Four Periods a Year?
(Reprint of 01-2005 Newsletter)
by Lydia H. Hall
I hope both the men and women in my practice will take the time to read this letter. As you may know from the direct marketing that's happening, there's a new birth control pill for women called Seasonale (http://www.seasonale.com/) which causes a woman to have only four periods a year. Since I already have clients taking the drug, I thought it would be a good time to address the issue of medical professionals telling women that it's fine to suppress their menstrual cycle.
Seasonale was FDA approved on September 5, 2003. Apparently the concept of women having only four periods a year is appealing to both men and women. Time magazine listed Seasonale as one of its "Coolest Inventions" for 2003 (http://www.time.com/time/2003/inventions/invseasonale.html) but is the suppression of the menstrual cycle such a cool idea? What may seem like a convenience may have long-lasting negative effects.
Homeopaths have long warned of suppressing the functions of the body. (http://www.justasklydia.com/id65.htm) To a homeopath, masking or stopping altogether, the workings of the human body only leads to problems at a later date. In almost sixteen years of practice, I've seen the negative effects of suppression countless times. I've also seen people's health return as we work backwards to the original problem that was covered up. I've written about suppression often, and I've urged those I work with to keep it in mind any time they feel they need a quick fix medically.
Giving cortisone indiscriminately is a perfect example of suppression. (http://www.leucoderma.com/nocort.htm) Most doctors have now decided that cortisone is not the great idea that it originally seemed to be. It was often given as the first resort to problems when it should have been the last resort. Since medicine is so specialized now, the doctor treating your bronchitis may have no idea that the bronchitis onset immediately after the dermatologist miraculously cleared up your skin problems with cortisone cream. Even if they did know, they might not have seen a direct connection between the two illnesses if they don't acknowledge the concept of suppression.
The birth control Seasonale made by Barr Laboratories is now being prescribed regularly to healthy women. It's main selling point is the convenience of having only four periods, but data from clinical trials showed that many women had unplanned bleeding and spotting especially in the first few months. (http://www.intelihealth.com/IH/ihtIH/EMIHC267/333/22002/369039.html?d=dmtICNNews) Is it any wonder? Breakthrough bleeding in the first few months of using Seasonale would be a sign to me that the woman's body was healthy and vital and was not easily going to succumb to having a major body function suppressed.
Susan Rako, MD, wrote the book No More Periods?: The Risks of Menstrual Suppression and Other Cutting-Edge Issues About Hormones and Women's Health available from Amazon. (http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/1400045037/ref=sib_dp_pt/103-3077281-4772661#reader-link) She states that Seasonale was tested for only one year on fewer that 300 women. I'm not averse to using drugs when they're needed, but I often warn my clients not to start using a drug when it is initially introduced. Seasonale is way too new for us to really know the long-term effects on women's hormones, reproduction, and other health issues.
Dr. Rako has said "Tampering with the hormonal climate of healthy, menstruating women, including teenage girls, whose lives stretch ahead for decades, for the purpose of doing away with their periods is, in a word, reckless. Manipulating women's hormonal chemistry for the purpose of menstrual suppression threatens to be the largest uncontrolled experiment in the history of medical science." (http://www.randomhouse.com/crown/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=1400045037)
Homeopathically, Rako's statements make a lot of sense. Imagine suppressing any other major body function for our convenience. What would the ramifications be of taking a pill that would suppress urinating to once a day or moving your bowels once a week? Although those ideas seem ridiculous now, I'm sure that they'll be a bioethical issue in the near future. It's our prerogative to let the drug companies battle with the bioethicists while we let our body functions continue unchecked. The body needs to release the wastes of normal body functions like urine, stool, menstrual blood, sweat, mucus, and tears in order to function properly. Seasonale, and the drugs that will follow it that are clearly suppressing body functioning for the purpose of human convenience, really should be avoided completely. You can make a small and simple step toward avoiding suppression in your own health by switching from using an antiperspirant, which suppresses your sweat, to a deodorant which does not suppress. If you feel that your sweat is too strong to be handled by a deodorant, discuss that with me in our next appointment.
One of the things that my Seasonale users are telling me is that they get night sweats. I truly think that the night sweats are similar to those that come with menopause. After all, when using Seasonale you are essentially being put into intermittent chemical menopause. Since menopause carries greater risk of heart attack, stroke, and osteoporosis. (http://www.plannedparenthood.org/pp2/portal/medicalinfo/femalesexualhealth/pub-menopause.xml), I'll want to see long term studies to show that Seasonale use doesn't increase risk of those diseases. I'll also want to look at the fertility statistics for Seasonale users. My feeling is that with the tremendous rise in infertility, it is not a reasonable risk to alter your hormones if there is even a 1% chance that you will want to conceive at some point.
If you're offered Seasonale by your doctor, remember that all doctors are bombarded by persistent drug representatives giving them plentiful free samples. It's considered unscrupulous and dangerous that illegal drug dealers give "free" samples to people who will later become paying customers for an illegal drug. Ironically, it's considered totally acceptable that drug representatives supply doctors with samples so that you will later become a paying customer for their drug. The sample that your doctor gives you may not be the best drug, just the drug that's made it to him through the diligence of the highly paid drug reps.
For the men who read this, I hope you will be involved in the reproductive and sexual health of your wives, girlfriends, sisters, and daughters enough to discuss Seasonale with them before it is offered. It may prevent pregnancy if used as directed but, as with any birth control pill, it will not prevent the spread of venereal warts, herpes, HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases. Add to that the chance of other health problems through the unnecessary suppression of the menses, and it seems to me that other means of birth control carry much less risk.
For those of you drawn to the convenience of stopping your menses for a large portion of the year, please consider the thought that your period is not just an inconvenience. It's a symbol of your youth and fertile years, a barometer of your general health, and a unique sign of womanhood. I hope you will find other ways to make your life more convenient and let your body do what it needs to do.