The Every-Other-Month Cycle Blues
I am 21, started having periods when I was 14-and they have continued to be pretty normal/regular since. I went on birth control (the pill) when I was 17, switched to the ring, and now have gone off of it altogether since November. I’m not exactly trying to conceive-but we aren’t trying not to-if you get what I mean.
So here is the problem-my periods have been coming (and not coming) every other month. I’ve googled this and found that women are going on about how one ovary may not be producing an egg, but I’ve also read that sometimes it just takes a really long time to get back into the normal cycle after birth control.
I know that I should just go to the doctor to sort this out, that he’ll most likely give me a pill to jump start my periods and get them regular again, but I’ve just been kind of waiting for them to sort themselves out. (I’m in a new place, don’t have my own doctor…nervous about finding a new one to gawk at my bits)
Do you have any advice for me? Did it take long for you to regulate after birth control? Is there any natural remedy I could try to get those dreaded periods back again?
Thanks so much, Amy!
You need to find a doctor. Even if you have no intention of going back on birth control and “know” that’s just what they’re gonna give you, you still need to find one. So you aren’t officially trying…but not trying not to…trust me, many women manage to get themselves perfectly knocked up with just one functioning ovary. And when that happens your first phone call needs to be to a doctor. So. Scooch. Get on that.
And now! To the real question. I never really regulated after birth control, but I was never regular before birth control. So my experience here doesn’t really apply. I have absolutely nothing to support this, but it seems to me a LOT of women take about six months to get things back to normal after the pill, which would mean your experience since November would be completely normal. Some women take even longer. Usually a year marks the time to start worrying.
Only a doctor (yes, that, again) can determine for sure that one ovary is not releasing an egg, although with your age I’d imagine they wouldn’t be chomping at the bit to pump you full of dye and check for blocked tubes or whatnot, and I bet they’ll tell you to just wait a bit longer — women experience temporary irregular patches in their cycles all the time thanks to stress and diet and a zillion environmental factors, and it’s probably way too soon for you to be self-diagnosing yourself with any of Google’s darker diagnoses.
So. What are your options? Well, one, go to a doctor but make it clear that you have no interest in going back on the pill. Birth control suppresses ovulation, it doesn’t jumpstart it, and it is not the right prescription for someone who is trying to get their system back up to full egg-releasing power. Progesterone, on the other hand, can trigger a period when you aren’t having one. (When I cycled with Clomid I started out with a week of progesterone to force my non-existent period to appear, and then started counting out my cycle days from there.)
You can get natural progesterone creams at health food stores and other crunchy places. This was something that a LOT of online people suggested for me this time around, when my cycles remained wildly irregular but I was dedicated to avoiding fertility treatments. It’s mostly marketed as a menopause treatment, but I did pick up a tube of it (Emerita Pro-Gest) at Whole Foods and it included instructions for women in their reproductive years. Basically, do nothing for the first 14 days of your cycle (the day your period hits is day one) and then rub a small amount of cream anywhere on your body for the next 14 days. (For a 28-day cycle; you can adjust the use as needed for whatever length your cycle usually is.)
I bought the cream but always hesitated to use it. What if this was the month I got pregnant? Should I still use it during the two-week-wait? Is this stuff really safe? (I can be just as skeptical — sometimes even MORE skeptical — of “natural” remedies that don’t really have to be held accountable or tested for safety as much as their “chemical” counterparts.) Pro-Gest is nothing new, but I remained wary, despite an even dozen of testimonials sitting in my inbox from women who used it. So it mostly sat in my drawer, unused.
I did, however, drink this stuff, which I’ve mentioned before. Raspberry leaf tea. It seemed less hormone-dabbly and safer, plus the package specifically mentioned that it could be used during pregnancy and breastfeeding. I drank it whenever I remembered (i.e. NOT as frequently as the three-cups-a-day recommended on the box) and ta-da! I was pregnant in no time. Do I heap all the thanks on the teabags? Nah. But who knows? It certainly didn’t hurt.
And finally, pick up a copy of Taking Charge of Your Fertility. Personally, this book didn’t really teach me much I didn’t already know (cough obsessive Googling cough) and certainly didn’t hold the magic cure for me, but about 99.9% of the rest of the fertile world will swear it’s life-changing. It’s a good primer, I think, especially since there’s no denying that a lot of us are woefully under-informed about the more subtle workings of our own reproductive systems. If you do decide at some point to move into the “actively trying” stage and are still dealing with an every-other-month cycle, this book will teach you how to make the most out of the fertile months you’ve got.