Foregoing the Period

Graphic by Ariel Servadio

Graphic by Ariel Servadio

Look, I believe that women should revel in, appreciate, and never, ever be scared of or disgusted by their periods just as much as the next hairy feminist. I think the things I’ve written advocating the use of reusable menstrual products attest to that.

However, do I feel that life without my period would be easier? Hell yes.

Some women take issue with the fact that newer forms of birth control are being marketed to reduce or eliminate completely the number of periods you get. I can certainly understand the resulting feelings of offense – if you are someone who greatly values your monthly menstrual cycle and feel it really empowers you as a woman, being told it’s not medically necessary may not make you feel great.

But women are not defined solely by their periods, and should not be judged by whether or not they have them. Plenty of women have irregular cycles that limit the number of periods they get in a year, and plenty of women don’t have the internal equipment necessary to generate menstrual blood. This doesn’t make them any less womanly or empowered.

So I guess my question is, why shouldn’t we get our periods?

If you’re okay with hormonal birth control – aka, the pill, the ring, the patch, the implant, even some IUDs – than you should be okay with the idea that never getting your period is healthy. Why? Because the “period” you get when you are on one of these hormonal birth control methods only exists because you let it – you make the choice (or do so because your doctor tells you to, or because that’s the way the pills are packaged, etc.) to reduce or cut off completely the amount of hormones you intake for a week, and thus, what little endometrium that has built up in those three weeks you took a steady dose of those hormones, sheds. It’s not a real, natural period, as is the conclusion of your regular menstrual cycle, because you never ovulate*.

So if you’re okay with that concept, than you should be okay with the idea that menstrual suppression is medically safe. These pills marketed to reduce or stop your periods completely (Seasonique, Lybrel) work exactly the same as other combined hormonal contraceptives, except they limit or eliminate your hormone-free (or -reduced) weeks – the time when you would ordinarily bleed – so you get fewer or no periods, because you’re on a constant, steady stream of hormones.

Now, some women might have full confidence in the assertion that not having your period is safe, but they still might not be into the idea. Some women simply enjoy having their period – and why shouldn’t they? With so many great options for managing that time of the month, and that great feeling of connecting with the lunar cycle and the life-giving capabilities of our bodies, menstruation truly is a wonderful thing. It’s something I coveted long before I had it, and still love to talk about and think about it all the time, a decade later. I love that women love their periods!

Many women I know, while liking the idea of never getting a period (or at least getting fewer), like to get their period as a monthly assurance that they aren’t pregnant. On the one hand, I think this is a totally valid reason for sexually-active women to not suppress their menstruation – it is definitely reassuring to have an indicator that everything worked a-okay that month, and that you won’t be getting the surprise of, say, creating a new person in the next nine months.

On the other hand, I have watched way too many episodes of I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant on Discovery Health lately to believe that getting your monthly period is any indication of not being pregnant!

While there are several hormonal contraceptives specifically designed to decrease or stop your periods altogether, altering how often you get your period can be accomplished with virtually any monophasic form of birth control. However, if you are on a pill that has not been approved for this use, you should always talk to your doctor** first before trying a new regimen.

*On most combined methods of hormonal birth control. You may still be ovulating with progestogen-only forms.

**If this is not already obvious, I am not a doctor. So while I’m telling you that everything I’ve studied has indicated that it’s okay to suppress menstruation, you should listen to your doctor’s opinion on the matter!

Please Help Ammre

On a side note, my friend Ammre (you may remember her from A Day in the Life of a GTA, and as an oft contributor of squid-related content to Cephaloblog) – one of the most active, talented, inspiring people I know – has been rendered virtually bedridden for several months now because of a back injury. Because of the incredible pain resulting from her injury, she is unable to work, and because she is unable to work, she doesn’t have the insurance or funds needed to receive proper medical care. It is a terrible situation, and she really needs help. If you’re able to spare anything at all to donate to her PayPal fund, I know she’ll be overwhelmingly appreciative. Every little bit helps – so help Ammre if you can!

1 comment to Foregoing the Period

  • ammre

    Good on you for pointing out it’s an artificial period at best, and monophasic bc’s are the ones that can be fudged, as opposed to tricyclins.

    I don’t get a period and when I tell people they always respond shocked “That’s not good!” Not getting a period is FINE for me. The underlying cause of what is effecting my period may not be good though, but the actual menstruation… not that important.(Hormonal imbalance likely to do with PCOS)

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