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SURVEY REVEALS CONFUSION ABOUT MENSTRUATION ABOUNDS



New on-line resources and interactive tools to help women understand their menstrual cycle and explore their available contraceptive options

For Immediate Release
May 22,  2006

Washington, DC, May 22, 2006–A national survey, commissioned by the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals (ARHP) and conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, suggests that women lack a clear understanding of their menstrual cycle. The survey reveals that many women know surprisingly little about how their menstrual cycle works and how hormonal contraception affects their cycle, and shows intrigue among many women about using hormonal contraception to suppress their period. The survey revealed that:

  • Sixty-seven percent of women surveyed feel that it is natural for women to have their period when they are on the pill, even though hormonal contraception blocks ovulation; without ovulation, there is no menstrual period.
  • Almost half of women surveyed (47 percent) believe that every woman’s menstrual cycle should be 28 days or about every month, even though women’s cycles vary greatly in length.
  • Fifty-eight percent of women worry that menstrual suppression would affect their ability to have children in the future, even though menstrual suppression has no negative effect on future fertility.

“We were surprised to learn that 67 percent of the women surveyed believe it is natural to have a period while on the birth control pill,” said Beth Jordan, MD, ARHP medical director. “In fact, monthly bleeding that occurs during the traditional seven-day break from combined hormonal contraception is not menstrual bleeding at all, but a symptom of the short-term hormone deprivation known as withdrawal bleeding.”

The survey also reveals that women experience contradictory feelings about the necessity of the period and the impact it can have on their lives. For example:

  • Fifty percent of women feel that the monthly menstrual flow shows they are in good health, while 40 percent would choose not to have their period at all.
  • Forty-eight percent of the respondents feel that their period is a reminder of their womanhood, while 58 percent would not miss their periods if it disappeared. 

The period has changed significantly over time. Women today experience vastly different reproductive lives compared to women centuries, or in some instances, just decades ago. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors had far fewer periods than the modern women, as they started menstruating later, began childbearing earlier in life, had more pregnancies, and breastfed for a longer duration of time (decreasing fertility). In contrast, women today start menstruating earlier, begin childbearing later in life, have fewer pregnancies, and breastfeed for a shorter duration of time. As a result, women today experience three times as many periods during their lifetimes as their hunter-gatherer ancestors (an estimated 450 periods today compared to an historical average of 150).

In an effort to provide education about the menstrual cycle and the effects of hormonal contraception on their cycle, ARHP has launched new on-line resources for women including:

  • An up-to-date Menstruation Resource Center on ARHP’s Web site, which includes a variety of information, resources, recent headlines, and links to other sources of evidence-based information on menstruation

(Follow this link: www.arhp.org/topics/menstruation)

  • New interactive Web tool that, in an easy-to-read format, graphically demonstrates and allows a woman to explore and learn about:
    • what happens to her body during her entire cycle, both on and off hormonal contraception,
    • menstrual suppression – what it is and how it works, and
    • how different hormonal birth control methods suppress menstruation

(Follow this link: www.arhp.org/menstrualsuppressiontool)

  • A What You Need to Know fact sheet about menstrual suppression, which offers comprehensive, cited information about the safety and efficacy of menstrual suppression

(Follow this link: www.arhp.org/factsheets/menstrualsuppression.cfm)

“I look forward to sharing these online resources with women,” said Susan Wysocki, RNC, NP, FAANP, president and CEO of the National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women's Health (NPWH).  “These tools will help women better understand their menstrual cycles and how hormonal contraceptives work.”

For complete results from ARHP’s menstruation survey, go to: Menstruation and Menstrual Suppression Survey.



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The Association of Reproductive Health Professionals (ARHP) is the leading source for trusted medical education and information on reproductive and sexual health. ARHP educates health care providers, informs consumers, and helps shape public policy. ARHP is a non-profit membership association composed of highly qualified and committed experts in reproductive health. ARHP members are health professionals in clinical practice, education, research, and advocacy and they include physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurse midwives, researchers, educators, pharmacists, and other professionals in reproductive health. To learn more, visit: http://www.arhp.org.