Farewell to 'Aunt Flo': A New Version of the Birth-Control Pill Would Limit Menstruation to Four Times a Year. Are Women Ready?
Kalb, Claudia, Newsweek
Byline: Claudia Kalb
Ask a bunch of women if they enjoy getting monthly periods and a significant majority (at least according to our own water-cooler survey) will answer "No!" Still, a woman's cycle has long been seen as a healthy and inevitable part of reproductive life. That could soon change with a new version of the birth-control pill that dramatically reduces the number of periods a woman has every year, from 13 to 4. Now even menstruation turns out to be a lifestyle choice.
Doctors have been prescribing "menstrual suppression" off-label for years to treat endometriosis (an overgrowth of uterine tissue), menstrual migraines and PMS. And plenty of women have altered the pill's regimen to enjoy period-free vacations. Now, in addition to the new version of the pill, which manufacturer Barr Laboratories has submitted for FDA approval, makers of the birth-control patch and vaginal ring are also testing their products for continuous use. If the pill, called Seasonale, passes muster, women could reprogram their monthly cycles by the end of the year with government approval.
Seasonale contains the same ingredients as conventional birth-control pills, but will be packaged and prescribed differently: 84 active pills taken in a row, followed by seven placebos, as opposed to the traditional 21/7 regimen. Women do seem to want it. In a Dutch survey, two thirds of women between 15 and 49 said they'd prefer fewer periods. And when 318 women with painful periods were counseled on continuous oral contraception in a study led by Dr. Patricia Sulak at Texas A&M Medical School, 91 percent jumped at the chance to try it.
Many doctors believe cutting back on menstruation could be healthy. Researchers estimate that women now have three times as many periods (450 over a lifetime) as our hunter-gatherer ancestors, who started menstruating later and spent many more years pregnant or nursing. Menstruation can promote fibroids and endometriosis. …