What are the ways to deal with menstruation?

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Menstruation is the shedding of endometrium, which occurs if a woman doesn't get pregnant. There are three ways to handle menstruation: collect it, prevent it or just let it flow.

The collection of menstrual blood can be done in various different ways. Probably the most popular option, especially in the western culture of today, is wearing a sanitary napkin, or pad. A pad is usually of a mostly rectangular shape and is attached to underwear. Another popular option is a tampon, which is inserted into the vagina, where it will absorb the menses. Both of these methods are fairly easy to use and are convenient, but produce plenty of waste and are costly in the long run.

There are similar non-disposable and thus more environmentally friendly options available as well. Reusable cloth pads are worn like disposable pads and washed after use. Sponges are inserted into the vagina where they absorb the blood and are then washed after use as well. These two methods are as easy to use as their disposable counterparts, but create more trouble when they need to be cleaned.

There are also options that collect the menses as opposed to absorbing them: menstrual cups. They come both disposable and reusable, but they function the same: They are inserted into the vagina, where they collect the blood, and are then removed. Menstrual cups are slightly harder to use than pads or tampons, but tend to be more secure with their blood-catching.

Methods that altogether prevent menstruation are more drastic, but save the trouble of having to use menstrual products as described above. They are also usually easier to use or have to be dealt with only very rarely. The oldest prevention method is naturally to be pregnant, but that is hardly a convenient choice nowadays.

The most drastic and certainly permanent menstruation-preventing method is hysterectomy, the surgical removal of the uterus – the womb can't produce an endometrium to shed if it isn't there at all. It is, however, a convenient choice when the uterus isn't needed, as it requires no effort or thought afterwards and eliminates the possibility of diseases that affect the uterus.

Many hormonal birth-control methods prevent menstruation as well, but more often they just change it, if even that. The hormonal methods include contraceptive pills and implants, intrauterine devices and even plain hormone shots. Contraceptive pills most often just change menstruation slightly, while hormonal intrauterine devices may prevent it altogether. Hormone shots contain synthetic progesterone and possibly estrogen. Both of these hormones are produced naturally in a woman's body. Sufficient doses of testosterone also stop menstruation, but the virilizing side-effects are usually unwanted.

The hormonal menstruation prevention methods are reversible.