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    No Periods, No Pain?

    continued...

    "We've been doing it for years and years," Anderson tells WebMD. "It's just not been studied. "

    And delaying the period is very safe, Randell tells WebMD. "The new pills make it even safer."

    "Frankly, I would like to see all pills packaged with only two or three days of placebo," Hatcher tells WebMD. Pregnancy prevention is his reason. Miss the first day in a standard pack -- where you've already been pill-free for seven days -- and you sorely test the system, says Hatcher, co-author of the book Contraceptive Technology. "Your chances of pregnancy go way up." But miss the first pill after two or three days off, and not so much is at stake.

    For many years now, doctors also have been able to completely halt a woman's periods, which Hatcher says is "perfectly safe." Products are available that can do just that, including Depo-Provera, an injected contraceptive that requires shots every three months, and Norplant, which consists of six timed-release capsules that are implanted in the upper arm. Norplant works consistently for approximately five years.

    "To have a period is more of a sociological issue," Mercer says. "Women want periods to know they are not pregnant. What we really don't know is the effect on future fertility. Any woman who has taken the pill has half the pregnancy rate at six months [after going off the pill] as one who has never taken it. We don't know if this is going to change with the newer combinations, such as Seasonale.

    "If you're older -- 35 -- and thinking about getting pregnant, you may want to stay with the more standard pill, just until we have numbers, until we have a randomized study."

    As for all the pill brands on the market, "If it were clear that one was better than the others, I or any other clinician would say so," Hatcher tells WebMD. "The pills are all quite similar, and they all have huge margins of safety. For most women, their huge benefits are dramatically greater than their risks, and therefore money becomes the big factor in which to buy.

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