Online Program

Myth of menstruation: How menstrual regulation and suppression impact contraceptive choice

Monday, November 2, 2015 : 10:42 a.m. - 10:54 a.m.

Abigail Wiseley, School of Education, Health, and Human Performance, College of Charleston, Charleston, SC
Andrea DeMaria, PhD, MS, Department of Health and Human Performance, College of Charleston, Charleston, SC
Beth Sundstrom, Ph.D., M.P.H., Department of Communication, College of Charleston, Charleston, SC
Background: The oral contraceptive pill (OCP) has a 9% typical use failure rate, whereas long-acting reversible contraceptive (LARC) methods, such as the intrauterine device (IUD) and implant, have as low as a 1% failure rate. Studies indicate various factors such as knowledge, cost, and menstrual regulation influence a woman’s contraceptive choice. Regarding the latter, research suggests some women prefer menstrual suppression for menstrual discomfort relief (e.g., cramping) and enhanced daily living (e.g., convenience). Other studies have demonstrated women believe menstrual suppression due to contraceptive use is not natural and unhealthy.

Objective: This study examined the attitudes and perceptions of reproductive-aged women on contraceptive methods, and the extent to which menstrual regulation and suppression influenced contraceptive choice.

Methods: Data were collected using a mixed-methods approach, including 6 focus groups (n=61), 18 individual interviews, and a web-based survey (n=547).

Results: Resulting themes included 1) lack of knowledge and familiarity as a barrier to LARC use; 2) the notion of menstrual control in OCPs versus LARC methods; 3) the benefits of menstrual regulation and suppression though LARC methods; and 4) the myth of menstruation—the influence of withdrawal bleeding associated with OCPs. Participants believed menstruation and withdrawal bleeding were healthy and reassuring, and often confused the two.

Discussion: Women today believe menstruating every month is natural and healthy; however, from an evolutionary perspective, this recurrent menstruation is actually unnecessary and potentially harmful to women’s health. Findings suggest women need more information about menstrual regulation and suppression before selecting a contraceptive method.

Learning Areas:

Clinical medicine applied in public health
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
Describe the impact of menstruation on a woman’s contraceptive choice Identify reasons menstrual suppression may be beneficial for women

Keyword(s): Contraception, Reproductive Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been a member of the Women’s Health Research Team at the College of Charleston for a year. I have helped in the collection of data and the development of ideology for a larger study with the Women's Health Research Team as well as the research and development of this study.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.