New birth control to limit women's periods
Seasonale, a new drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration on Friday, would reduce the number of women's periods to four a year by taking the hormones generally found in conventional birth control pills, but for longer spans of time.
Seasonale would be another alternative for women seeking birth control.
"For women who desire prevention of pregnancy and are comfortable taking a hormonal contraceptive, then this gives them an option," say researchers. "We see it as a [choice] for those wanting the convenience."
First introduced in the 1960s, the most common birth control pills combine the hormones estrogen and progestin for use for three weeks followed by a week of placebos to allow a woman to have her period. Seasonale, however, uses the same types of hormones but for 12 weeks straight before a week of placebos.
Not having as many periods -- and the medical problems surrounding them -- has some women intrigued.
Almost 39 million women worldwide use some kind of birth control. The most common reversible method is oral contraceptives, in use by an estimated 25 percent of women who use birth control.
The technique of taking birth control pills continuously to keep from having a period isn't new.
Using Seasonale, ... I think mainly is going to add a lot of convenience for women and freedom from the symptoms they have with their periods, say researchers.
But Dr. Susan Rako -- author of "No More Periods?" -- argues that there are good medical reasons for a woman to have a period.
"Bleeding is the only way our bodies can rid themselves of excess stored iron, and excess stored iron is another risk factor for heart attack and strokes," Rako says. "And that's why in their menstrual years, women have fewer heart attacks and strokes than men."
Rako said other issues are raised, too, when considering period suppression.
"We're not just talking about doing away with menstruation," she says. "We're talking about doing away with women's normal hormonal menstrual cycle, which is really responsible for what fundamentally makes a woman a woman."
The failure rate for traditional birth control pills is around 1 to 2 percent with perfect use, according to the FDA.
Some women should not use birth control pills, including those who smoke cigarettes, particularly if they're older than 35. There is a slight increase in risk for blood clots and high blood pressure.