What if this month you could ensure you didn’t get your period, and it wasn’t because you were pregnant?
What if next month you could make sure the same thing happened?
And the month following that?
Well guess what, you can make this happen! Since the early 2000s women have been flirting with the idea of menstrual suppression. In fact women have always been trying out ways to offset or disrupt their menstrual cycle. History books reveal that women would dip their feet in cold springs, ingest weird herbs and participate in vigorous sports in hopes of missing their monthly cycle. Although we may find these remedies to be a bit far-fetched, these women didn’t have an oral contraceptive that would manipulate their hormones into thinking they were pregnant.
In recent years, the introduction of Extended Cycle Oral Contraceptives (ECOC’s) has attempted to address the question of when and how women should menstruate. The case for ECOC’s stems from Elsimar Coutinho’s 1999 book, Is Menstruation Obsolete? In his book, Coutinho argues that “menstruation is an unnecessary, avoidable byproduct of the human reproductive process” (as cited in Shipman-Gunson, 2010, p. 1324). In the years following Coutinho’s book release, studies were published which found that women today menstruate 450 times over their lifetime, almost three times more than that of women a hundred years ago (Loshny, 2004, p. 66). Such persistent menstruation and ovulation have been described as major risks to women’s health, leading to anemia, reproductive cancers and heart disease.
In 2003, just four years after Coutinho brought risk discourses of menstruation back into the popular press, the United States Food and Drug Association approved the ECOC, Seasonal. Whereas birth control was originally marketed as a tool to prevent pregnancy, Seasonal was marketed as a tool that could prevent menstruation. By telling women that menstruation puts them at risk for future disease, the pharmaceutical industry created a fear among women towards menstruation.
What happened was that the pharmaceutical companies and doctors began to work together to turn the everyday experience of menstruation into a disease. Listen to the language in this commercial for the ECOC Seasonique.
Imagine that, “there is no medical need to have a monthly period on the pill”. Key point in this sentence, “on the pill”. Plus, the 4 periods you will have are short and light. I doubt there are many women who would refuse to take a month off from their period. But, this type of language gives women the impression that there is no medical purpose, besides pregnancy, to having a monthly cycle – that’s right ovulation, is part of, not separate from your period cycle.
In her book No More Periods, Susan Rako. M.D. addresses the debate of the anti-period movement, yes this movement actually exists. Her book is my next recommendation, and there will be a post or two on it as well. Rako’s insight and expertise regarding menstrual suppression has radically transformed the way I view my monthly cycle. For instance, she makes a great case for the importance of ovulation, with regards to hormone levels and the effect our stunting of them has to our overall health. Additionally, Rako address how too much iron leads to heart disease in women. Interestingly enough menstruation is a key way women excrete the excess iron we have in our bodies
For some women ECOC’s can help with painful periods. I myself have attempted oral contraceptives as a means to manage the pain and hormone imbalance I experience monthly, almost daily. Luckily for me, my body let me know it wasn’t into the whole synthetic hormone movement.
However, many young girls and women are put on oral contraceptives, and for extended periods of time, whether three months in a row, or for 20 years as a means of birth control, without actually knowing the side effects. If you are taking an oral contraceptive, take some time to read Rako’s book, and invest in educating yourself about ECOC hormone effects and the anti-period movement. And remember there are always alternatives, healthy ones too, and they work!