Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 31st 2016 Contents A26
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YOUR DAILY HEALTH
News and Advice
Six years of your life. Or 2,190 days. That s
about how long the average woman will
spend having her periods.
For some women, that s too many days, too many
More women in their 20s and 30s are choosing
contraception that may suppress their menstrual
cycles, says Dr Elizabeth Micks, who runs an OB-
GYN clinic at the University of Washington in Seat-
tle. "In general, I think views are changing really
rapidly," Micks says. "That need to have regular
periods is not just in our society anymore."
With traditional birth control, a woman takes a
hormone pill for 21 days to stop her cycle. Then
she takes a sugar pill for a week, so she can have
what looks like a period.
But Micks says, physiologically this isn t a real
period at all. And it isn t necessary. "There s
absolutely no medical need to have a period when
you re on contraception," she says.
So why have women been
having all these "fake" peri-
ods for decades?
"It s actually a historical
thing," she says.
One of the doctors who
helped invent the pill was
Catholic. He thought the
pope might accept the pill
if it looked like women were
But the Catholic church
never came around to the
pill. And when doctors actually asked women if
they wanted to have these fake periods, many said
they didn t.
Today women have many options if they want
to try to suppress their cycles. There s the hormonal
IUD, an arm implant and a hormone shot. They
can also take some types of birth control pills con-
Use of the IUD and implant has risen nearly
fivefold in the past decade, a report from the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention found.
And two top medical organisations---the American
College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the
American Academy of Pediatrics---recommend
these forms of contraception as the top choice for
young women who want birth control. One study
found the IUD and implant were nearly 20 times
more effective at preventing pregnancies than birth
But none of these methods are a guarantee for
getting rid of periods altogether. "It s not an on
and off switch for menstruation," says Paula Hillard,
an OB-GYN at Stanford University Medical Cen-
ter.Instead, most women have spotting or unsched-
uled bleeding when they first start these methods.
"It can happen without a rhyme or reason, but it
tends to improve over time."
For example, with the hormonal IUD, about 50
percent of women don t have periods after a year.
But nearly all women will have lighter, shorter and
less painful periods after about six months, Hillard
Even if a woman hasn t had a cycle in five to 10
years, there s no evidence that suppressing men-
struation hurts future fertility, Hillard says. Most
women can get pregnant right after they stop using
the contraception, except for the hormonal shot---
which can decrease fertility for months after it s
discontinued, or even a year.
As with all forms of hormonal contraception,
there are risks and side effects with these devices,
such as an increased risk of blood clots. And some
doctors think there isn t enough known about the
long-term effects of menstruation suppression,
Do women need periods?
especially with teenagers.
"Important studies, like what are the effects on
the breast? What are the effects on bone---haven t
been done," says Jerilynn Prior, an endocrinologist
at the University of British Columbia.
She says women should think carefully before
trying to suppress their cycle. Having a period does
serve a purpose, she says: It tells you your repro-
ductive system is working well and that you re not
pregnant. It isn t a "disease" that needs to be
treated away, she says.
"I think there is value in understanding and
appreciating our own intrinsic hormonal cycles,"
Prior says. "It s our identity." (NPR)
have many options
if they want to try
to suppress their
cycles. There's the
hormonal IUD, an
arm implant and a
They can also take
some types of
birth control pills
There's absolutely no medical need to have a period when you're on
contraception, say doctors.
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