Karen Manser hated her periods. "I just had a horrible time. They made me
miserable. Sometimes I would lay curled up like a little ball in the bed in
pain." So she did something drastic: she stopped her periods cold. At 44, she
hasn't menstruated in 10 years.
Now, women are quickly catching on to what Manser has known for a long time:
Menstruation is becoming another lifestyle choice.
Manser, who lives in Washington, first opted out of periods with
Depo-Provera, an injectable hormonal contraceptive. Then with her
gynecologist's approval, she began taking birth
control pills continuously, without the placebo break, to suppress
"Life is more convenient," she says. "You can go on vacation and not worry
about it. You can wear white clothes and not worry about it. It's just
But is it a good thing to banish periods?
The Era of Optional Periods
In past decades, doctors have used birth control, sometimes in unorthodox
ways, to help certain patients suppress periods. But the optional period
entered a new era in 2003. That year, Barr Pharmaceuticals launched Seasonale,
the first FDA-approved, extended-cycle birth control pill designed to give
women only four periods a year. The company has also released Seasonique, a
second-generation drug that also advertises four periods annually.
Women may soon be able to stop periods even longer. If the FDA approves,
Wyeth Pharmaceuticals' Lybrel would be the first continuous birth control pill
to stop periods for one year. The experimental low-dose contraceptive contains
estrogen and progestin.
But menstrual suppression, as experts call it, is a hot-button issue. Manser
says that women are often baffled and alarmed when they find out she's not
menstruating. "They're kind of horrified. It's like, 'You have to have periods
because you have to shed your lining. This is terrible for you.'"
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists takes no official
position on menstrual suppression. But several doctors talked to WebMD about
the pros and cons of eliminating periods.