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Do Women Really Need a Period?

Do Women Really Need a Period?

By Dana DeMercurio

Dear Aunt Flow,

It’s over. I hate you. You’re no longer a part of the family. We’re breaking up. BYE.

Sincerely,

Disgruntled Monthly Bleeder

It might sound unnatural or even impossible, but thanks to modern medicine, ditching your period for months, years or even permanently is definitely within reach for certain women wanting to part with Mother Nature’s monthly “gift.” Sure, periods were great back when pregnancy scares were a real issue – because let’s be honest, we’ve all been there before – but if you’ve currently got a full house, an empty uterus and are just plain tired of menstruating, why not get rid of your period all together? For those seeking to part with their period, we’ve got some awesome news you should be privy to. But first – a fun facts about women’s most hated time of the month:

According to the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals, the average woman has an estimated 450 periods in her lifetime – three times the amount of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. There are several factors that have induced these elongated cycles, including less years pregnant or nursing, environmental factors and hormonal changes associated with modern lifestyles.

While periods are much more manageable with the onslaught of modern birth control options for single and married women, it still leaves many questioning the safety and overall normality of no longer having a menstrual cycle. In fact, over 80% of menstruating women are afraid that suppressing or stopping their period could cause long-term health effects later on down the road. But like we said, there’s awesome news.

Thanks to recent medical research and comprehensive studies, 99% of female OB/GYNs agree that menstrual suppression – the daily use of oral contraception to stop monthly bleeding – is actually safe for their patients, according to a Gallup poll. If this isn’t music to the ears of women with debilitating periods, it should be. These gynecologists are literally saying that there is no medical reason why women who don’t want to conceive should ever have or need a period. Ever. Again.

It’s a natural response for skeptical women to question the physical and biological harm of not having a period. What happens to the blood? Will it back up into my uterus? Will I develop cancer? Here’s the truth: if a woman is taking the Pill on a continuous cycle without breaks, the combination of estrogen and progesterone in the birth control will actually keep the womb wall thin, so no blood is being lost. There is, however, a chance that women can experience breakthrough bleeding – an episode of light menstruation due to the womb lining building up an excess of blood (not to be confused with the typical bleeding during monthly periods.)

Yet with all good news must come the bad. Sure it’s easy to get rid of your period through the deliberately daily use of birth control pills, IUD implants (Mirena) or injections (Depo- Provera), but just like with most every other medical application, there’s always a downside. Most women have heard horror stories from others about the consequences of using lab-created medicine to suppress periods, all of which should be taken into account and assessed based on individual use. Implants and injections have faced the brunt of skepticism due to their varying responses from users, some even blaming the product for causing cysts, blood clots and rare cases of strokes. In contrast, the nonstop use of the Pill has been found to reduce the risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer by nearly 50% due to the suppression of cell division per month.

The New England Journal of Medicine’s landmark study published in 2013 did, however, find that intra-uterine devices that released hormones actually improved health outcomes for women with heavy bleeding more than taking oral birth-control pills. These women were suffering from periods that were beyond the normal inconvenience or discomfort; these women’s periods were debilitating and unendurable.

It’s not coming up roses for certain women, sad to say. Ladies over the age of 35 and those who smoke are not encouraged to take the Pill back-to-back in order to suppress or stop her period. The same applies to women who are in jeopardy of or prone to heart attacks, heart disease, blood clots, high blood pressure or diabetes as this could cause serious irreparable damage to your internal lady parts and overall health.

If you’re considering putting an end to your period, talk to you OB/GYN about your options before making any changes to your established birth control routine.