Menstruation has been regarded very differently amongst cultures and moments in time. Some cultures have banned menstruating women to huts or required special baths after periods. Others thought that menstruating women had special powers.
Half of the women consider menstruation as a sign of the fact that they are not pregnant while one quarter sees it as a sign of womanhood.
But many researches indicate that women often feel less effective at work and school during their periods.
Many suffer severe pain, heavy even emotional problems during their periods.
A Canadian research showed that women afflicted by heavy menstrual bleeding give up $1,692 a year in lost wages. That's why about 67 % of the women would like not to have menstruation at all. "We don't want to confront our bodily functions anymore. We're too busy." said Linda C. Andrist, a professor at MGH Institute of Health Professions in Boston. "They limit sexual activity and exercise, wear dark clothes and stay home more, resulting in absenteeism," said Dr. Ginger Constantine, therapeutic director for women's health at Wyeth.
This company has developed a drug named Lybrel, which is designed to be taken daily to stop menstruation completely.
Lybrel is expected to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration next month. "I had some months when I couldn't get out of bed unless I popped 600 milligrams of Motrin," said Marcella O'Neal, 36, a department manager for Nordstrom in Atlanta. O'Neal, 36, said Lybrel had eliminated many of her symptoms - cramping, hot flashes and depression.
Lybrel eliminates monthly menstruation, while other birth control pills mimic the body's natural 28-day menstrual cycle or pills that allow four menstrual periods a year.
Preliminary researches discovered no extra health risks associated with pills that stop menstruation, although some doctors warn that little research has been conducted on long-term effects.
The same hormones that work on the menstrual cycles act in the brain, bones and the skin. In fact, women who take any kind of oral contraceptive do not have real periods.
As the pill hormones stop the monthly release of an egg and the buildup of the uterine lining, there is no need for the lining to shed, as in a true menstruation.
But the birth control pills typically have been designed to mimic the natural 28-day menstrual cycle to assure women employing them that their bodies were functioning normally.
The contraceptive pills are marketed as regimens of 21 days of hormone pills and 7 inactive pills. The interruption of hormone therapy during the inactive part of the regimen triggers bleeding that mimics a mild period but it's actually provoked by unstable hormone levels. New pill regimens increase the number of hormone pills, making a shorter span of bleeding.
In 2003, Barr introduced Seasonale, a contraceptive regimen made of 84 hormone pills and 7 placebo pills, and women that used it experienced "periods" once every three months.
The current data reveals that the side effects of pills that suppress menstruation are similar to those of regular birth control pills. The risks are quite low, but the greatest ones are linked to the cardiovascular system in the case of women who smoke. "We don't have any long-term studies for what happens if you stop periods for years and years and years," said Dr. Maria Bustillo, a reproductive endocrinologist in Miami.
Some researches have shown that the birth control pill may increase the risk of breast cancer. Other researches indicate that the pill increases the risk of liver cancer in low-risk women while reducing the risk of cancers of the ovary and the endometrium (the lining of the uterus).
With Seasonale, the biggest medical issue so far, also detected in tests of Lybrel, is posed by irregular bleeding or "spotting" that is worse than with regular birth control pills.