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Is Getting Rid of Your Menstrual Period Healthy?


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This week I read an article in the April 2001 issue of Ladies' Home Journal entitled "No More Periods?"  In this article, women were encouraged to use their birth control pills in such a way as to prevent their bodies from menstruating.  They were told that all they had to do was throw away the seven inactive pills which allow the lining of the uterus to slough off, and to begin a new pill pack.  The article admitted that the FDA has not approved the pill for this use, but that doctors routinely prescribe it for such use.

Why would one want to stop menstruating?  Because according to these "authorities" your risk of ovarian cancer drops when you use the pill.  The fewer times an egg bursts out of the lining of the ovary, the better your chances of not getting ovarian cancer.

The whole idea that we can circumvent bodily functions for our own convenience and expect this interference to produce good health is ludicrous.  Those same "authorities" who say ovarian cancer drops when there is no ovulation ignore research which says that pregnancy and lactation help reduce breast cancer rates.  They admit that modern women have "far more menstrual cycles in a lifetime than women did in the past because they spend much less time pregnant or nursing.  Women who have more menstrual cycles....have an increased risk of ovarian cancer" (1).  However, they also ignore the fact that oral contraceptive use is associated with some very serious side effects:  increased incidence of: sexually transmitted diseases (STD's), pelvic inflammatory disease (PTD), infertility, cervical cancer, ectopic pregnancy, increased risk of blood clots, endometrial atrophy (shrinking of the womb) and permanent sterility (2).  If one starts using the pill before age 20, one has an 820% higher risk of developing breast cancer, and those starting usage between 20-25 years of age had a 180% higher risk of developing breast cancer than a non-user (3).  Risk of cervical cancer is 70% higher in users age 20-24, 40% higher in users age 25-29 (4).  Other studies cite it as being even higher (5, 6, 7).  The pill can also activate and enhance the Human Papilloma Virus and its role in the initiation of cervical cancer (8, 9).  There is a 800-900% increased risk of deep vein thrombosis in those using Femodene, Minulet, Tri-minulet, or Marvelon (10, 11).   Why trade one possible and as yet unproven benefit for a whole host of awful side effects?

I'm sorry, but I don't believe that a natural function of a woman's body, something her body was designed to do, causes cancer.  And yes, I believe having more pregnancies is healthier than having fewer because pregnancy and lactation are the states which the woman's body was designed to be in for the majority of her middle years.  Why is the fertile period so long, from approximately age 12 to age 50?  It's because we were meant/designed to have many pregnancies.  The natural rhythms of our bodies encourage it.  Around the time of ovulation, hormonal fluctuations attract us to the opposite sex so that we will conceive.  And when we don't conceive, the sloughing off and purging of the uterine lining is necessary.....to prevent this lining from sloughing off is much more likely to cause cancer than an egg escaping from the ovary.  When we follow our bodies' natural rhythms, we are always better off.  Besides, I don't believe our creator made a body and created a process that is inherently designed to produce illness.

It's the same thing with childbirth....our bodies know the best way to give birth, and it doesn't always fit the "textbook" description of what birth is supposed to be like.  However, when we honor what our bodies are doing, and don't interfere with the natural birth process, when we don't intervene, and when we have trust in our bodies' ability to give birth, we have the best chance of a normal healthy baby and birth process.

Messing around with our bodies cycles is something I am not in favor of.  The article says "It may be better to have ongoing hormonal suppression."  Are you kidding?  We NEED our hormones.  To intentionally suppress them is asking for trouble.  And another statement that bothers me is "Many women are happy to rid themselves of the discomfort and annoyance of having a menstrual period."  I love my body, and everything it does.  It has great wisdom.  In this country we do not trust nor value the great spiritual and intuitive wisdom of our bodies.  When it is my time of month, I feel connected to all other women on earth.  This is an experience we all have in common.  This was our rite of passage, our initiation into womanhood.  It is a very powerful, primal part of our lifecycle.  It is very lucious and earthy, quite beautiful.  Yes, if one approaches it as simply nasty bodily fluids which need disposing of, it can become mundane.  That is how we are encouraged to look at it in our society.  We buy disposable pads so we can throw it away and not have to look at it.  We don't want to smell it, touch it, or have anybody see it or know we are menstruating.  Why?  It is a special celebration of our ability to give life.  And in return it gives life to us.  Even if a woman never has a child, it is still a reminder that her body contains the seeds of life, the ability to participate in creation.  Is that not special and praiseworthy?

I enjoy my time of month immensely.  It is a time of introspection, meditation, and cleansing.  I do not buy disposable pads, nor do I try to hide that I am menstruating.  If I must wear a pad, I use a cloth one that is comfortable, can be washed and reused, and I make it of colorful cloth that is pleasing to the senses both in sight and touch.  I try not to go out during that time of month, so that I don't have to wear a pad at all.  I simply spread a towel out on the couch or wherever I am sitting.  I like to go outside and just sit on the ground, where the blood can return to the earth, nourishing it.  And I love to feel that my body is following the cycles of the earth, moon, and stars.

Am I some hippy freak?  No....I am a 51 year old woman with two grown children and two college degrees.  But this superficial life we live, in which we manipulate everything for our own benefit bothers me greatly.  What about respecting the cycles of nature, which were put here for our benefit?  We are part of that cycle, and should respect it.  Our bodies will be healthier for it.

So, before you decide to use the pill to prevent conception, or to prevent menstruation all together.....do more research.  Think again.




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References:

(1)  Johnson, Sharlene K.  (2001).  No More Periods? Ladies Home Journal.  April 2001, p. 70.

(2)  Kuhar, Bogomir M.  (2001).  Oral Contraceptives. Birth Control.  Available Online:                                       [http://members.tripod.com/~CHERYL51/index-3.html].

(3)  Olsson H, Borg A, Ferno M, Moller TR, Ranstam J. (1991).  Early oral contraceptive use and premenopausal breast cancer - a review of studies performed in South Sweden Cancer Detection and Prevention, 15 (4): 265-271 Table IV.

(4)  Thomas DB, Ray RM. (1996).  Oral contraceptives and invasive adenocarcinomas and adenosquamous carcinomas of the uterine cervix. Am J Epid 144:p284 table 2.

(5)   Kohler U, Wuttke P. (1994).  Results of a case control study of the current effect of various factors of cervical cancer risk . 2) Contraceptive behaviour and the smoking factor. Zentralblatt fur gynakologie 116 (7): 405- 9 (Ma).

(6)  Ursin G, Peters RK, Henderson BE, d'Ablaing G, Monroe KR, Pike MC. (1994).  Oral contraceptive use and adenocarcinoma of cervix. Lancet  344; 1390-1394.

(7)   Brisson J et al.  (1994).   Risk factors for cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia: differences between low and high-grade lesions American J of Epidemiology 140:700-710.

(8)   Chen Y-H, Huang L-H, Chen T-M. (1996).  Differential effects of progestins and estrogens on long control regions of human papilloma virus types 16 and 18. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications 224:p654.

(9)   Kenney JAW. (1996).  Risk Factors associated with genital HPV infection. Cancer Nurse (Oct);19:5, p353 .

(10)  Vandebrouke JP, Rosendaal FR. (1997).  End of the line for "third-generation pill" controversy? Lancet 349:1113-1114.

(11) Vandenbrouke JP et al. (1994). Increased risk of venous thrombosis in oral contraceptive users who are carriers of factor V Leiden mutation. Lancet 344:p 1454.