, you got caught up in the heat of the moment, etc.. it happens! Whatever the reason is, Plan B is the emergency option.Plan B pills are most effective the sooner they are taken, ideally within 12 hours of having sex. However, you can take the pill up to three days after. If used within the first 24 hours, it is 95% effective. Meanwhile, if you take the pill after 3 days, it’s only 61% effective.


How does Plan B work?The Plan B pill is a “progesterone only” pill and stops pregnancy by doing three main things:

  1. Temporarily stops the release of an egg so it cannot be fertilized
  2. Prevents fertilization of the egg
  3. Prevents a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus by thickening the mucus lining.

*It is important to note that by taking the Plan B pills you are not having an abortion by medical standards as there is no implantation of the egg. But the decision is up to you.


Things to be aware of:

With any medication, the Plan B pill can have side effects. 

The most common being:·       

Nausea

Abdominal Pain 

Fatigue 

Headache 

Dizziness

Breast Tenderness

Vomiting

Diarrhea

Irregular bleeding 

Some things too take note of about Plan B are:

  • You should get your next period on time or a few days late, spotting is normal
  • Plan B taken in frequent doses can lessen the effectiveness
  • If you vomit within 2 hours of taking the Plan B medicine you may not have absorbed the medication properly

The Plan B pill is considered the most effective emergency contraceptive on the market. It is regularly available without a prescription or age restriction and is often behind the pharmacist’s desk. Costs can vary depending on where you live but the average cost is $40. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about Plan B to make sure it is the best option for you. 

Keep Menstrual Cramps Away

Painful menstrual cramps interfere with the daily lives of at least one in five women. The absolute worst feeling is when Aunt Flow pays you a visit before a big vacation, and you’re forced to deal with PMS symptoms during your family vacation, that romantic getaway or the long-awaited girls trip.

My senior year of highschool I was lucky enough to go on a trip to Europe with my school. Unfortunately for me, this trip coincided with my monthly cycle, and I was pleased to find myself a victim of relentlessly painful cramps. Had I known what I know now, the vacation could have been a much more pleasant experience, and myself a much more pleasant person.

After spending the entire day in excruciating pain, it was time for my class to stop at the Palace of Versailles for a guided tour, to walk the same halls that once housed the likes of Kings, Queens, and Kimye. As we perused the elaborate embellished hallways, I experienced menstrual cramps that were unrivalled to anything I had ever felt before. I was doubled over with pain, feeling that I was forced to suffer in silence, and feeling guilty that the once in a lifetime opportunity should’ve detracted from the debilitating pain.

For some women, the pain from menstrual cramps can be as painful as having a heart attack.

As more research is being done into the causes and cures of painful cramps, women are turning to natural remedies, and some old fashioned TLC of body and mind. You can combat the PMS blues and make the best of a trip, even if you’re on your period.

Here as some of the ways to prevent and treat pain to ensure a more enjoyable vacation experience:

Ibuprofen and Naproxen can be used alone to reduce cramping in the uterus, lighten the flow of blood, and relieve discomfort. However, for many women, this alone just won’t cut it, pain from cramps can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, and pain of this severity cannot be contained with such a simple solution.

Evening Primrose Oil is a natural remedy with remarkable healing properties. The primrose oil contains essential fatty acids including  GLA, which “support regular hormone functioning and can help to lessen menstrual cramps”. This natural remedy can work to reduce the “breast tenderness, bloating, water retention, acne, depression, irritability, foggy thinking and headaches” that accompany your period, to help you get out of your PMS blues and into your bathing suit on vacation this summer.

Red Raspberry Leaf Tea, made from the leaves of raspberries, has been proven to “aid in fertility, regulate your menstrual cycle and reduce menstrual cramps”.You don’t need to be locked up in the hotel due to excruciating pain, just make yourself a cup, and “the tannins in raspberry leaf give it astringent properties which make it soothing both internally and externally”Further, Raspberry leaf tea is a herbal remedy packed with nutrients you may be lacking during your time of the month, “including iron, calcium, manganese and magnesium, vitamins B1, B3, C, and E”.

Black Cohosh, a plant used in herbal medicines is used to balance hormones that are thrown out of order during your period. It can also be used as a pain treatment, as “the Native Americans used black cohosh for muscle pain because it is a natural painkiller”, and it can be used to treat ”cramping, excessive bleeding, unusual or abnormal bleeding, headaches, water retention and hormone imbalance” caused by your period.

Valerian Root is a herbal remedy and “nerve tonic to help with the pull you out of distress, restlessness, and downright hysteria” that come with mood swings during that time of the month. Valerian root is also an excellent pain reliever to help kick painful menstrual cramps to the curb and get back to feeling like your fabulous self.

With these tips in your repertoire, pack a few of these natural remedies in your suitcase for your next trip, and don’t let your period “cramp” your style this summer.  

50 Shades of Blood

 Period blood, not exactly an ideal conversation to bring up at the dinner table, am I right? But it is such an important topic to talk about because our blood can give us health insights if we just pay a little more attention. Blood makes me super squeamish (who's with me), so I don't want to pay more attention to any type of blood than I have to. BUT the colour of our period blood, when we experience bleeding, and the amount blood lost during menstruation are helpful signs in order to better understand our body and health.

First let’s get back to basics: When you are menstruating “your body sheds the lining of the uterus (womb). Menstrual blood flows from the uterus through the small opening in the cervix and passes out of the body through the vagina.” Note to my 11 year old self, a period is bleeding from the vagina, not from the same place where pee comes out (the urethra). If this is news to you, don't feel bad, it was news to me (ladies, we have three holes). Girls and women often don’t know enough about their own reproductive system and anatomy, and that is why educating and creating a conversation surrounding menstrual health is so crucial.

Sometimes at the beginning or ending of your period, the blood might change colour. Instead of the usual red as the colour of the blood that flows, it might be brown. Brown menstrual blood near the beginning or end of your period is normal, and is just a sign that the discharged blood is older. Certain girls and women experience brown period blood in between periods, however this is more common in younger girls who are just starting to have their periods, women starting birth control, or women nearing menopause. 

Bleeding after your menstrual cycle ends, in between periods, or bleeding after intercourse can be a concern in certain cases, and it’s always good to see a doctor to make sure it’s not a symptom of a health condition. Orange period blood can be the sign of period blood mixed with cervical fluids, however bright orange menstrual blood can also indicate an infection so you may want to consider seeing a doctor.

During your period you might also be wondering if you're experiencing normal menstrual blood loss and is it too much blood loss? Well good news, it is probably nowhere near as much as you think it is. On average, a woman will lose between 10 to 35 ml of period blood per menstrual cycle. For reference, 30 ml is only two tablespoons! However, too much bleeding during a period and period blood clots can be a sign of Menorrhagia, which is when a woman’s period flow is more than 80 ml per menstrual period.

It is always important to recognize and understand the signs of your menstruation to ensure you are a happy and healthy you!