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Seasonale-Four Periods A Year

New pill puts periods on hold

Oral contraceptive allows for four menstrual cycles per year

Hate having a menstrual period or the uncomfortable side effects that may come with it? A new drug arriving in stores later this month will allow women to avoid all but four periods a year.

Seasonale-conventional oral contraceptives repackaged in a purple-and-pink plastic box has pushed into public view a lesser-known way of stopping periods known in medicine as menstrual suppression.

By throwing out the seven inactive pills that come with the standard oral contraceptives, women increasingly have been opting for the convenience during the past decade.

It's a choice better known to female troops, physicians-in-training, honeymooning brides and women with heavy periods from endometriosis and other problems.

The promise: No muss or fuss and fewer cramps, migraines, chocolate cravings and mood swings. "It will change your life," says Alicia Sokol, senior news and information officer for the Cleveland Clinic who has suppressed her period for more than a year. "I no longer an ravenous before my period. Before, I felt like I needed to eat everything that wasn't nailed down."

But drugs, like almost everything else in medicine, come with drawbacks and unknown risks.
"This is homogenizing women, chemicalizing them into uniformity," says Dr. Susan Rako, a Boston Doctor, Harvard University-trained and author of "No More Periods: The Risks of Menstrual Suppression and Other Cutting-Edge Issues About Hormones and Women's Health" (Harmony Books; $21)

The known methods of menstrual suppression put women at increased risk of osteoporosis, infertility, heart attacks, strokes and cancer. Menstruation actually lowers blood pressure levels by half each month, decreasing a woman's risk of heart-related problems.

She calls menstrual suppression "irresponsible and hazardous" and cites 225 scientific references in her book to bolster her arguement.

Though oral contraceptives may protect some women against ovarian cancer, Rako particularly abhors the menstrual suppression trend among teens. "Girls need to get to know themselves," she says.

The drug Seasonale contains synthetic forms of tow hormones-.03 milligrams of a type of estrogen called estradiol and 0.15 milligrams of a progestin, levonorgestrel, also contained in modern birth-control pill doses.

But instead of taking three weeks of real pills and a week of inactive or placebo drugs-a regimen know as 21-7-women take one Seasonale tablet daily for 84 days and then take the seven inactive pills, producing a period every three months.

Birth-control products such as Depo-Provera, an injection that lasts 3 months, also stops periods. All of the choices, Seasonale included, may cause break through bleeding, so women still may get caught unaware with the sudden arrival of a period.

Birth-control pills of any kind are not advised for women because they carry an increased risk of blood clots, heart-related problems such as strokes, and certain cancers and liver diseases.

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