Do You Need a Period?

Doctors sound off on the benefits and drawbacks of skipping your period.

Though all hormonal contraceptives can be used to allow a woman to have fewer periods per year, new oral contraceptives such as Seasonale and Seasonique (which let you have periods just four times a year) and vaginal inserts like NuvaRing are marketed for that purpose. If you use them, are you missing something important? Doctors sound off.

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"KEEP YOUR PERIOD!"

"Your menstrual cycle is a vital sign, and you should not suppress it simply because you find it bothersome. Having a period can tell you a lot about how your body is functioning," says Nancy Reame, Ph.D., director of the Doctor of Nursing Science Program at Columbia University and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research. "Having an irregular period might be a sign that you are engaging in risky behavior, such as extreme exercise, or that you have an eating disorder. "Currently, there is no long-term evidence or studies to support the idea that menstrual suppression is safe or reversible. There might be unexpected consequences like stroke, blood clots, and negative effects on bone health."

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"SKIP YOUR PERIOD!"

"One's health has nothing to do with one's menstrual patterns per se. There is nothing wrong or unhealthy with suppressing your period altogether, whether it's with birth control specially marketed for that purpose or just skipping the seven days of placebo pills in your monthly pack," says Mitchell Creinin, M.D., professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at the University of Pittsburgh. "When a woman is using continuous hormonal contraception, the lining of the uterus doesn't build up like it does in anticipation of pregnancy or need to be shed when that doesn't happen. The lining is thin, and there is little or nothing to shed. Studies have found menstrual suppression to be safe. The world does not revolve around having a period every month."

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