It could be "champagne supernova" beyond the skies. If you think getting your period on Earth is complicated, it gets even more complex in space.
Experts from Baylor College of Medicine and King's College London analyzed several options for female astronauts who want to prevent bleeding during their menstrual cycles while on space missions.
In their review of available contraceptive devices, they found that many female astronauts could opt to delay their menstrual bleeding while on space missions.
However, they also found that further research is needed to analyze the effects of several hormone treatments on the loss of bone mineral while in space.
The best options could be the intrauterine devices (IUDs) or implants. These will not only benefit the women in orbit but it's also the best option in terms of cargo and general convenience.
Although full amenities are provided for female crewmembers who wish to menstruate while in space, it could be challenging.
Firstly, there is limited water supply for washing. Secondly, regularly changing hygiene products in microgravity can be more challenging and inconvenient than it already is down here.
More importantly, the International Space Station recycles water from urine. The onboard plumbing is not designed to address the possibility of having menstrual blood in the urine.
Menstrual cycles can be coaxed to coincide with the mission dates for short-term missions. However, for long-term flights, suppressing the menstrual cycle is often the preferred route.
For longer missions, female astronauts often take a combined oral contraceptive (COC) pill to delay their monthly flow. For a three-year mission, an estimated 1,100 pills are needed. This means additional cargo and disposal for the mission.
Subdermal implants and IUDs are examples of long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs). While these are considered safe options, female astronauts have yet to use them extensively.
A LARC device could be placed before the mission. There is also no need to replace it during the mission. This means there is no need for extra cargo and waste disposal.
"The spaceflight environment adds some extra complexity to the overall equation, and we want female crewmembers to be able to make well-informed choices for their missions," said Dr. Virginia Wotring, an assistant professor in Baylor College of Medicine's Center for Space Medicine.
In the last 50 years, over 50 women have gone into orbit. With more people applying to become astronauts, there is no doubt the number of female astronauts continues to grow, and this just goes to show that analyzing the best method for menstrual cycle management in space is needed.
The analysis was published in the npj Microgravity journal on April 21.
Photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center | Flickr