Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Birth Control Health Center

Font Size

Are Periods Just an 'Option' for Those on the Pill?

Experts Argue the Merits of Ending Monthly Ritual


Ellertson says there's no reason to assume that monthly periods are "natural" or "normal." She notes that women today have more periods than did their foremothers for various reasons.

As such, Ellertson maintains that the medical value of menstruation is largely unstudied and unproven. "It is unclear how many periods women need to have per year or per lifetime," she says. Ellertson disagrees with the belief that the monthly shedding of the uterine lining, which is what forms the menstrual discharge, is necessary in women who are already taking the hormones. She says that women who are on the pill are already having "artificial" periods induced by the hormones in their medication.

"There are some women who like the monthly reminder that they are not pregnant and that their pills are working," Ellertson says. "But with modern pills, the failure rates are so low that more women are inclined to trust these methods. Plus, women have access to cheap and effective pregnancy tests" for added reassurance.

While it is probably not unsafe to suppress one's period for a few months at a time, today's oral contraceptive pills weren't designed for this purpose, counters Donna Shoupe, MD, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Southern California. Shoupe, who reviewed the Lancet article for WebMD, also disputes Ellertson's contention that monthly periods aren't medically necessary.

"It is a very delicate balance between having enough estrogen for the rest of the body and not stimulating the lining" of the uterus to thicken. "[If] it builds up and you don't slough it off, you can get cancer," she says.

Shoupe says modern birth control pills are extremely useful in solving many of the problems associated with menstrual cycles, including PMS symptoms, cramping, and heavy bleeding. In her practice, fully 50% of her patients are taking oral contraceptives for some goal other than contraception. For most women on the pill, getting their period "really isn't that bad," Shoupe says.

Vital Information:

  • An expert on reproductive health has written an essay questioning the role of menstruation in women's health and whether birth control should be used to stop it altogether.
  • She offers up as evidence that there are no health benefits to having a monthly period and there are no reasons to assume this is "natural" or "normal."
  • One critic argues that using contraception to prevent menstruation could stimulate the lining of the uterus to thicken and cause cancer, and she adds that for most women on birth control pills, monthly menstruation isn't all that bad.
1 | 2

Today on WebMD

Here's what to expect.
man opening condom wrapper
Do you know the right way to use them?
birth control pills
Here's what to do next.
doctor and patient
His and her options.
Concerned teenage girl
hospital gown
Birth Control Pills Weight Gain
pregnancy test and calendar
contraceptive pills
Young couple looking at each other, serious
woman reading pregnancy test result