Thursday, February 10, 2005

Women Want More Information

Somehow I missed this report on women's attitudes about skipping [fake] periods. Here are some interesting nuggets:

  • Women like the idea of menstrual suppression -- skipping or eliminating monthly periods -- but want their health-care providers to tell them more about it...

  • The study shows that the concept of changing menstrual patterns is popular among patients and practitioners alike, but their awareness of the topic differs significantly.

  • "...most women have never heard of using birth control pills to skip a period, while eight out of 10 clinicians -- 90 percent of whom were female -- have heard of it and seven out of 10 of them have prescribed it to suppress menstruation,"...

  • ...women and providers disagree on the need for having a period every month,".... "Fifty percent of the women surveyed and only 7 percent of providers think a menstrual period is necessary every month. This translates to a big information gap between what the providers know about menstrual suppression and what they tell -- or don’t tell -- their patients." [Heh, the "Secrets of the Menstrual Sisterhood/Brotherhood", depending on your Ob/Gyn's gender.]

  • Nearly three-fourths of the women sampled had never heard of menstrual suppression with oral contraceptives. Nearly two-thirds of them would be interested in not menstruating every month, and one-third would choose never to have a period. Nearly half the clinicians thought that menstrual suppression is a good idea, with only 7 percent of them thinking it was physically necessary to have a period every month. [That's ~57% of clinicians. What happened to the rest, no opinion/not familiar with period control?]

  • The study results demonstrate that clinicians should discuss this option with their patients...

  • I know I keep mentioning this, but it's important: menstrual suppression is not the same thing as skipping a monthly fake period. For example, if you ask "Is menstrual suppression a good idea?", in effect what you are asking is "Is using the Pill on a regular [3 weeks on/1 week off] regimen a good idea?"

    I don't have hard data, but I'm not convinced that most women who use the Pill for birth control don't already know that they don't have a menstrual period for as long as they use the Pill.

    Bottom line: Good thing a very informative book* on this very topic allows women to educate themselves.

    *Disclosure: I'm the author.


    At 1:06 PM, Blogger Natalie Bennett said...

    What do you think about the idea that this is likely to be beneficial in reducing the number of hormonal swings the body experiences in a lifetime?

    As I understand it this is based on the theory that in prehistoric times the cycle for most women would have been: menstruate a couple of times, get pregnant, a couple of years of lactational infertility; a couple of periods, get pregnant, etc, so most women would have had maybe only around 10, and certainly under 20, periods in their lifetime.

    It certainly makes "commonsense" sense - beside the fact that taking three pills packs at a time is damn convenient!

    At 1:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I found that once when I used the pill to skip a "period," I gained about 15 pounds during that month! It's true that I have a chronic illness that surely played some part in that, but even when I took the Pill before becoming ill I gained weight more easily. I think taking the break is better for our health, but I guess it's every woman's choice.

    At 6:00 AM, Blogger ema said...


    Reducing hormonal fluctuations is beneficial. Most period-related problems are caused by these hormone fluctuations (esp. dips in estrogen levels). This is why women who use the regular 3 on/1 off Pill regimen have fewer symptoms vs. nonusers, and women on the extended Pill regimens have fewer symptoms vs. users on the regular regimen.

    The theory you're referring to says that monthly menstrual periods aren't natural. Prehistoric women had, at most, 50 cycles/lifetime, women in hunting-gathering societies had, and still have, about 160. It's only women in Western, industrialized societies who, only for the past ~100 years, are having over 450 cycles/lifetime.


    Clearly a negative experience, but, I must say, very interesting. Just a guess, but given the short time interval (1 week) the extra dose of hormones is an unlikely culprit. In any case, it sounds like using the Pill, on any regimen, is not a good option for you. You might find something like the IUD, or the vaginal ring more suitable.

    So far studies haven't shown any benefits of a monthly fake period regimen over an extended one, but studies are on-going. And, of course, individual variations play an important role.


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