No periods. Fullstop.


(This post appeared on Nature Medicine’s Spoonful of Medicine blog on May 9, 2007.)

If you could take a pill that completely eliminates your periods, would you?

Women taking Seasonale have four periods a year.

Turns out the answer is rather emotional for many people. I say people because some men seem to have strong feelings about it too (as they do about many things that affect only women).

Most contraceptive pills entail 21 days of hormones, followed by 7 days of placebo. What follows is a period only in name, since women don’t actually ovulate while taking the pill. This fake period was designed into the pill when it was first introduced in 1960 so as not to freak women out too much.

This month, the FDA is evaluating Wyeth’s Lybrel, with which women would take hormones for a full year or longer (Women taking Seasonale, available now, still have 4 periods a year), remaining period-free throughout. And this is getting many experts riled up: those who think it might be unsafe, yes, but also those who argue that it is culturally dangerous–as in, it redefines femininity! Ahem.

Last year, I summarized the pros and cons of pills like Lybrel for the mainstream magazine Women’s Health, but briefly: the new pill could be healthier, because it cuts down on the hundreds of periods women now have on average as compared with about 50 or so not too long ago. On the other hand, we don’t really know what the long-term consequences might be.

So, what would you choose?

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